Film Review: Jurassic World

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The problem with nostalgia is that it makes us forget the way things really were. Case in point, Jurassic Park – the 1993 blockbuster that wowed audiences with its photorealistic dinosaurs and left a deep footprint in popular culture. Spielberg’s mind was elsewhere of course, he already had a foot in the holocaust, and consequently the parts of his monster movie that weren’t landmark visual effects were undercooked. The characters were thin, the story nigh on extinct, making Park a poor relation to Jaws. Yet the movie’s endured, despite Spielberg’s botched second attempt at getting it right (The Lost World) and Joe Johnson’s wan third chapter.

Now we have Jurassic World, a fairly bland reprise of the original, as befits a movie directed by a man named Colin. The new movie trades on the memory of the old with great efficiency, going so far as to recreate that sense of emptiness and anti-climax felt by Spielberg fans when the original was over.

World has one ace up its sleeve however, it’s wryly aware of its own redundancy. The self-reflexive story has the bean counters who run the park order a new Frankenstein-predator to reintroduce the wow factor for seen-it-all-before visitors. That’s a pertinent if obvious comment on familiarity breeding indifference in cinema audiences.

The solution, one would think, would be to write a movie that had characters so vivid and three dimensional that a crowd inured to computer generated killer beasts would be engrossed on a human level, so walk away buzzing. But Colin Trevorrow’s followed the argument of his story a little too closely. In the real world, as in the movie, the attempt at reinvigorating the audience ends in disappointment for the whole family. Trevorrow’s failed to solve the park’s Achilles heel: it’s a necropolis for humans. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are likable enough but they’re made of straw just as surely as the reptiles are made of pixels.

What Jurassic World shows vividly is now important Spielberg’s direction was in compensating, at least in part, for the human void at the heart of these stories. World has scale to match the first two movies, but it’s bereft of style. Without that, without Spielberg’s ability to add dynamism and artistry in composition to setpieces, you have a very pedestrian ride indeed.

Michael Giacchino’s score underlines the problem. He’s fast becoming Hollywood’s pastiche artist in residence – a man whose generic cues in the romantic style of old evoke the likes of John Williams without ever threatening to match them for melodic quality and variation. He and Trevorrow are well paired in that regard; they’re both trying to orchestrate a conscious throwback to a style of blockbuster neither of them are skilled enough to pull off. When you consider Jurassic Park was a flabby adventure by Spielberg’s standards – a movie that was good without being great on account of the world’s most commercially successful director working half-cocked, then the new movie is, in effect, a second rate version of a second rate film.

The truth, and if you’re a computer animator I invite you to look away now, is that the only way to reintroduce a sense of awe and wonder into blockbusters in this age of wall to wall CGI is to take a chance on characterisation. These movies need a Brody, Hooper and Quint. Perhaps then we’ll care when one gets eaten, one just escapes with his life and the other destroys the movie’s big bad. It’s worth a shot.

Directed by: Colin Trevorrow

Country: US

Year: 2015

Running Time: 124 mins

Certificate: 12A for B.D Wong, Raptors and Humans coming to an understanding, and annoying kids.

8 Responses

  1. James Earp says:

    Spot on.

  2. PatRodrigues says:

    You know, this is the first review I’ve read that calls out the original for not being OMGSOGREAT and I appreciate that. I’ve never been on the Jurassic bandwagon that everyone else in the world seems to be on, though I will admit that there are a few fun spontaneous touches and iconic scenes in that movie. Unfortunately it looks like even those are missing from this new one.

  3. Worminator says:

    I watched the original again yesterday and came to the exact same conclusion: Spielberg (and John Williams and Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough) manage to just save the movie from its terrible, terrible script.

  4. Nice review! However, I have a few disagreements to share herewwith 🙂

    While I agree that ‘Jurassic Park’ was WELL undercooked in the character department compared to Jaws, I seriously doubt that anyone aside from some hopeful folk like yourself & perhaps a few others who’d not been subjected to ‘Close Encounters’, ‘Indiana Jones’ et al were seriously expecting anything more than the most perfunctory of character sketches in this blockbuster to end all, etc? I know I wasn’t, nor, I’m pretty sure, were the rest of my newspaper art department with whom I attended ‘JP’ back in 1993 (1993! Yikes! Time, my how she doth fly..!).

    So okay, having established that it was at best naive & at worst foolish to expect anything more in this department from Spielberg, as he’d proved more often than not that he was more interested in spectacle than axual humans, what SHOULD we expect from any new JP movie? One, that it thrills (which the first did in spades), and um…two, that it thrills (see earlier). I’ve not seen this latest entry in this terribly devalued franchise, so can offer no further comment, suffice to say that my money will be staying firmly in my back pocket, thanks not only to your review, but also since I’ve probably already seen most of “the best bits” in the trailer prior to the screening of ‘Mad Max – Fury Road’ (7 out of 10, in case anyone cares) that I attended just last week here in Wellywood.

    Cheers, & keep ’em coming! 🙂

  5. […] The Ooh Tray: The new movie trades on the memory of the old with great efficiency, going so far as to recreate that sense of emptiness and anti-climax felt by Spielberg fans when the original was over. […]

  6. […] The Ooh Tray: The new movie trades on the memory of the old with great efficiency, going so far as to recreate that sense of emptiness and anti-climax felt by Spielberg fans when the original was over. […]

  7. Tim Earnshaw says:

    I had the choice – I think that’s the right word – between this and the Terminator movie at the multiplex. Lose-lose. So I went for this. I should have sat in the lobby and bloated myself on a few jurassic-sized tubs of popcorn instead. Is this a kids’ movie? Does that excuse it? The two leads – I forget their names – are the least interesting, sexy, and charming people ever to have stumbled into being movie stars. They make Sam Neill and Laura Dern look interesting, sexy, and charming. They make CGI look involving and real and exciting. The woman wears a frump suit cut from your grandmother’s curtains and high heels which don’t come off or break in the interminable Atari jungle chase scenes. The man is a lifelike Action Figurine with Real Grabbing Hands. The kids are … the kids … wait – one of them wears a big wavy-perm fright wig I think your grandmother supplied along with her curtains. This, along with his wide-eyed enthusiasm (kids! ain’t they th’ ginchiest?) gives his role all the dramatic clout of the Comedy Sidekick Cartoon Animal. The other kid? I forget. Maybe he’s a sulky adolescent or something. And there’s some computer geeks and a bad guy built out of pork bellies and that’s about it for the human aspect of this.

    And there’s a big build-up to the Scariest Dino Ever Genetically Engineered. It’s so big, we’re so scared. It’s so big. Except that it’s not. It’s barely bigger, and has only slightly more teeth, than the friendly T Rex, our familiar CGI pal. It’s way smaller than Godzilla or the Cloverfield monster. It’s like a sports utility dino. And it is absolutely underwhelming.

    The dinos fight. The small, cute dinos gang up on the big one and, like, win. Spoiler.

    And that’s when I lost. Unable to withstand the feelgood third act wrap, the family hugs and the twinkly grins of the Cute Dinos, I got up from my expensive seat and I did that long walk to the exit door in the dark, hating Hollywood, hating CGI, hating “franchises”, and hating myself for not just sitting in the lobby and letting bucket after bucket of popcorn give me the gas instead.

    Hollywood, fuck you. Really.