The continued affection I, and the rest of the world, has for the Jurassic Park franchise is something I find a little…odd I guess? The original is a classic, no question (I rewatched it this week and it holds up 100 percent) but the rest of the franchise is…not so much. The Lost World has its moments to be sure, but it ultimately falls apart under its own weight and Jurassic Park 3 is completely unbearable.
Still, I remain fond of the franchise and the concept. I like dinosaurs, I like monster movies, and so it’s only natural that I like them together. Still, with the original being a technical masterpiece, with solid work in the character and screenwriting departments, and this movie having been trapped in development hell since 2001, I was working hard to keep my expectations in check.
And with that we wander into plot recap town. As the movie opens, InGen has finally managed to wrangle all of the dinosaurs into captivity and set up the park they always wanted to. Unfortunately, audience attendance is low and the people just aren’t as impressed by dinosaurs anymore (one of the movies masterclass examples of telling instead of showing, as the park is packed and everyone is losing their minds over it, but never mind).
Anyway, in order to reinvigorate the attendees, they are planning on unveiling a new exhibit, a new kind of dinosaur their scientists created by crossing a T-Rex with several other types of dinosaurs and other animals (the movie treats the other types of dinosaurs like a surprise, but it’s ridiculously obvious from the outset). The result is Indominus Rex, and incidentally movie, having the characters mock the name does not absolve you of how dumb it is.
But that’s just the set up. The actual plot is devoted to two kids, Zach and Grey (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) who have arrived in the park to visit their aunt, the park’s Operations Manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). But she’s too busy to really see them, as she’s prepping the Indominus for debut. She brings in the raptor trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) to consult on his cage, but wouldn’t you know it, the Indominus escapes, setting off a series of events that throws the park into chaos.
When I saw the first trailer for this movie, I made a pact with it: If it could avoid sucking, I wouldn’t be too hard on it. It didn’t have to be great, hell it didn’t even need to be particularly good, it just needed to not suck. And while Jurassic World has a fairly lengthy list of issues, it does not suck, so I can’t be too hard on it.
I will say, if there’s any single element that could push the movie over the line from ‘Not sucking’ to ‘Sucking’ it would be how insufferably smug it is. Having a character wear a t-shirt from the pre-rename Jurassic Park is funny, sure but explicitly drawing attention to it and THEN using it as a jumping off point to make jokes about how ‘That park didn’t need genetically engineered new dinosaurs to draw in audiences’ as a meta reference to the movie? At that point you can f**k off.
This speaks to a lack of restraint that infects the whole movie. The movie never feels like telling a joke and moving on, it feels like it needs to linger on the punchline for much too long. The movie has only a handful of action or rampage scenes, but they go on forever. Exposition rambles on and on, well past the point of giving the audience more information than they needed. The death of a minor character is dragged out and long that it began to cross into needlessly cruel territory and made more than a little uncomfortable.
This might be forgivable on one level or another, as elements of the movie seem to be pointing to the movie trying to be a satire on bad blockbusters. But that excuse only runs so far, as if that’s the case, the movie is far too satisfied with itself and the attempts at cleverness doesn’t excuse the occasional irritation of the moments that are bad. This isn’t Cabin in the Woods, and intentionally bad is still bad.
Slightly less important but also pushing the movie closer to the ‘Sucking’ column than it probably wants to be is the fact that the story and characters are overall exceptionally weak. The two kids are probably the worst; Their storyline is weak, they’re both annoying, the plot requires them to act like idiots (even by kids standards) and it eats up way too much time while paradoxically not giving us enough time to get attached to either of the kids.
Comparatively, Owen’s plot is much stronger, in that it’s merely mediocre. Claire is a major weak point, as her character is completely flat and her romance with Owen is forced enough to begin to draw attention to their lack of chemistry. Owen is, on paper, just as flat and uninteresting as Claire, but Pratt is at least working his natural charm and charisma to make it work. Bryce Dallas Howard has so little work with that all I can register about her is how distractingly bad her wig is.
So if it’s more flaws than than good points, what did I like about it? Well the dinosaur action is pretty awesome. The film is geared toward it to a degree that it overwhelms everything else, so it’d better be damned good. A big scale fight at the mid-point, between the Indominus and an Ankylosaurus is awesome, as is the big setpiece involving Pteranodons attacking the main park. Even the finale is awesome, although it does start to feel like fanfiction at about the midpoint.
While Jurassic World is a pretty heavily flawed movie, none of its flaws are really bad enough to really be a deal breaker. It’s a little bit annoying here and a little bit draggy there, but it’s still entertaining. It’s definitely better than Jurassic Park 3, so if you’re in the mood for some dinosaur action, this is probably the movie for you. But no one will blame you if you wait for DVD.
Elessar is a 25 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he’d have moved this movie up a rating if they’d just killed one of the two kids.
– good action
– solid special effects
– I like Chris Pratt
– script and characters are terrible
– pacing is awkward
– kind of irritating at times