It’s A Jurassic World After All
No, I don’t know why they continue to keep (re)making sequels and prequels and spiritual successors to films that don’t really needs to be fiddled with.
This is the rant that I was ready to go on about Jurassic World. And probably many people like me, 20-and-30-and-something-somethings: “why are you messing with the original?”
Except…that’s sort of what Jurassic Park is all about, isn’t it? Messing with the originals and bringing a monstrous bastardised behemoth back to life with disastrous results. That’s the joy of Jurassic World; every argument you can make against the film is already there It’s a freaking theme of the entire franchise, and you can’t get much more meta than that.
So…you know the story: let’s use the genetic material from dinosaurs, let’s combine it with the genetic material of contemporary animals to create clones of the traditional dinosaurs (with a few tweaks); let’s turn it into a theme park. And nothing bad ever happens in a theme park. Ever.
Oh, you know it does; there’s always a rival corporation that want your goodies; there’s always Vincent D’Onofrio playing a military man who wants to weaponise your goodies; and there’s always two kids who get into far too much trouble than any kid should, isn’t there?
There is so much about Jurassic World that is predictable and beholden to the original, that there isn’t really a point in discussing the story; we all know what happens.
But the weird thing is…and it’s taken me a long time to get to write these words: I DIDN’T HATE IT! And I think I need to justify that to myself…badly.
First off, let’s talk about love, because I don’t think there’s anyone that doesn’t love Jurassic Park. This is a film made by, and for, people who loved that film (ie everyone.) Every scene, every moment, every shot…to me, they are all a loving reference, both subtle and overly-branded with in-your-face gaudy product-placement. (Every family movie these days has a lot of product placement in it, I’m not arguing that fact. But this isn’t just lunch-boxes and action figures; in fact, the attractions in Jurassic World, the theme park and the film, are branded and sponsored for adults and spenders. The original had T-shirts and books and toys; the fourth film in the series has Samsung buildings and a freaking Pandora shop.
Pandora. Yes. The jewellery shop with the charms and the charm bracelets that, by its very name, opens up a pandora’s box that in itself is idiomatic of the film itself, its themes and the very act of creating a film like this that is a remake, sequel and parody all in one.
That’s enjoyable. If you’re prepared for that when you’re watching this film; if not, you’re just going to look at all this product placement and that adult layer that is the corporate heart of the franchise is either going to be lost on you, or you’re going to have to will-fully ignore it in favour of the set-pieces.
Those bombastic, massive set-pieces are ridiculously larger than life as only a film about genetically modified and resurrected dinosaurs can be! I actually thought of something during one such moment (around the point that our ridiculously over-powered antagonistic dinosaur first appears) that was somewhat fitting. That’s right, I thought of Shakespeare, specifically these lines from Macbeth:
it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
No. No. Take it easy. I’m not suggesting that this is a film for idiots or that the producers are idiots, but that sound and fury that signifies nothing? Well there’s lots of that in a film that’s about a lot of things and nothing, all at the same time.
The idiots, though. They’re in the film in the Shakespearian mode of the fools, because this is a film that poses with its sense of comedy and then takes every opportunity to undermine it, to tell the audience that THIS IS A REAL DEAL and then makes a throwaway joke to acknowledge it.
Let’s look at the funny men actors Chris Pratt and Jake Johnson; both are audience inserts, aware of the dangers of the park, both comedic fools whose TV careers make them characters that we are expected to love and relate to. And both sport ridiculous moustaches that can only be described as being “skanky.” (The fact that I have serious man-crushes on both actors really hampers this facial hair for me.)
Pratt, normally playing the (…um…can I say prat? Okay, cool…) Pratt, normally playing the prat is surprisingly straight-laced for the entirety of the film, despite some awkward flirting with Bryce Dallas Howard; the chemistry is forced and even the suggested history between the two characters is limited to one terrible (sober) date (because you need tequila to have fun, kids. Is that the message we want in our films?) Sure, he makes a few quips, but his is a role that doesn’t actually need any of his (sometimes forced) charisma. Johnson, on the other hand, even sports a Jurassic Park T-shirt and may as well scream “META” straight at the camera. He then gets a laughable flirtation with one of the paper-thin female characters in the film that quickly subsumes into the film’s attempt at humour. Maybe this film is trying to suggest to us that Jurassic World is a theme park with only one here.
The hero is the T-Rex. I’m not labouring the point.
So if the hero is a dinosaur, and the villains are the humans-playing-gods (ooh, on-brand URL-picking there, Ken!) Jurassic World is an uncomfortably weird movie that I still can’t decide, after writing all these words, whether I liked it or hated it? I enjoyed it, I’d watch it again, maybe even in the cinema, but I don’t know if this does anything new.
Maybe instead this was created in the same way as Jurassic Park, something that will appeal to and steal the breath of the kids in all of us, while the adults are left to ponder questions of morality and product placement and why Chris Pratt didn’t get a scene of shirtless luxuriating to rival Jess Goldblum’s? (I know I’m not the only person to make this comment.)
I’m leaving this review with a sense of unease, of the incomplete nature of the film itself that seems to at once lovingly tend to and undermine its source material.
Let me put it on ice/amber and I’ll come back to you in a couple of million years.
SIDEBAR: Is it still a side-bar if it comes at the end of the thing? Oh, never mind. Anyway, there was one thing I really wanted to mention, and that’s a stand-out moment of this film that is really uncomfortable.
It’s the babysitter and her faith (she’s not a baby-sitter, but I’m calling her that.)
What is with that gratuitously violent and screamy death?
I’m not against the violence itself (as a matter of fact, there are many elements of the film that feel like loving references to Aliens, Predator and other films.) The film isn’t particularly gory; D’Onofrio’s diet-coke-of-evil army-man gets a fitting death for a man that feels like he should be the villain, but even his demise is a cake-walk compared with the screaming babysitter tossed between pterodactyls, then plunged into the water where she’ll probably drown only to be eaten by
Jaws another dinosaur.
I won’t dwell on it, but…what’s that all that sound and fury?
Also published on Medium.