Maciej Radny

Film Review: Jurassic World – the film hates you

Jurassic World

Maciej Radny ventures into Jurassic World, only to find that the film hates him…and you too.

 

Jurassic World hates you. You’ve proved its point.

Snapping at the hand that feeds, the film provides its own damning assessment of the relentless franchising and merchandising that plagues most modern hyper-budget blockbusters. What eventuates is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The film awkwardly stumbles into the very traps of which it claims to be so readily aware and concludes its critical statement with a bombastic finale that despite its triumphant veneer could not ring more resoundingly hollow.

But is that the point?

The parallels are obvious: visitors to Jurassic World (filmgoers) are getting tired of seeing the same dinosaurs over and over (get bored by spectacle). The higher-ups (studios) attempt to boost numbers by splicing together a new, “scarier” beast using the DNA of other animals and dinos (try to sell their films by repackaging the same formula with added spectacle). Said beast turns out to be a sociopathic killer (said films are often emotionally hollow) and goes on a violent rampage, murdering other dinosaurs for sport (they often show callous disregard or reverence for what made them special in the first place – it’s no mistake the dinosaurs getting offed are the same sauropods that inspired such awe in the original).

Fine, but the film fails at every turn to prove how it stands out from the pack. Instead it leans heavily on the powerful nostalgia of the original Jurassic Park, desperately invoking memories of a much better film at every opportunity. Homage is one thing, but director Colin Trevorrow pumps out visual and narrative references to Steven Spielberg’s classic as if they were on a studio-mandated checklist. Claustrophobic escape from a vehicle under attack by a vicious dino? Check. Scene where characters sympathetically interact with sick/dying herbivore? Check. Corporate espionage? Check. The scenes tick the boxes on a superficial level, but leave out the rhythm and characters that made them work in the first place.

Even dipping into Spielberg’s bag of visual tricks comes up short and Trevorrow wields the cinematic language blindly with little care for context or motivation. Classic Spielberg tropes like the “slow reveal” of our main antagonist falls flat as Trevorrow opts to abandon character as the audience’s subjective focal point and simply throws the technique on the screen seemingly “because that’s what Jurassic Park did.”

This relentless allusion culminates to a surreal finale where our heroes, aided by their dinosaur allies (Chris Pratt’s velociraptor buddies and the mighty T-Rex, with a last-minute appearance from a certain aquatic friend) take on the evil Indominus in a showdown with so many twists and turns it would’ve been better suited to a Toho-produced Monster Island extravaganza, or a particularly gnarly WWE story arc.

The scene serves to remind us of the T-Rex’s timely intervention at the end of the original film in which she inadvertently saves our heroes and after a brief scrap with the raptors, lets out a triumphant roar, asserting rule over her domain. Only this time, after saving the humans, the T-Rex and raptor exchange respectful nods and part ways, displaying a bizarre level of sentience usually reserved for an anthropomorphic animated children’s romp.

So, applying this scene to Jurassic World’s self-hating critique, we can see it as a challenge to the current spate of franchise films. A reminder that for all their bells and whistles, the new contenders won’t pack the same wallop as the originals and it’s the originals that the audience will always go back to. However it makes this statement at the cost of perverting the most basic themes of the original film. Jurassic World knows that nostalgia can be a franchise’s best friend and worst enemy. It has gambled by throwing out narrative innovation and taken a shortcut to the audience’s subconscious, dredging our emotional memory and piggybacking on the hard-earned appreciation of a classic.

Is this still part of Jurassic World’s critique? Pointing out its own shortcomings and embracing them in an endless loop implies awareness of both, even the characterisation is so broad it could be seen as parody (see Vincent D’Onofrio’s scenery-chewing villain or Chris Pratt’s Alpha Male for proof). Is this all some sick joke on the audience for blindly accepting the very formula the film is calling out? Perhaps we, the audience, are the soulless Indominus Rex engineered to callously devour whatever comes our way? Or maybe the Trevorrow is the beast, forced against his will to preen for an insatiable audience?

Intentional or not, the one element from the original film that really rings true in Jurassic World is this oddly prophetic quote:

“You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could. And before you even knew what you had, you patented it, you packaged it and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox and now you’re selling it.”

That plastic lunchbox has had a record smashing opening weekend, effectively holding the jaws of the franchise open and clearing the way for the next bout of regurgitation.

Joke’s on everyone it seems.

 

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