First let me say, I'm not a film snob. I love a good blockbuster and I was particularly looking forward to Jurassic World. It had good previews and people were praising it for returning to the values of the original Jurassic Park, which I just loved. I still remember sitting in the Coronet cinema in Elephant & Castle when the movie first came out, watching that scene where Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler stop their jeep and see, for the first time, a herd of brachiosaurs eating vegetation from the trees and thinking 'Dear God in heaven, they have actually filmed dinosaurs'. It was a completely thrilling moment, which is why got a tram out to AMC Manchester last night to see Jurassic World.
But what is going on with this new movie? Spielberg has his limitations but at his best he knows about story and tells it through human beings. This movie really doesn't care about those things. But here's the thing; it seems embarrassed about dinosaurs as well. So what does this film really think it's doing?
There are things I liked about this movie, mostly visual sequences. The theme park is pretty convincingly realized. The camouflaged Indominus Rex is great (and they hold back from showing the whole thing well). The bit where the raptors join the I-Rex is nicely scary. There's a good bit with raptors chasing an ambulance. The bit where the raptors and Chris Pratt on a bike chase through the forest is beautifully shot. Chris Pratt himself is a likeable presence.
But here are 20 things I didn't like about Jurassic World. VERY SPOILERY.
- They've genetically engineered a huge new dinosaur because people have become jaded about seeing dinosaurs. Really? Are they? The film seems to be set in our world. Would people really get jaded about seeing a T-Rex? How quickly? I mean, Alton Towers is still open. It creates new scary rides but seeing a T-Rex is way scarier and more exciting than anything. I just don't buy it. And hey, nor does the movie, because when we see the T-Rex exhibit, the little child hero can't get a look because there are so many people crowding to see it. The audience for the Mosasaurus show seems thrilled by what they're seeing - and we're told, in fact, that there are 20,000 people on the island.
- Someone has plans to train velociraptors to hunt down the Taliban. For actual fucksake. Even the movie seems to think this is a dumb idea since the only person who expresses it is (a) a moron and (b) punished in a poetic justice way. But, guys, the whole movie is predicated on this idea.
- The scientist who created the Indominus Rex for the park refuses to say what he made it out of. They what? They 'refuse'?? What is this, a Surprisosaurus? Bring Your Stupid Idea To Work Day? And, let's remember, this chief scientist is the same Henry Wu who fucked up the original Jurassic Park. 'Okay, Dr Wu, we'll take it on trust; you must know what you're doing by now'.
- The I-Rex that they grew ended up being cleverer than they realised, more madly murderous and much bigger and the scientists are pretty much fine with that. 'Come on, guys. I mean, what's the worst that can happen?'
- Two young teenagers get a jeep that hasn't worked for 20 years up and running in a matter of minutes. Kids these days. Mad skills.
- Does anyone else worry that hundreds of pterosaurs are flying around? Is it possible they got off the island, say by flying?
- The army arrives in a helicopter but then let a guy who doesn't yet have a helicopter pilot's licence fly them into battle with unfortunate results. Hey guys, why not let your trained army pilot do that?
- Owen Grady rides a motorbike through a forest. Ever been in a forest? It's kind of bumpy. Seriously, it's an almost entirely wild island. Who let him bring a fucking motorbike?
- Claire Dearing. She's running the park. Sort of. Though security can apparently march in and take over, which she was unaware of, despite being operations manager. She has no children and doesn't seem to want any which is this movie's shorthand for 'unfeminine bitch'. She also wears this white trouser suit (in a wilderness theme park, très bonne idée) with her jacket over her shoulders for the first hour of the movie, which seems to be this movie's shorthand for 'frigid bitch'. And then, the movie doesn't even know if she's any good at her job: we see her in a lift trying to remember the names of three major backers she's about to meet (bit late for that, ma'am) and we don't actually see her do her job at all well. But it's okay because then she gets into a vest and looks after her two nephews, so she's basically learned to be a non-frigid proper maternal woman who lives in the real world. She cries when she sees some dead dinosaurs, to show her new-found emotional chops. And there's a bit - which others have commented on - where she manages to outrun a T-Rex, in stilettos (her, not the dinosaur, obvs). Completely ridiculous.
- Owen Grady. Chris Pratt is quite a likeable actor, but this is a daft part. He's boorish, rude, arrogant, and thinks he can ride a motorcycle through a forest. He miraculously escapes the I-Rex by keeping very still in front of a car (though this didn't work for the security guard near the beginning). And there's a really dumb bit where Claire saves him from a pterosaur and they do this horrible weird loveless kiss (and... priorities, guys?). Also, why actually is he in the park. Oh yes, he's training velociraptors. Um, why? It's a 'field test'. Um, for what?
- The kids. Oh Christ, those kids. One of them is a pre-teen dinosaur nerd (so basically he's copied directly off Tim Murphy in Jurassic Park). The other one is really into girls, which we know because he walks around the island staring at girls, who giggle and simper. He doesn't care about dinosaurs much. He thinks that it's a great idea to go exploring behind a broken fence in a clearly-marked restricted area in a dinosaur theme park. So I'm not sure if he has a sex drive or a death wish. Paging Dr Freud. I think Spielberg's kid characters are mostly just this side of bearable. These are not. I longed for them to get eaten. Oh and then it seems that their parents are splitting up but maybe they get back together because of the kids; I really don't know.
- Zara Young and Simon Masrani. Zara is Claire's PA. Completely incompetent, loses her boss's two nephews within a few hours. And she ends up being eaten by the Mosasaurus in a way that seems vaguely like she's being punished for something, though God knows what. Something slightly similar happens to the park's CEO, Simon Masrani, who seems to be vaguely punished for hubris in trying to fly a helicopter, but really it feels like they just need to get rid of a character they don't understand, the CEO who is both insistent on strong moral principles but also won't let the I-Rex be killed because they've instead $26m in it.
- Vic Hoskins. Ludicrous. This character makes no sense at all. He's head of security for the park. The Head of Security. He's basically he head bouncer. Where does he get off saying what they can use the velociraptors for? How does he end up taking charge? Why actually does the movie make he behave like such an asshole?
- Jake Johnson. He's a 'character'. He is off-the-peg nerd. He's a less interesting version of Dennis Nedry from the first movie. He's classic Mr Potato Head character construction: he's a nerd; he has plastic dinosaurs on his desk; he's cocky; he has unrequited love for his colleague (a sadly wasted Lauren Lapkus); he's messy. There you go: a character.
- Dr Henry Wu. Um, sorry Doctor, I pay your wages: you'll tell me what's in this dinosaur you created, and you'll tell me now, you stupid asshat.
- The Indominus Rex works out how to fake an escape and lower its temperature so it's not detectable by the thermal sensors. How? The film doesn't seem to think it's ever dropped its temperature before, so how would the I-Rex know what effect that would have? How does it know what an escape would look like? Does it have a concept of escape? How does it understand what the humans would think by seeing the claw marks on the wall (which, incidentally, don't look much like an escape to me)? Also, they keep saying it's very intelligent; but is it? How come? It's got T-Rex, cuttlefish, velociraptor and tree frog and... what, Einstein? Bamber Gascoigne?
- The velociraptors see Owen Grady as the alpha male, then they transfer this to the Indominus Rex, and then back to Owen Grady again, for no very good reason. This is a sequel problem; in the first movie the velociraptors were pretty much unbeatable, except by the T-Rex. In subsequent movies they were being killed quite easily. Now they seem to be trainable. But then there's an (admittedly very good) scene where they confront the Indominus Rex and Grady realises the I-Rex is probably part raptor, at which point the raptors literally turn tail and starts attacking our heroes. But then we get a moment where our heroes are cornered by three raptors and Grady goes up, strokes one, and, I think, takes off its tracker. This seems to get them on side. Who knew they were so fussed about trackers? Seriously this makes zero sense.
- The Mosasaurus Ex Machina. In the end, the Mosasaurus comes out of nowhere to kill the I-Rex. It's very like the end of Racine's Phèdre, incidentally, and the end of Racine's Phèdre is also rather stupid. The thing that's annoying about this ending is at the very moment that you think 'oh that's surprising', you also think 'oh so that's why they shoehorned that [terribly badly CGI'd] monster into the first half'.
- The movie really wants to have its cake and eat it. It's all trying to be clever about the fact that we're now a bit jaded about CGI dinosaurs, that movies have to be bigger and better and scarier and more spectacular. But actually, I'm not jaded about CGI dinosaurs. I'm jaded about shitty storytelling. CGI dinosaurs are always excellent, which is why I took a tram out to central Manchester to sit in an almost-empty cinema to watch this movie. So the movie makes all sorts of jokes about product placement, and rapacious executives, and commercial imperatives, forgetting, in its smugness, that all of these jokes were in the original Jurassic Park.
- It just doesn't want to care about people. I don't think everything has to be realism, but what the fuck is this? No one in the film acts in a way that is at all recognisable except from other movies. You sense that everything has been put in place to give us the visuals, which they think is all we're waiting for. Basically, these films are like porn. There's a story, but that's just a way of giving shape to the action sequences and delaying our gratification. Would it have killed the filmmakers to create characters that we can recognise, care about, see ourselves or others in? Has anyone in the production watched Jaws? Do they think it would be improved if those characters were more cartoonish, less full realised. Watch this movie and afterwards ask yourself if you can imagine the life these characters were leading before the events of the movie. You won't be able to. The characters are all stereotypes. The story makes no sense. It's a shame.