Jurassic World (2015) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Jurassic World (2015)

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Flush from the scientific advances, if not destructive outcome, of Jurassic Park investors build a new wonderland to bring in revenue from families looking for an adventure.  But the world is growing bored with the miracle of dinosaurs and science steps in to create a new breed to boost sales.  In Jurassic World, a new breed means new problems.  Colin Trevorrow directs Jurassic World from a screenplay written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly, and Trevorrow.  Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, and Nick Robinson star.

More egg shots"Cinematic trends come and go," I reminded myself through Jurassic World.  I felt a longing for movies I watched as a kid where an orca jumping over a barrier to freedom inspired my first cinematic tears.  Now older, I can never look at that beautiful image without knowing the behind-the-scenes pain that poor orca went through to produce it.  But in the case of Free Willy, the cynicism was buried and the onscreen images soared.  Jurassic World doesn't bother with the wonder and jumps straight for the cynical from the first frame on.

This has become so common in big-budget films I'm praying for an end soon.  Who, in their heart of hearts, is truly inspired by garbage like Jurassic World?  It's slick, finely-tuned, quip-tastic film-making which moves from one action setpiece to another with little variety in its direction.  More questions pop into my mind - who watched director Colin Trevorrow's previous Safety Not Guaranteed with its direction which doesn't, as Danny wrote years ago, "reach for the stars, but would rather just be pleasant and comfortable" and thought he would be best to helm a multi-million dollar franchise reboot?

What Trevorrow accomplishes with Jurassic World is a visual style of basic competence.  There's no experimentation, little use of the depth of field cinema conveys so well, and simple A to B editing using a bright and clear frame to move the action from left to right.  It's the cinematic equivalent of a Dick and Jane story, designed to communicate information in as straightforward a fashion as possible.  Which makes the multiple cinematic allusions Trevorrow incorporates into Jurassic World all the more confounding.

Commentary on the cynical nature of big-budget movies distracting us from the wonders of life or just another shot of extras reacting to something off-screen?

Commentary on the cynical nature of big-budget movies distracting us from the wonders of life or just another shot of extras reacting to something off-screen?

I knew something went wrong with Jurassic World from the first scene of a dinosaur hatching.  Trevorrow presents this not as a reflection of the wonderful moment in Jurassic Park where astonished scientists see something they thought impossible.  Instead he frames the shot as though the dinosaurs are xenomorphs from Aliens with claws poking out ominously as the baby raptor tears through the shell.  This makes some diegetic sense considering Jurassic World is a direct sequel to Jurassic Park and ignores the carnage of the other two films so the terror emerges from within the park.  I grew less confident Trevorrow would produce a cohesive visual philosophy as he references the famous silhouette shot from The Searchers a couple of times, presents the reborn park as a "Would you like to know more?" spectacle akin to Starship Troopers, and makes a nod to Jaws 3 - which had its own issues with an animal park gone wrong.  Each allusion brings to mind the consequences and philosophies of those films and creates a confused jumble.  If I were to apply those philosophies to Jurassic World then it's a military push of corporate yes-people who strictly adhere to a capitalist mindset which nonetheless requires people unwilling to work within any system and sometimes shoot at dinosaurs in high heels.

Any one of those philosophies applied consistently would have made a better movie, and the fact that Jurassic World has four credited screenwriters explains the mishmash onscreen.  But it doesn't explain Trevorrow's inability to communicate a sense of scale and danger.  The dinosaurs of Jurassic Park were threatening and their size communicated through the quiet menace of a cup of water vibrating as a T. Rex approached or the reflection of small children cowered from a raptor which filled the room.  The majority of the dinosaurs in Jurassic World are scaled with humans, not the other way around, and the humans are often framed as equals to parts of the dinosaurs.  A huge menacing foe is less scary when you can break it down to size, and the way Trevorrow goes from the jungle dwarfing the humans to the dinosaurs scaled down is perplexing at best.

When I plan on reviewing a movie I try to avoid the thoughts of others as much as possible.  It was impossible to ignore the criticisms of sexism railed against Jurassic World and the typical backlash against those criticisms.  Let the record show Jurassic World is undeniably sexist.  The women are constantly failing to catch up to the men or disrupting business.  The latter is highlighted with Judy Greer as a fretting mother who's disrupting not one, but two businesses by walking out of a meeting to call her sister Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard).

Related thought, I hope Greer can make something with Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy some day.  I could see her killing a Spy-level role of competence and hilarity instead of being reduced to an effect.

The only way Owens's heroic introduction would be with an intertitle flashing "this is your hero".

The only way Owens's heroic introduction would be with an intertitle flashing "this is your hero".

Now that I've broken the seal, I might as well get on with how Claire is a disaster as a character.  She's introduced late for a meeting, because as Jurassic World goes to great lengths to show women aren't competent at just about anything without men, and the first thing we see are her high-heeled shoes in a static shot.  Compare this to the way Trevorrow introduces Owen (Chris Pratt).  Instead of a static shot leading to disappointment, the camera cranes up as Owen's features extend from the sun like a golden god.  Shame Pratt got stuck playing such a creepy misogynist twit with an epic introduction.  Owen's dialogue exists as a long-running rebuke to just about everything Claire says in the movie, and the reason for his hostility is because she didn't want to go on a second date with him.  This isn't negging, this is workplace harassment and the kind of thing corporations make bad educational films for.

Second related thought, maybe corporations could save money on workplace sexual harassment courses by screening Jurassic World and flashing "DON'T DO THIS" every time Owen speaks.

It's this aspect of Jurassic World which escalated my state of mind from annoyance to fury.  As Claire becomes more "competent" she's sexualized and loses outer layers of clothing to the point where the rigid body of the first hour is replaced with full-on titillated bouncing.  Her competence is tied directly to her sexuality, something Owen's character already embraced for himself and her whether she likes it or not.  When this started happening my notes dissolved into scribbled incoherence and I yelled at the screen with each terrible choice.

Sometimes rage comes with clarity and the nagging suspicion Trevorrow created a troll of a movie.  He's said that the dinosaurs of Jurassic World "meant to embody [humanity's] worst tendencies. We're surrounded by wonder and yet we want more, and we want it bigger, faster, louder, better."  Trevorrow made Jurassic World in a way which embodies the worst of those four qualities.

If it is a troll, congratulations Trevorrow.  You got me.  If it's not, I hate Jurassic World all the same.

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Tail - Jurassic WorldJurassic World (2015)

Directed by Colin Trevorrow.
Screenplay written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly, and Colin Trevorrow.
Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, and Nick Robinson.

Posted by Andrew

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