Saturday, July 25, 2015

Child-free Jurassic World Might Not Have Sucked.

The Good: Moments of effect, Some of the performances
The Bad: Unlikable characters, Ridiculous and predictable plot, Thematically heavyhanded
The Basics: Jurassic World is another cheap re-do of Jurassic Park: this time with undertones of sexism and an overt "family values" message likely to disgust viewers more than the killer dinosaurs will!

Jurassic World is, as I write this, the third top-grossing film of all time and already has a sequel in development. I waited weeks to watch Jurassic World because I have not, traditionally, been a fan of the Jurassic Park film franchise. In fact, I only recently realized that I have only seen and reviewed the first Jurassic Park (reviewed here!) before taking in Jurassic World. While I was not super-impressed by Jurassic Park, I was actively bored and repulsed while watching Jurassic World.

Before watching Jurassic World, I had some inklings that it might not become my favorite film of all time. My wife asked me if I grade on a curve for "b" movies and I told her "no" - I review and rate Casablanca with the same criteria as Step-Brothers and Just Friends - and we had heard some rumblings that it had some distinctly anti-child-free elements to the film. What surprised me most about Jurassic World was how dramatically sexist the film was. And yes, for those who are deliberately child-free, there is something distinctly offensive about the death of Zara in the film (this is not a significant spoiler at all). Zara is the personal assistant to Claire, who is saddled with childcare duties that are nowhere near in her job description and as "punishment" for her failure to look out for the child protagonists of Jurassic World, she endures the longest on-screen human death sequence of any of the human characters (only one of the dinosaur characters is brutalized longer on-screen than Zara is!). For those of us who are deliberately child-free, the message from screenwriters Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow (who also directed the film!) and Derek Connolly is pretty clear: everyone should want to have children in their life or die horribly for not protecting kids!

More than Twenty years after the planned Jurassic Park was scrapped, Isla Nublar is up and running as a successful theme park known as Jurassic World. Despite having more than twenty thousand visitors to Jurassic World a day, the park's director, Claire, is anxious about the bottomline and has had her team of scientists developing new human-engineered dinosaurs. Claire is meeting with the corporate director, Masrani, and sponsors who are funding the research for developing the new dinosaurs, when her sister sends her nephews - Gray and Zach - to the park. Unprepared for their visit, Claire fobs the kids off on her assistant, Zara, and tries to keep the park up and running.

But the new genetically-engineered dinosaur, Indominus Rex, decides now is the time to fake out its overseers and it pretends to escape its enclosure, which sets up for her actual escape. Claire is forced to rely upon the velociraptor trainer, Owen, to find her nephews who are lost in the park when Indominous Rex breaks out and the rides get shut down. While Owen and Claire are out trying to save the children, the military contractor Hoskins siezes the opportunity to fill the power vacuum by bringing the velociraptors into the field against the Indominus Rex. While trying to get the human visitors to safety, the dinosaurs are set against each other.

Every now and then, there is a movie that has a conflict that has such a stupidly complex story when the simple solution is the most sensible and Jurassic World is exactly that kind of movie. Jurassic World is populated by characters who learned absolutely nothing from Jurassic Park and live in a world where our technological achievements did not occur. In Jurassic Park, DNA from other animals was spliced with the dinosaur DNA to fill in, essentially, the introns, because computers of the day did not have the processing speed to analyze full DNA strands in a timely manner. That is not the case now. Computer speeds have become so very much faster that it would no longer take decades or even years to render a single dinosaur's DNA strand. In other words, all of the evolutionary benefits the Indominus Rex gets from its spliced DNA are entirely unnecessary.

But beyond that, Jurassic World suffers from being a victim to simple numbers. The Indominus Rex has $26,000,000 worth of research and development poured into it, which is why Claire is anxious to not kill it right away. But the potential lawsuits from deaths of visitors to Jurassic World with the utterly foreseeable event of a giant genetically-engineered dinosaur escaping and killing or maiming anyone is entirely forseeable to exceed $26,000,000. So, simple business insurance would have Jurassic World preparing for foreseeable disasters with a killswitch (i.e. it is more cost-effective to insure the research and development on a new dinosaur than it is to insure against the deaths of up to 20,000 visitors to Jurassic World). Jurassic World makes a piss-poor run-around the concept with "shock collars" and "trackers." The moment the threat of Indominus Rex was revealed in the film, I sat up and asked "Why didn't they install an explosive in the dinosaur so if it left the enclosure or they couldn't find it, they could just blow its head off?" The writers of Jurassic World are not so smart. They thought "we'll give it a tracker." But even there, why wouldn't they put a small load of Cesium in the tracker? Cesium explodes in oxygen and if the dinosaur was smart enough to remove the tracker, the process of removing it would kill the dinosaur. How is it that pretty much anyone watching Jurassic World will be smarter than the people who are supposed to exist in the world where engineering dinosaurs for fun and profit is real?!

So, back to the actual film Jurassic World. It's a lot of running around. It's a lot of computer-generated dinosaurs running around and attacking people. There are a lot of guns that shoot dinosaurs and don't seem to cut them down nearly as fast as one might expect. And there are a lot of surprisingly weak women. I love Judy Greer. Greer plays Karen in Jurassic World, the mother of Gray and Zach. In her professional workplace setting, Karen begins crying while on the phone with Claire for no particular reason other than the fact that Claire is not actually spending time with her children (nothing bad has yet happened to them to their knowledge). Zara is a nonentity who is not so vital that she cannot be fobbed off on babysitting duty (and fails horribly at that because she can't stay off her smartphone). Claire constantly defers to men in the film; she is the director of Jurassic World, though she gets a verbal spanking from Masrani for not understanding the philosophy behind the park (though this is not a new job for her!) and turns to Owen for in-field help at the first sign of trouble. The most competent female character in Jurassic World is Vivian, a control-room operator who is horrified when things go wrong at the park, but stands her ground against inappropriate inter-office contact when it comes time for her to evacuate.

The acting in Jurassic World is fine, save the preponderance of shots where child actors fail to get eyelines or emotional reactions right while working with virtual characters.

The dinosaurs are big, but hardly special in Jurassic World and there my analysis ends: Jurassic World is a long, painful, dull before is rushes into a derivative chase movie that viewers have already seen.

For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Dragon Blade
Fantastic 4
Jenny's Wedding
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Lila & Eve
No Way Jose
Terminator Genisys
Inside Out


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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