I allow myself to watch exactly one Hollywood blockbuster in the theatre every summer. I welcome the brain check at the door in lieu of buttery popcorn, inane plots and finely shellacked stars and starlets who escape life or death situations with the greatest of ease and finesse. Nary a sweat is broken as the bad guys are trampled by the titular american hero. Stilted dialogue is embraced, and love always wins by the time the credits roll. I allow myself to be riveted for the entire running time, suspending my critique-ish mind and enjoying the superficial imaging at face value. But, unfortunately, the analytics almost always come into play 1-2 hour the film is completed…which is now where I find myself.
This year I used my blockbuster pass to watch the much-buzzed about Jurassic World, which as per my requirements, has all of the trademarks of the classic Hollywood epic. The bronzed Chris Pratt gets to fill the frame with jump cuts to his newly acquired bulging muscles, and Bryce Dallas Howard gets to outrun(!) an obviously aged Tyrannosaurus Rex, which the movie wisely saves to showcase until near the film’s rather suspenseful climax. But you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed the film from the first shot where a tiny hatchling of a dinosaur sees the world for the very first time to the last image of a screeching T-Rex who revels in his kingdom.
The film has at its centre a variety of on-trend Hollywood blockbuster fads. From military infiltrations, to commentary on woman in power, to the controversial topic of cloning and animal containment, Jurassic World literally has something for every potential viewer beholding its sheer veracity of motion picture-making. The plot, while not entirely innovative, plods along quickly, building an inherent momentum that really grasps the viewer, causing one to wonder what is going to happen next (though we sort of all know what is next on the agenda.) The director also apparently enjoys referencing JAWS many a time. I won’t say how but you’ll figure it out.
Obviously one of the strongest elements that makes Jurassic World work is the incredibly believable animations and the use of CGI and the director’s clever play between real and unreal dinosaurs. The film is full of projections of dinosaurs in the islands’ central pavilion where visitors can behold a life-size but clearly artificial image of the extinct creatures. Bryce Dallas Howard’s stern Claire Dearling, the operations manager for the theme park, is seen walking through the image at times. It’s a subversive technique by the director to increase the believability of these creatures. The creatures themselves are incredibly life-like. Their sinewy, leather-like skin and sharp, yellowed teeth are the ingredients to make a terrifying nightmare. The depiction of their speed and strength are brilliantly captured and down right believable.
The first quarter of the film was essentially like a guided tour through the Dinosaur amusement park, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Many of the pavilions that house various species are visited, and an outdoor sea creature does a trick for the outdoor audience, very reminiscent of those provided at animal water parks. As a fan of the previous Jurassic Park films, this portion of the film was heavy on the nostalgia and I loved every minute of it. But there’s always a dark, menacing baseline with every reveal of the next, amazing dinosaur – we all know they’re going to turn bad.
The remainder of the film is pretty much a chase to capture the hybrid Indominus captured after it escapes its sanctuary. It’s a wily and smart thing, and of course, described as a female. A female who ate its sibling in order to show dominance, and is sly enough to set up a deceptive escape. Like many Hollywood films of this fantasy/action/sci fi genre, the female roles are one dimensional at best. Judy Greer’s role as mother of the two young boys who visit their Aunt Claire is pretty much given nothing more to do than worry about her children and pick them up at the film’s end. Howard’s Claire is an uptight business woman dressed all in white. Like the film’s focus on Pratt’s muscular frame, the camera also closes in on Claire’s sweaty, exerted body as she tries to save the day. A little dated but not all together surprising given the demographic the film is trying to court.
This brings us to Pratt himself. The recently minted matinee idol is, well, bronzed and buff. From his first scene where he has taught a quartet of velociraptors to sit and stay, you know he’s going to be the hero. He’s dressed like a lite-Indiana Jones minus the bandana but with the khaki vest and semi-tight pants. He is relatable and funny, bringing the audience an element of compassion and trust in his character. An excellent casting choice, I must say.
For the Jurassic Park fans, there are a lot of references and comments about the previous films of the successful franchise. From visits to long-forgotten locations of the first film, to references to Tea Leoni’s character in Jurassic Park 3 – the film acts as a welcome hug for those of us who grew up watching this film on VHS on repeat. It’s more like a sequel to the first film rather than to the last, nipping all of our griping about the second film in the series, The Lost World.
I particularly enjoyed the scenes where the Indominus communicates with the four raptors. They are literally talking to one another, and I was secretly hoping for some hilarious subtitles to pop up on the screen. Alas, I was disappointed. I’m sure tonight a certain dinosaur or two will pop into my dream, awash in greenish skin and long talons.
A little digression, if you may please indulge me. Throughout all of the Jurassic Park films the dinosaurs are always referred to as inherently evil or malicious. Now I won’t pretend to be an expert in the way of our extinct relatives but I’m sure there were some peaceful co-existence happening on some level. Because these dinosaurs are contained then they are tame. If let loose, they want to destroy humankind. I don’t know how much of that is true. It is this inference that makes the hunt scenes for the ‘mean’ Indominus a bit painful to watch. I know these aren’t real creatures, but watching loud and obnoxious children riding small triceratops and other small dinosaurs in the “Gentle Giant Creatures” emporium made me a little angry.
All in all, I enjoyed the film immensely. I devoured every, impossible scene in much the same way the villains of the film devour their temptations in the wilderness. Lush and beautiful, and surprisingly really violent, Jurassic World appeals to the masses, but also manages to carve out some intellectual commentary on today’s world with its clear propensity for establishing power and maintaing it.
P.S. Did I mention Lauren Lapkus is in the flick?! Amaze.