“People. They never learn.” So says a character in Jurassic World, the latest cynically-made blockbuster that’s now north of $600 million in earnings, domestic. It proves a point that Hollywood has taken to heart–the masses love familiarity.
I had planned on skipping this, but a family I’m friends with wanted to go and I tagged along, figuring what the hell. It was pretty much exactly as I thought it would be. There were some chills, but it was awfully dumb, illogical, with bad science and deviated little from the template of the first film, Jurassic Park, which it referenced like a name-dropping friend.
Jurassic World is not a reboot, it’s simply the fourth in the series. The first park, which ended in tragedy based on hubris, is now reopened and doing great business. But, as manager Bryce Dallas Howard points out, you need something new every so often to keep the people interested. She could have been talking about Hollywood.
So, in accordance with the owner’s (Irrfan Kahn) wishes, a super-dinosaur has been genetically cooked up. It is called Indominus Rex, and makes T-Rex looks like a puppy in comparison. It is about to be unveiled when Kahn calls on an employee (Chris Pratt), who is the resident velociraptor trainer. He’s checking out the safety of the Indominus’s paddock when the thing breaks loose. Uh oh!
Here’s where movie logic takes an interesting turn away from real-life. Instead of immediately evacuating the park and blowing the wayward reptile to smithereens with a missile, profits are always the bottom line. Wrongful death suits don’t seem to occur to these people. Also, the park is on an island with no easy way to evacuate 20,000 people anyway, which seems like a fly in the ointment. I hate corporations as much as anyone, but this exceeds their day-to-day villainy, I think.
They also want to catch the thing alive, but outwits at them at every turn. I do admit I love to see people being eaten by dinosaurs. The scene in The Lost World: Jurassic Park in which Richard Schiff is torn apart by two T-Rex’s like a wishbone has stayed with me forever. There’s nothing quite as good as that here, perhaps except for the woman who is snatched by a pterodactyl, which is then eaten by a mososaur.
Jurassic World also has two other targets–science and the military. Hubris in science has been a topic in literature since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but instead of megalomania–playing God–today’s scientific arrogance is about profits. They built this dinosaur to meet shareholder demand, and, I guess, because they could.
Another subplot involves Vincent D’Onofrio as the head of a private security firm that wants to weaponize dinosaurs. He sees an army of velociraptors mowing down the enemy. But, as the saying goes, who will watch the watchmen?
In a blatant rip-off of the first film, two relatives of an employee, in this case nephews of Howard, are our eyes in the park, as they, predictably, ignore orders to come back and end up almost being eaten by several dinosaurs. I should add that Jurassic World has an anti-feminist streak–Howard is set up as some sort of monster because she doesn’t want kids and has trouble remembering her nephew’s names and ages. So we get the less than subtle message that a woman is not complete without exercising her nurturing instinct. You’ve come a long way, baby. I will give Howard and her stuntwoman an award for best running in high heels.
The best thing I can say about Jurassic World, other than Chris Pratt’s amiable star power (he’s been on quite a roll) is that the special effects have become so great that I find myself thinking of these creatures as real. It’s uncanny, really. It’s a shame that the writing can’t keep up (there is, believe it or not, a shot of a dinosaur in a rearview mirror. Been there, done that).
My grade for Jurassic World: C-.