Saturday, June 13, 2015

JURASSIC WORLD WILL MAKE MILLIONS BUT WHY DOES IT MAKE SO LITTLE SENSE?

Isn't the logo even a bit too close to JURASSIC PARK?
It’s been 22 years since JURASSIC PARK premiered and became an instant classic. Since Steven Spielberg’s seminal horror film of the 90’s, there have been two big-budget sequels that made money but aesthetically are best left forgotten. The same fate should quickly befall this late entry into the franchise. JURASSIC WORLD will make a ton of dough this weekend, but it only conjures up a handful of frights while leaving a ton of unfortunate questions in its wake. Namely, other than money, why bother?

This question becomes especially pointed after realizing that precious little of what is on the screen bothers to scare, few of the characters are even two-dimensional, and the technical logic at play in the big new theme park at the heart of the story is absurd on dozens of levels. That last one is so egregious that it turns this film into an unintentional comedy. It plays less like a horror or adventure movie and more like one of those “Everything Wrong With” videos that CinemaSins creates on YouTube.

You half expect Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler to show up half way through this movie and start asking, “Really?!” So the theme park in the movie thinks that dinosaurs are like baby lambs and would easily succumb to the tropes of a petting zoo? Really? Paddle boat tours chart through the natural waters on the island where various dinosaurs graze and bathe and that’s safe? Really? And dangerous Velociraptors and Pteranodons are kept on the island for what reason exactly? Since they’re not allowed anywhere near tourists whom they’d eat, they’re caged and extremely hostile because of it. So who on the island’s staff thought that was a good idea? And then there’s the monolithic Mosasaurus that is supposedly trained like Shamu for a Sea World-type stunt show with applauding tourists who could easily be devoured if the beast leapt over its fence. Really now, who thought this was theme park entertainment? (I'd have loved to have seen the training sessions with that big Mosasaurus, but well, that's another picture altogether I guess.)

Ha ha. The dinosaur eats JAWS as a nod to Steven Spielberg.  Ha ha ha.
The screenwriters thought such ideas made perfect sense here, all four of them, and what that really shows is less of a need for logic and more of a brazen contempt for the intelligence of the audience. Their thinking must be that as long as we’re all scared, that’s enough. Well, it’s not scary enough and mostly it's due to the stupidity of this world that the screenwriters have created. The first movie went out of its way to articulate the how and why of the park. This one jumps into an expanded one already well into its existence and yet it doesn’t the tourist destination doesn't make any sense on any level. 

Most parks you have to be a certain height to ride, but here you don't have to be a certain age to drive?
By the time we see tourists steering their see-through spheres off course and Chris Pratt riding his motorcycle alongside rampaging raptors like they’re all part of the same gang, the film’s credibility has completely flown out the window. The horror genre still demands some portent of believability, no matter how outrageous the monsters are, be they vampires or aliens. This movie merely demonstrates a overt laziness with indifferent writing and shoddy plotting at almost every turn. It's too dumb to be scary.

Across the board, there’s a similar laissez-faire attitude. The showcase beast here is a genetic hybrid dinosaur called an Indominus Rex, and the design of it seems to be a hodgepodge of other monsters without making this one recognizable or memorable. Michael Giacchino does the score, and he’s one of the best composers working in the movies today, but here he’s encouraged to mostly riff on John Williams’ score from the first film. Why not let him create a new score for this entry? And Bryce Dallas Howard is made to run around in a white skirt, blouse and three inch heels for the majority of the movie, even when she’s out schlepping around with Chris Pratt in the wilderness. Who’s terrible idea was that? (Howard deserves far better than an awful role like this. She's a terrific talent. Is this the best her agent can get?)

And because it's Costa Rica, I'm not just wearing white, but a jacket because of the chill of 95 degrees.
Ultimately, it’s the director Colin Trevorrow who must answer for all these missteps, but the whole thing has a committee feel to it, like so many of the tent pole features coming from the studios these days. Nonetheless, couldn’t Trevorrow have tried to fix some of the other, smaller problems? Why does the Howard character have to be such a shrill, 80’s cliché of a corporate wonk with her blunt cut Anna Wintour bangs and rigid, clueless corporate myopia? Why is the military man Hoskins played with such an obvious, snarling arrogance by Vincent D’Onofrio? He’s a terrific actor capable of nuance and shading, so why is he directed with all the subtlety of a POWER RANGERS villain? Why are the two kids so bland? Didn’t Trevorrow want to try to equal the wonders that Spielberg always gets out of his kid actors? The two in JURASSIC PARK (Joseph Mazello and Ariana Richards) were amazing. The two in this third sequel aren’t.

The one person who comes out of this unscathed and looking good, as a matter of fact, is Pratt. He holds the center at all times and remains focused as an actor. He never condescends to the genre and is capable of playing the serious moments, as well as the flirty ones, and of course he aces the comedic lines. Let’s just hope that he doesn’t pick too many of these lesser vehicles for his resume. Please do more films like “The Lego Movie” or “Guardians of the Galaxy”, or even do indies that capture the flavor of your clever work on TV’s “Parks and Recreation.” (A romantic comedy with your wife, Anna Faris, perhaps?)

Pratt plays the whole thing straight, including this ludicrous scene. Raptors of Anarchy, anyone?
Still, at the end of the day, a film like this becomes something memorable, not just profitable, on whether it scares the bejesus out of you or not. And this film laid an egg there too. There are few surprises anywhere to be found. You know that the bad guys are going to become food. You know that Howard’s harpy will become courageous and fall back in love with Pratt’s wry hero by the last reel. And you know that the kids are going to be all right throughout, no matter how many dinosaur teeth come within inches of their innocent little hides.

Again, if the filmmakers here merely wanted to reap the rewards of all that JURASSIC PARK created for them over twenty years ago, they should’ve made a movie that imitated that one better. Then they'd have a movie that was smart, scary, well-acted and surprising. Instead, this film is too silly and virtually scare-free for any true horror connoisseur. In fact, the whole venture seems like it was aimed at 10-year-olds. That may be enough to make $150 million in a weekend, but it sure won’t stand the test of time. Heck, it won’t stand the test of a week. 

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