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Jurassic World (2015)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Iffran Khan, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson

Written By: Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (also story), Colin Trevorrow & Derek Connolly

Directed By: Colin Trevorrow

The Shot

Come for the dinosaur fights!  And then stay for the dinosaur fights, because most everything else about Jurassic World is a mess, but hey – dinosaur fights!

The Highball

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?



All over the map.  Some of it’s tasty; some of it’s not even real cheese.

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Sponsor of damn near everything.  I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see a sign at Jurassic World for the “Miller Lite Stegosaurus Preserve” that just didn’t make it in front of a camera.

“What kind of diet doesn’t allow tequila?”

Once upon a time, Jurassic Park established itself as a cinematic cultural landmark.

Twenty-two years later and with two now-unacknowledged-but-not-disowned sequels in between, Hollywood has returned to the Isla Nublar with hopes to rekindle the magic.

From a financial perspective, they certainly nailed it.  Jurassic World – the script for which rails against the awfulness of greed, marketing, and corporate sponsorship with roughly the same irony and even less sincerity than a latter-day James Cameron project – broke out with one the biggest opening box office weekends of all time (some trades call it “Big B.O.” and don’t get the joke), already making its entire huge reported budget back with scores of millions more to start paying for the marketing.  And let’s be honest: you had to know it would, just like Star Wars: The Force Awakens is going to at the end of the year.  People were going to see this movie in droves no matter what, and that’s cool.  Product bought and sold.

With that in mind, I’ll say right here that I don’t hate Jurassic World.  I knew better than to expect a return to the magic of the first Jurassic Park.  And so when I walked into the theatre, I got exactly what I paid for: dinosaur fights.  Sure, previews and even product tie-in commercials gave away the frameworks of too many of them before I even got to the theatre, but surprise notwithstanding, they were still fun to watch, whether dino-on-dino or dino-on-human or dino-on-hapless-inanimate-object.  I enjoyed the dinosaur fights – especially the big finish – and I enjoyed the effects photography and sounds that went with the dinosaur fights.  Ergo, mission accomplished: I liked everything about the movie that I absolutely needed to like in order to walk out saying that I had a good time and didn’t regret buying a ticket.

And that comes despite the fact that the script is, frankly, rather atrocious.

The premise is fine; indeed, it’s about time that the action returned to the island where it all began, now boasting a fully operational dinosaur park with twenty thousand touristas just waiting to become snack food.  I’ll even grudgingly accept the notion of genetically engineering a hybrid, never-before-existed dinosaur as a means of boosting flagging attendance (and gaining another corporate sponsorship; Verizon, I think it was; gag), even if it does kinda go against the whole point of having a dinosaur park to begin with and feels like something that could’ve waited until one or two sequels down the line.  But then the humans with speaking parts show up, and everything goes to hell.

Start with the kids… the unnecessary, annoying, completely stereotypical kids who are nothing more than cheap plot devices that Jurassic World would be a much better movie without.  (And of course their absent parents are revealed to be getting divorced for no apparent reason except to make the younger one cry.)  Their true purpose, of course, is To Be Theatened so that our female lead, Claire, can be loudly, flagrantly, and let’s be honest, disgustingly mommy shamed.  (As in “shame on you for not being a mommy!”  And of course she spends the entire movie in heels.)  Successful career, strong presence, but how dare share not center her life around children!  These runaway dinosaurs are obviously karmic punishment against her for not pumping out more kids than a TLC reality star!  Bryce Dallas Howard (Terminator Salvation) does the very best she can with the stereotype – far better than the role deserves, really – and I hold her blameless, but come on, writers: really?

And how, exactly, does one cast a fun actor like Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) and turn him into a generic testosterone bag whose entire joke repertoire consists of sexual remarks that fall completely flat?  Pratt’s greatest strengths are his humor and charisma; Jurassic World strips him of both, explaining it away by calling him “an ex-Navy man,” which of course means he must be Mission Serious.  Though he does take pains to identify himself as The Great White Hunter and not a soldier, because the other ex-soldiers led by Vincent D’Onofrio (Escape Plan) are Bad.  As in “let’s rip off an Aliens subplot” bad.  As in “let’s wistfully wonder what might have happened if only the US military had had a pack of Velociraptors to send after Osama Bin Laden in the caves of Afghanistan.”  Again: come on, writers: really?

Speaking of that plural emphasis on “writers.”  With at least four credited screenwriters (and who knows how many that union regulations didn’t deem worthy enough to credit) already being paid for, one might think that the studio could have sprung for more attentive continuity policing.  I’m thinking specifically of the character of Masrani (Irrfan Khan, The Amazing Spider-Man), whose personality and motivations vary wildly from scene to scene with an inconsistency that’s jarring enough to take me right out of the dinosaur park due to whiplash.  Does Masrani care about the dinosaurs’ quality of life in this scene and damn the profits, or does he want to just be shown the money and shut up about doing the right thing?  Who knows?  Spin the wheel!  Come on, continuity cops.  Really.

But that’s the “critical thinking” part of my brain talking.  Fortunately, the “let’s have fun with dinosaur fights” part of my brain paid for the ticket, and the director and the effects crew made sure that that part of my brain had way more fun than any of the way-too-strait-laced characters in Jurassic World.  Sometimes, special effects set on top of an iffy story are enough.

Bottom line, the human story may be terrible and occasionally even distasteful, but if you, like me, are ignoring the park’s own marketing people and coming in with the belief that dinosaurs and dinosaur fights are cool so just bring those on already, Jurassic World is worth the price of admission now, and should make a decent enough “rainy day” or “sick on the couch” flick later.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, June, 2015

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