Thursday, 18 June 2015

Blunderbuss 18/06/15

**There’ll probably be spoilers. I recommend you see the movie before reading this.**

Jurassic World has already blown up the box office, taking the championship belt for best opening weekend (in North America… they never include that bit), snatching it away from Joss Whedon’s (bloody awful) Avengers: Age of Ultron. In my experience, statistics like these are basically meaningless and they only serve to enforce the idea that the amount of people going to see a movie is somehow indicative of its quality. It’s not. It’s a bit like One Direction selling out major venues; it doesn’t validate them as competent musicians, it just means they or their management know how to promote and sell their product. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that a lot of people have pretty low standards when it comes to entertainment, these days…

…Aaanyway, Jurassic World, for the most part, is a very watchable movie, with a beautiful score. Completely passable in every sense, which is also its fundamental flaw. Jurassic Park was anything but average; a completely remarkable, original film, which came out of left field and made dinosaurs even cooler than they already were (not to mention, terrifying). Also, Jeff Goldblum. Jurassic World is a bastardized version of the original, with cool racing stripes tacked on and its heart ripped out.

The movie “pays homage” to the original by frequently plagiarising it and referencing it in almost every single scene. While I’m all on board for tipping the cap to the original, they really took the absolute piss with the amount of references and not-so-subtle winks and nudges. Yes, we remember that these movies are related! We get it! It seems to me that you should allow your movie to have its own space to do its thang, especially when you keep referencing a far superior film. Jurassic World was always going to pale in comparison to Jurassic Park for me, but I didn’t expect to be reminded so frequently of the stark contrast between them.

Living in the shadow of Jurassic Park can’t have been easy for the filmmakers, it has to be said. Jurassic Park was the undisputed king of 90’s summer blockbusters; its action movie madness was tempered beautifully with plenty of substantial dialogue and questions about scientific ethics (I’d like to take this opportunity to coin the term, “genethics”, cheers) and the perils of fuckin’ about with Mother Nature. It boggles the mind how Jurassic World constantly references fan-boy bollocks from the original, while completely ignoring the things that actually made it great.

Jurassic World seems more concerned with Chris Pratt spitting out one-liners and gettin’ the shift off of Bryce Dallas Howard than the moral and ethical implications of genetic manipulation. Even when they touch on these subjects, the emphasis is on the sexual tension between the characters and the flirtatious double entendre, while the issues are tertiary. Don’t get me wrong, I love Chris Pratt, for the most part, but I think he would’ve been put to better use as a secondary character, with a stronger actor-actor in the lead role. Also, he’s not convincing as a knowledgeable guy. Sorry, Chris, but you’re still Andy from Parks and Rec’ to me, buddy! Also, I’ve never seen such poor use of Vincent D’Onofrio, was really looking forward to him being a malignant bastard. Tut, tut! Misuse of assets is rife in this movie, which brings me nicely to another misused asset: the freakin’ dinosaurs. What happened, man?!

How can it be that, twenty years on, the original Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs look and “feel” more real than the ones in Jurassic World? This is most likely due to the fact that the visual effects and dinosaurs in Jurassic World are almost 100% digitally achieved, while the original used practical, real-life effects and animatronics extensively (Stan Winston Studios actually built a life-sized T-rex for the original, so yeah, beat that). I’ll always have a bias towards practical effects, and I think the contrast between Jurassic Park/World is a perfect example of how practical effects can’t be topped by CGI (yet!): nothing is realer than real, in my opinion, and CGI will always look slightly off and unrealistic to me.

The Indominus Rex, who, for all intents and purposes, is the antagonist in this movie, is fairly underwhelming in its design and execution, and feels like a stock baddie dinosaur, which hurts the movie in a fundamental way. In Jurassic Park’s most memorable and epic scene, the T-Rex says “fuck this noise”, busts out of its pen and proceeds to be a big, ol’ angry dinosaur all over everything, mainly that sleazy lawyer and those two little nose-pickers, Lex and Tim. This scene, although terrifying, gives me the impression of the T-Rex as a force of nature, neither benevolent nor malign in its intentions; it’s just doing what nature intended it to do – fuck shit up and be a badass. In Jurassic World, the Indominus Rex is an absolute prick of a dinosaur, eagerly killing people and other dinosaurs just for the sheer lulz of it. If the Indominus Rex was played by an actor, it’d probably by Charles Dances or Christopher Lee (RIP), due to the sheer cuntery and maliciousness of the character.

I get it, like, they’re going for the whole, “it’s an evil abomination, representing the wrongs of genetic manipulation” angle, which is really just a thin facade for the real reason the Indominus Rex is in this movie: focus groups and pandering to an audience that, in truth, doesn’t really know what it wants. They even explicitly state in the movie that the Indominus Rex’s conception was a result of focus groups indicating that they wanted a dinosaur that’s “cooler” and has “more teeth”. There’s some serious double irony going on here, or maybe it’s just a tongue-in-cheek comment on how the film industry and audience’s needs have changed since the original. Either way, somebody fucked up, because it does precisely the opposite of what it aims to achieve: the Indominus Rex with its buffed up characteristics is just overkill and takes away from the excitement and flow of the movie (and the series) by being almost super-villain-like. It’s quite similar to the Spinosaurus from Jurassic Park III; all they wanted was something to trump the T-Rex and get the kiddies buying toys, but at least the Spinosaurus was based on a real dinosaur and made more sense inside the universe of the Jurassic series.

In conclusion, Jurassic World is a decent if forgettable movie that doesn’t even nearly live up to the memory of Jurassic Park, although admittedly, it’d take one hell of a movie to hold a candle to Spielberg’s seminal masterpiece. Overall, the film feels like a shallow, extravagant and unnecessary attempt at a modern retelling of a story that was told beautifully twenty years ago, but it’s a decent way to kill two hours. You can’t improve on perfection, and that’s why reboots and far-flung “sequels” fundamentally don’t work. I went into Jurassic World with a serious amount of optimism; I was expecting something of the calibre of Mad Max: Fury Road, but what I was given felt a lot more like 2010’s Predators. Let the old movie franchises go extinct (sorry, couldn’t resist), I say, and make room for new blood.

Keith Clarke


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