Film Reviews

Good Time Carnage: Jurassic World In Review

Idominus Rex“We are so trivial by nature that only amusements can keep us from dying for real.”
—Louis-Ferdinand Celine

Teeth PosterForty years ago, Steven Spielberg’s JAWS (1975) launched the “summer blockbuster.” Hungry eyes packed theatres en masse to watch people just like them gobbled up on-screen by a white shark that just wouldn’t quit. Consequently, the summer theatre experience had evolved.

Since that summer of ’75, little has evolved in the realm of the summer blockbuster. Many even argue it has devolved a considerable degree; that it’s merely a corporate arena offering cheap thrills for two hours worth of schlock and utter nonsense; that what little feeling might be captured otherwise is intentionally nullified by an overdose of technologically induced fireworks designed to wow audiences out of their wallets again and again.

(Not so) oddly enough, many arguing said points are also standing in line at the box office, tweeting invective and sucking each others lemon heads while waiting for tickets. Which is only to say that, as awful as summer blockbuster’s can be, we, that is, the audience, we’re still holding out for something; still intrigued and curious enough to push out the front door and return to the movies. #masochists

Yes, our modern-day visual effects are sickle sharp, sure; we can show like never before. But what of the gifted storytellers? Those able to visually construct a tale that so deeply stirs a group of strangers, they feel imbued with that ebullient magic only the theatre can call its own?

Surely Hollywood’s not the kind of town to offer what isn’t desired, agreed? So are we just a bad audience, plain and simple; a bad audience getting a bad movie; getting exactly what we asked for? —I don’t know, but I get ideas, and think accepting responsibility isn’t such a bad one. But I’m growing older. #dusk

Nevertheless, with Universal, Marvel and other cash cows of the imagination disseminating their turgid creations across screens nationwide, summer after summer, audiences at least have a larger number of summer blockbusters to choose from . . . . #icantevendreamupasummerblockbusterdefenseletaloneargueoneeffectively

Looks like we’ve seen too much . . . . The thrill is blasé. Need a bigger dose. Or so it seems, here in the darkness where Jurassic World (2015) director, Colin Trevorrow, has given modern-day audiences exactly what they’ve been asking for. #ohshit

As I reclined on plush as soft as an out of reach cloud, I wondered: How in the hell could this happen? After Jurassic Park (1993) and subsequent chapters, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Jurassic Park III (2001), how could anyone craft yet another semi (yes, I’m stretching it) plausible tale for these once extinct creatures to coexist with human beings?—I know. Foolish, right? An answer-less voice of slop house sense, it speaks: “It’s just business, baby.” Then it asked me if I wanted a Coke. Shame on me, I did.

Here I am, caffeinated, butter-fingered, down the cost of a family meal, and I’m already mentally pissing in the wind, wondering about this big picture.

Jurassic World opens with a brief and awkward goodbye sequence where brothers, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), depart hastily to the “great” and “awesome” and “epic” journey awaiting them. That’s right, off the children go, parents’ blessing and all, to an island inhabited by dinosaurs. Let the tension begin.

Though it may not be exactly the same deathtrap of a park from those uber-experimental 90’s, surely from watching the trailer above it’s quite obvious that this world has all the violent promise of reality and restoration of natural balance one might expect to see when considering what man has done within the context of this story, i. e. make dinosaurs.

This may be Jurassic World; however, Jurassic Park is but a bone’s throw away. One sees John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) portentous words, “I don’t blame people for their mistakes, but I do ask that they pay for them,” carried on the wings of Pteranodons, anticipating the inevitably burdensome price to be paid for humans who look to dinosaurs somewhat as we, here on Earth, look to cats and dogs.

There’s a crass brand of banality impressed upon a number of these dinos, especially the docile plant eaters; they’re effectively portrayed as safe and boring “park-pets” during interaction sequences in the first half of the film. Quite the uncanny relationship they have with mankind, particularly with children.

Children ride herbivores like a jackass at the petting zoo while I chomp popcorn and sip sugar fizz. I even snicker before my mind examines its thought under a reasonable light. —Something naturally sickening and way off kilter, here. Again, the tension, it’s building, and that’s one feat Jurassic World undoubtedly achieves with staggering consistency.

I’m still itchy within the frame, though. Still just can’t accept it. How!? How again!? Flashbacks, on-screen memories of horror—I see it all now in rapid succession: terrified kids trapped in a kitchen with Veloci(Utah)raptors; Sam Jackson’s chain-smoking over endless park malfunctions (Jurassic Park); the love that drove Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) back to the island/his worst nightmare and . . . A FUCKING T-REX STOMPING FREELY THROUGH SAN DIEGO! (The Lost World: Jurassic Park). These on-screen memories slam my mind like the rock-hungry breakers that buffet the island coast. —Losing my bearings, asking: How again?

Back to the movie . . . . The plane arrives, the boys are on the move, and what a world it is! Posh hotels, chain restaurants, upscale shopping, the hubbub of men, women and children—that is, families—all here, a veritable microcosm of life on this picturesque, sylvan landscape with its great mountainous peaks, dense brush, green slopes and verdure as far as the cycloptic camera eye will allow us to see. Sure it’s been tied down with corporate chains, pockmarked by the finite touch of billionaires and fools, but that only serves to help modernity see it most clearly. Dinosaurs screened on a mirror reflecting the sweaty desire of piggish thoughts for parrot minds. #harsh

Not just a couple of kids, some scientists and a lawyer on the island this time, no, but John Hammond’s dream, the public! Yes, the public, the people in droves, they’re all in and Jurassic World is booming as an exotic, thrill-seeking paradise, the T-Rex of family vacations, if you’ll permit such nonsense.

Zach and Gray settle in, meet up with their superficially warm and friendly, Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who, for most of the film, strikes hardest as a career-minded automaton controlling a sliver of woman to which she’s inextricably attached. Claire is more a business ideal than a human being, a monster not wholly unlike those engendered by geneticists on the island, differing only in that this one was not created in the lab.Claire Prototype

Claire’s piercing words delineate little beyond dollars and cents when it comes to her primary concern, the “assets” (her term for the dinosaurs), except when she’s disappointingly removing herself from the emotional ties of family, faltering with frail words that show an embarrassingly infantile jab at truly meaningful communication—but that’s messy, and, also far too resembles an actually relatable story, so we’d simply better not. It’s summer and we’re moving on!

Yes, dinosaurs are big business. And as the boys prepare for their now aunt-less adventure, Claire readies her mind by writing off familial duty as an unnecessary expense. Corporate sponsors are coming, and they’ve an appetite as big as an anything one might encounter from the Jurassic era—“Men are the thing to be afraid of, always, men and nothing else” (also Celine).

The appetites of the corporate guests have been whetted by the promise of a scary new big one, the Idominus Rex (it found you at the top of the page). Idominus Rex, an amalgam engineered entirely to wow and horrify park attendants (from a safe distance, of course) is comprised of several different creatures, a veritable hodgepodge of dinosaur, amphibian, fish and who knows what the hell else. Point is, it’s a monster, engineered with the sole purpose of stupefying youngsters who are bored by Tyrannosaurs, Raptors and other stale scales. #nomercy

My stupid brain just won’t quit: Is Trevorrow expertly mocking the modern taste for excess? Is he doing this intentionally? Is Jurassic World artfully effective because it’s literally showing what the desire to see such audaciousness could actually look like, all the while stuffing the audience’s face with it, their quiet participation screaming satisfaction in spades?

I don’t know, but there are some genuinely horrifying moments within the frames bordering Ido & other incredibly irked carnivores; to that degree, something has been achieved / shown for all its worth.Pissed Off

But here in Jurassic World, we’ve little time for deliberation. Simply fatten up on this visual feast or go home. What’s more, with so little action occurring thus far, the thrill seekers are getting antsy. Time to satiate the old appetite. And here we have a true stroke of brilliance.

Comes hanging tensely on a cable suspended hundreds of feet in the air is, Spielberg’s white shark by its little tail. It’s about to be fed in front of / to a new generation with an even bigger appetite demanding an even BIGGER form to match. Even further, not nature, but man, made this monster. Puke or chomp, the time is come.

The symbolic Great White, previously a symbol of terror to audiences, is now but a fish of bait, and it’s dangling over an aquatic tank the size of Washington, D. C. before something almost as big as anthropomorphism lunges from the depths after its meal. The audience, both within and behind screen, gets a gargantuan dose of monstrous, violent glory bridging the gap all the way from ‘75 to ‘15 in but a few definitive frames. —An homage? —Who cares! That scene is over and there’s no time to think it through. The Idominus Rex is on the loose!

—And that, is your story, without extraneous analysis, of course: a cat and mouse chase after an extremely volatile, abominable laboratory creation, on the lam.

Idominus Rex is an adept hunter, and no foolish creature according to what is said and shown of it on-screen. Equipped with the gift of camouflage and the intelligence to employ its ability with cunning ease, Idominus Rex fools the creatures of reason with very little energy expended. Ido escapes its carefully designed cage like ordering the medium soda for its security of a free refill: so fast, and with so very little thought. #bladderbomb

Joining the hunt to salvage the investment, the asset, the spectacular, Idominus Rex, is Owen (Chris Pratt), a rugged outdoors-man type with a set of morals as hard as his bicep, and an ooh-rah, can-do country attitude to boot. Owen’s conscientious remarks regarding common sense, which might be paraphrased as such: “Don’t build dinos. That’s stupid and wrong. But I need the money,” are expressed coolly with curt phrases and expertly crafted squints. Audiences will root for him, because he means well, and he’s portrayed as . . . cool.

A man of action, Owen accepts his station, whatever that may be, and acts accordingly. Consequently, this character trait proves to be the saving grace of a not a few park employees. Hell, dinosaurs even trust him. Well, as far as any human being can discern, at least. Within a group of highly intelligent and communicative raptors, Owen plays a key role in leadership as their alpha. Contemplate that between your sips of fizz. Better yet, go and get your refill. Live it up. It’s summer.Riders On The StormRaptors At BayAs exaggerated and foolhardy as Owen may seem (especially in the “James Dean & Sons” and “Cool It, Boys” shots above), he is the strongest character tie to the genuinely edifying elements of human nature within Jurassic World.

Not once does Owen wholly accept his relationship with raptors as hierarchical, even when his obvious gift of human-dinosaur connection is (speciously) validated by the macho Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) for the sinister purpose of seducing Owen and his raptor gang into some dinosaur-soldier sub-plot nonsense. Which shows Owen’s not easily tempted, nor stirred by the dubious intentions of his fellow-man, even if he’s working for him.

Yes, a man of character in this outlandish world of brutality and egregious disrespect for the natural order of life and surrounding environs. Holy unholy shit. Who knew?

As in life, situations of a tragic quality bond those physically and emotionally invested in them. So it is here in Jurassic World. Not until the looming threat of disaster that has been amassing in the minds of the audience finds its expression in the characters, do we see the less than formidable aspects of humanity begin to show itself tenfold. Courage, honor, altruism, baited by disaster, here they come.

Claire Awakening SceneClaire returns to life with a fascinating rebirth; accepts and wholeheartedly encompasses new roles as Aunt, warrior and lover, with an emotionally charged verve. The robot, once bearing her name, is now convincingly defunct.

Zach and Gray glean a stronger bond along their quest as well, terrorized as they are just on the other side of video-game indifference and the safety of a casually sarcastic removal from life as it truly is: wild, unpredictable.

Just over two hours later, with a full stomach of popped kernels and a bottomless bubble-flood of fizz, and here you are, arrived finally at the summer blockbuster’s end. A trifle bloated, happy to stand, yet wary of moving too quickly, you might wonder why you chose this experience. That’s only natural. #givethanks

All the same, for sights, for action, for some genuine moments of out-and-out terror, Jurassic World proves to be a rather fitting occasion to simply relax with a fat ass blockbuster and cut loose some hungry thoughts, if only for a couple of hours.