21 June 2015

Jurassic World review

Dinosaurs are inherently cool. I don't know many people that didn't go through a dinosaur stage as a child, fascinated, intimidated and intrigued by the fantastical look and sheer size of creatures that once existed on the world we now inhabit. So when I say that Jurassic World is spectacular, I mean that in the strictest definition of the word - that it provides spectacle and scale and a sense of insignificance that is almost impossible to avoid when your film is about dinosaurs.

It is also amongst the most incompetently crafted films I have ever seen.

Set on the same island as the original Jurassic Park, Jurassic World follows a couple of kids as they travel to the titular theme park for a weekend with their aunt, Claire, who pretty much runs Jurassic World and is getting ready to introduce the Indominus Rex, a new dinosaur that has been created from scratch, to the general public. Obviously, everything goes according to plan, the kids have a great time and the no-one has to reset the parks 'Days since last accident' counter.

Jurassic World is a film that fails at a very basic level of film making with alarming frequency, often feeling like it is made up of several different versions of the same script jumbled together thanks to the massive amount of structural oddities and half-baked character moments that litter the films running time. This internal inconsistency manifests itself in a variety of ways, from set up that is never paid off to pay off that is never set up to complete non-sequiturs of dialogue and character reasoning.

The best examples of this come for the arcs of the children and the way they interact with the other characters - in one scene, they meet Chris Pratt's character Owen for the first time when he is under attack from a flying dinosaur and being overwhelmed before Claire saves him in a strange reversal of the damsel in distress trope (the gender politics of this film are amongst the strangest and most incoherent I've ever seen). But almost immediately afterwards, the children are admiring the heroism of Owen, going so far as to tell Claire that they are sticking with him, not her, despite the fact that all they've seen him do so far is be completely helpless.

The result of this is a film that despite the aforementioned spectacle fails to create anything that is truly memorable, instead leaning on nostalgia and the iconic John Williams theme in an attempt to evoke a sense of esteem that the film never even comes close to earning. And it isn't just the structural issues that plague Jurassic World that is making me say this - there isn't a single main character who isn't a cliché, to the point where it is hard to blame the actors for their performances thanks to the fact that they have effectively nothing to work with beyond some very poor dialogue. Chris Pratt comes off better than most in this regard thanks to his natural charm, but even then we are a long way away from actually having a genuinely likeable character in the film.

It's also worth mentioning just how incredibly stupid Jurassic World is - at every available opportunity, the script seems to take a look at it's options and choose the least logical and silliest path of progression that it can take, while at the same time taking itself as seriously as possible and being as inconsistent as possible when it comes to the intelligence of it's characters, both human and dinosaur alike. I'm not usually a stickler for realism in films, but I was rolling my eyes for nearly the entire last act of Jurassic World thanks to it's dedication to dumbness, it's total inability to keep even one element of it's story straight.

Additionally, a note to the writers of Jurassic World, Colin Trevorrow (who also directed) and Derek Connolly - slapping the audience in the face with an obvious commentary on Hollywood, audience expectations and the series of films you are making at the start of your film doesn't make the subsequent inclusion of a predictable plot, boring tropes and blatant product placement smart or subversive, it just means that you knew there were issues with the film and elected to present them as deliberate rather than fix them. I can't think of a lazier way of dealing with a problem than by trying to pretend that your script is stupid and unoriginal on purpose, and it speaks volumes about both the the abilities of Trevorrow and Connolly and the quality of the film overall - I certainly wouldn't trust either of them with a big budget blockbuster again any time soon.

Jurassic World is a 'turn your brain off' kind of movie, but you shouldn't have to stop thinking to enjoy something. Without the universal truth that dinosaurs are cool, Jurassic World would be rightfully seen as the shoddy and stupid mess that it is, and yet it has proven to be hugely popular, coming along at just the right time judging by some pretty impressive box office takings, and you can't fault a movie for fitting into a gap in the market and scratching an itch in general audiences. I just wish that it'd been a better film, more worthy of the praise and attention that it has been seeing - but instead, we have a film that is structurally unsound, thematically dead and emotionally unresponsive, a film that does more to damage the reputation of the summer blockbuster than I thought possible. This is 2015, year of Mad Max: Fury Road for god's sake - and audiences deserve a lot better.

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