Jurassic World has set new box office records. The highest earner of the franchise and at the time of writing it is the fastest film ever to hit the billion dollar mark ($1 billion in twelve days). But is it any good?
I’m by no means a fan of the franchise. I saw Jurassic Park at the cinema back in 1993. I didn’t see the second one and I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the third. Monster movies are not really my thing but if I was going to watch one it would be Jurassic park. It’s not something I’d go out of my way to watch today but if I catch it on the television I know I’ll watch it to the end every time. It’s not so much the monsters that interest me but the little Spielbergian touches and attention to detail that gets me every time. That water in the glass tremor scene, the race to climb the electric fence, Nerdy Nedry, ‘clever girl’ and so on and so forth.
I don’t go to the cinema as much as I’d like to these days. A Paul Greengrass movie will get me in the cinema – I saw United ’93, Bourne Ultimatum and Captain Philips all at the cinema – as will anything touched by the hands of Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel, Interstellar) or anything that breaks new cinematic ground (Avatar). I almost saw Furious 7 merely because it became the fastest movie at the time to make a billion dollars. I had never been interested in a Fast and Furious movie until Furious 7 suddenly became the most talked about film on the planet. It made over a billion dollars so it must be good, right?
And so it was with Jurassic World. It had already racked up half a billion at the box office within the first week of release and the word of mouth I was hearing from peers who had seen it was positive: ‘You have to see this movie’, ‘Gorier’, ‘Adult-themed’ ‘Bigger and better than Jurassic Park’ was the word on the street. And so on a Monday afternoon, with high expectations, I entered the world that was Jurassic.
First of all I’m going to say that on a technical level, this was a good movie. The effects were (almost) flawless, the cinematography fine, the acting perfectly acceptable. It was well directed, edited, designed and as blockbusters go this was a top-notch production. A film any producer, director and writer would and should be proud to have on their CV. So why did I come out thinking Jurassic Park was better?
For a start, leads Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard were perfect. Too perfect. Chris Pratt’s epitome of the alpha male Owen (almost) intimidated me. I’m in pretty good shape but he was so perfect he only served to remind me that I needed to hit the gym harder and lose more belly fat. I couldn’t relate to him in the way I could relate to Sam Neill’s grouchy Alan. The flawless Owen did not make me feel good about myself. As a result I was not rooting for him. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t sitting there willing him to be eaten – I just didn’t care either way.
Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire was a one-dimensional corporate ‘whore’ we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in Hollywood films who values money and career over any meaningful relationships – a far cry from Richard Attenborough’s grandfatherly billionaire and unlike Laura Dern’s girl-next-door was almost robotic-like in her perfectness. This may have been the film’s point but it still didn’t make for a character I cared about. There was some ‘romantic’ sub-plot between Owen and Claire and they were arguing about a second date they never went on and who didn’t initiate it or something. Various other characters consisted of an Indian billionaire, an evil military man and a couple of kids. I don’t know who they were, what their names were or what they wanted and I didn’t really care.
Anyway, the main attraction. What we came to see. The genetically engineered super dinosaur Indominus Rex. It was big and impressive and I found myself constantly straining to see whether I could discern any flaws in the CGI (which I couldn’t). But where it impressed technically it failed to impress on any other level. What is an Indominus Rex? I know what a T-Rex (or King of Tyranny) is, it’s been hard-wired into my brain from an early age, but I don’t know what an Indominus Rex is other than what its name suggests – King of the Fierce? It just looked like a T-Rex with a longer snout and a higher IQ. Apart from the human ability to deceive its prey it didn’t do anything that the T-Rex didn’t do.
In 1993 coming face to face with a dinosaur was pretty awesome. No doubt due to the fact JP was the first of its kind in its day and because in 2015 we’ve already seen Godzilla, Transformers, even our own planet turn on us. Apart from an impressive sea dinosaur who eats Jaws for breakfast it was nothing really we hadn’t seen before. Yes CGI has come a long way in the twenty-two years since JP but still the experience felt somehow flat which brings me onto the next subject.
Whereas JP inspired awe, Jurassic World teetered dangerously on the ridiculous. That a dinosaur theme park would even be allowed to open after the disaster of the first one seems dubious to say the least. The velociraptors once terrifying have now become circus performers and loyal pets who run alongside their master’s motorbike. That silhouetted, sunlit kiss???
This was a film that felt like it was written by committee. Nothing wrong with that. The TV show ‘Friends’ was written by committee and I loved that show. I still do. It just felt like it was ticking all the right genre boxes in order to attract the widest audience possible – Romance, Thriller, Action, Disaster etc. Again, nothing wrong with that at all from a business perspective just as long as you can make it look like it isn’t all these things.
To date Jurassic World has surpassed any other film at the box office in so little time so why did I come out of the cinema thinking JP was better? More to the point with returns like these does it really matter?