Review by C.J. Bunce
In simplest terms, Jurassic World is simple entertainment on a big scale–a feast for the eyes. But for all its incredible special effects and fantastic futuristic technology, Jurassic World proves the maxim George Lucas laid out in reference to the success behind the original Star Wars–“Special effects are a tool, a means of telling a story… A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.” And that sums up Jurassic World, as a film and a 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, and digital release–the umpmillionth variation on the Frankenstein how-not-to-build-a-monster story, and the latest twist on Michael Crichton’s original look at a theme park gone bad in his movie Westworld.
Touted in its marketing as the #1 movie of the year, and proven out at the box office, in many way Jurassic World is a remake and certainly an homage to the original Jurassic Park. More than twenty years after the devastation caused in Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully realized, fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by Richard Attenborough’s John Hammond. You’ll experience deja vu several times as these new characters, and one from the original, fail to learn the lessons of history. Didn’t the production team watch The Lost World (Jurassic Park II) and Jurassic Park III? The new theme park is built over the old park where so much went wrong and so many died, including leaving the original park all derelict and intact as it was in the last scene of the original movie, including leaving old Jurassic Park jeeps around for a modern, distracted teenager to magically restore to driving condition in a single scene. Dinosaur battle shots mirror those from the original, including the finale, although despite new technology the dinosaurs don’t seem as “real” here. Jurassic World seems to repeatedly search for a scene to match that “objects in mirror are closer than they appear” scene in the original. Michael Giacchino’s score misses the wonder and excitement of John Williams’s original themes. Although the effort is there, no single scene in Jurassic World captures the startling jumps and wows of Jurassic Park.
With four script/story writers for Jurassic World, it’s obvious why the story failed to deliver. Although we note above that George Lucas knows storytelling, he is also now famous for the stilted dialogue of his Star Wars prequels. The story team in Jurassic World offers up similarly strange words from the mouths of its actors–things no one would possibly say. And we can’t believe these dinosaur monsters are scary when the cast bounces back from each near-death experience so quickly. Even the worst of the characters, the youngest boy (who is a walking disaster) seems barely affected by the death going on around him for half the film.
The real conflicts within the script can be found in the strange parallels and inconsistencies. For one, director Colin Trevorrow has been quoted as saying his inspiration for the film was an image of a little girl texting in front of a T-Rex behind her. The corporate bad guy theme that underlies the plot is that no one cares about dinosaurs anymore, they are old news, and audiences needs something bigger and better. You can just see Trevorrow and executive producer Steven Spielberg laughing all the way to the bank over the irony here. The message, as delivered in the climax, is “bigger isn’t always better” and that often the original, the classic, offers up the best experience. Yet Jurassic World hammers into us the over-sized fantasies of Godzilla and King Kong instead of the science-fictional world that made a success of Jurassic Park.
The other message, as told by Chris Pratt’s character Owen, is that the “assets” of the Jurassic World theme park–the dinosaurs–are living, breathing, thinking, feeling beings. Owen holds the moral high ground in his arguments with Bryce Dallas Howard’s character Claire because he cares about the animals and respects their power and danger. Yet Jurassic World as presented as a whole is all about watching monsters rip each other apart–these are soulless beings like the villains in Alien or Starship Troopers, not sentient animals in a zoo to be handled carefully as the characters believe–or care about. So which is it? Do we listen to what the movie says or the movie shows?
Joss Whedon identified one of the story problems in his Twitter account after watching one of the trailers back in April focusing on Howard’s character: “…I’m too busy wishing this clip wasn’t ’70s era sexist. She’s a stiff, he’s a lifeforce – really? Still?” Howard seemed to respond in interviews with what seemed like a carefully choreographed description to allay viewers’ fears: “It was great to play a female character who is not just servicing the plot. She’s layered, complex, funny, awkward, powerful, interesting, emotional.” Unfortunately, that is not reflected in the movie. Claire is none of this, except maybe awkward, although Howard may have thought some of her funny moments found in the Blu-ray’s deleted scenes made the final cut.
Echoing a similar scene that ended up with the death of the “blood-sucking lawyer” in Jurassic Park, Claire saves the day by grabbing a flare–the item we know attracts T-Rexes, waves it three feet under the T-Rex’s nose, and lures it into battle with the Monster of the Movie. If you manage a zoo and your most violent animal gets loose and starts running around devouring the patrons, please raise your hand if you think the best solution is to let your second most violent animal out of its cage so both animals can fight each other to the death.
Could anything have saved this film other than a better story? Probably not. It is certainly not helped by a lack of A-list actors. Even Chris Pratt as up-and-coming star can’t carry the picture, and Bryce Dallas Howard, New Girl’s Jake Johnson, a Jimmy Fallon cameo, and a poorly cast Vincent D’Onofrio fail to provide any gravity to support the movie as something that should have screamed epic in every way.
Yet plenty of special effects and futuristic ideas will garner plenty of interest for viewers. A Sea World-type attraction allows thousands of visitors to watch a (big) fish out of water aboveground, and then the entire audience seating sections lower so they can watch the activity of the animal underwater. The Pteryodactyls are also quite fun to see in action as is the interaction between kids and baby dinosaurs in the petting zoo exhibit and an Ankylosaurus battle of the tails. Chris Pratt as circus trainer seemingly communicating with a pack of velociraptors is really great stuff–there’s just not enough of it to believe he has a real connection and when it arrives it’s a bit too late. Yet we cannot help but cheer on the dinosaurs to succeed and devour all these characters. Except maybe Pratt.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment offers a three-disc 3D Blu-ray combo package that includes a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. Unfortunately, although the 3D Blu-ray is the quality you’d expect from modern hi-definition video, the Blu-ray features offer no more than you’d find in the “making of” and preview featurettes airing on television in advance of the film’s opening. The deleted scenes add little to give us further insights into the characters–one scene mimics Laura Dern’s arms in the giant pile of dino-manure scene from the original. The disc offers a 16-minute making of feature with a look at the visual effects, a nine minute interview with Pratt and Trevorrow, a more in-depth 30 minute feature with cast and crew interviews, a 10-minute look at special effects broken down for key scenes, and a two-minute tour with Pratt looking at the visitor center in the film.
As we found with Jurassic Park 3D and Predator 3D, the best 3D is found in outdoor scenes–maybe too many shots of the helicopter flying around Hawaii (yes, everyone misses Magnum, P.I. apparently) and the many jungle shots. The 3D and color is also as high quality visually as the Transformers: Age of Extinction release, one of the best releases in 3D so far. For your money, you may be better off checking out Jurassic Park 3D if you haven’t already, reviewed previously at borg.com here.
Get your copy of Jurassic World now here at Amazon.com.