You knew this was coming. After 14 years since the last Jurassic Park film and 18 years since the last good Jurassic Park film, the franchise finally was able to return to the theatres with original content in the Steven Spielberg produced and Colin Trevorrow directed Jurassic World. My son and I caught a 3D showing last night, seeing as how we weren't going to be able to make it to the theatre in time for the 2D showing. I know I said I wanted to watch the movie twice before giving a verdict but outside circumstances have axed those plans so one viewing will have to do. Now that I've slept on it, let's answer the question: was it worth the wait?
Taking place 22 years after the original groundbreaking film, Jurassic World sees John Hammond's dream come true. Tourists from all over the world can come to Isla Nublar and visit Jurassic World, the fully functional theme park where the past comes alive for the wonder and amusement of the people. Except there's just one little thing: the people aren't in wonder from these animals anymore. Or at least the park's focus groups say so, despite there's a total of 22,216 people in attendance in the film. Taking into consideration that less interest equals less profit, the park's team of geneticists take it upon themselves to create a new badass dinosaur from scratch. Naturally, since this is a Jurassic Park film, it doesn't quite pan out the way they want it to.
"'Create a new dinosaur,' they said. 'Up the wow factor,' they said. 'We got this,' they said."
I'm going to come right out and say it: Jurassic World is not what I would consider a terrible movie. However, as a whole, there are things that prevent it from being a great movie like Jurassic Park or even a really good movie like The Lost World: Jurassic Park (haters be damned). In case you were wondering, yes, this one is better than Jurassic Park III, even if that's not a terribly difficult claim to make.
Let's discuss the positive bits first. At a run time of approximately 124 minutes, Jurassic World does take some time to show off the now open park a bit and allows us to spend some time with the characters so that we at the very least give a little bit of a shit about them before throwing them into the fray. Maybe not enough but more on that later.
One thing that kind of surprised me was that there was a nice injection of humor into the film, I think even more so than any previous Jurassic entry. A lot of this comes from Irrfan Kahn as new owner of the park Simon Masrani and Jake Johnson (alumni of Trevorrow's previous effort Safety Not Guaranteed) as cynical control room operator Lowery. Not to say that the rest of the cast doesn't get a moment or two to add some levity but I found that Masrani and Lowery did provide the majority of it.
I made it no secret that I was not entirely sold on the idea of a genetically modified dinosaur. I understand why they went this route though because if they just brought in a different dinosaur from the fossil record with a selling point of "bigger than a T-Rex," it'd just be Jurassic Park III with an operational resort and uh, yeah, no. Thankfully, the Indominus Rex not only looks great in motion but works as a character in her own right and I was able to set my skepticism aside and have fun with her, particularly the scene where she hands the Asset Containment Unit team's (basically Animal Control) asses to them.
Honestly, I think this guy got off pretty easy.
Now, we all know there's two sides to every coin so let's head on over to the more negative side of things. First off, the 3D isn't overwhelming by any means but it doesn't really add anything to the movie either. When a dinosaur charges, it's not projecting enough that it feels like it is charging at you. I know the movie was shot for 3D but it honestly just feels like its there to add an extra $3 per ticket to up its box office numbers.
For the record, I like the cast of this movie. I do not feel that Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio or anyone else phoned it in. After sleeping on it, I do however think that some of the dialogue and story structure needed work. Not that Jurassic World rushes into things but we only get just enough time with the main characters to know basically whether to root for them or not. The film could've used more time developing why Claire (Howard) is so obsessed with work and profits that she can't remember how old her nephews are or why Vic Hoskins (D'Onofrio, who while may not be playing the most original character is having so much fun) is so gun-ho in his own agendas (I won't spoil it here unlike other reviews) instead of just, "'MURICA," or why Dr. Wu seems so much more mad-scientist than before just as a few immediate examples. The problem isn't the actors but rather what they had to work with.
If anyone is hoping for mass park casualties amongst the patrons, you might want to calm your expectations. If you ever looked at the Jurassic World website, you can see the various rides and attractions as well as what animals are in the park so you can start spinning your imagination as to what kind of mishaps could ensue with these creatures in these sections. Sadly, what you see in the trailers is more or less what you get: the Pteranodons and Dimorphodons swooping down on a packed Main Street. For example, wanna see a Suchomimus flip a kayak in the Cretaceous Cruise? Too bad, as that creature is not in the movie (people would've probably just thought it was the Spinosaurus anyway) and that ride is only featured in the film in the same shot that was in the trailer. Just seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity in this department.
Earlier I had spoke highly of the Indominus Rex but there was something that happened with her about 100 minutes in that was just dumb. Like, really dumb. For pretty much the whole film up until this point, I had a smile on my face like it was June 1993 again and would've made this movie as good as The Lost World but then this little twist comes up and almost ruined the movie for me. I know that it sounds silly to write off an entire film on one little scene (just as silly as giving a movie a pass based on one little scene) but this particular bit really nose-dived the quality of the film for me. Thankfully, what came a few minutes afterwards mostly made up for it but the scars were still there.
My sentiments exactly at that moment.
Okay, it wouldn't be a Jurassic Park movie review if we didn't talk about the special effects. After all, that's the key element of Jurassic's legacy. I had said in my post from last year that I wanted to see more animatronics and less CGI. Well, that's not the case here. I don't have a problem with CGI or even a lot of CGI (the recent Planet Of The Apes films immediately spring to mind) but if there's going to be this much CGI, it all has to be the same level of quality. To be fair, a lot of shots in Jurassic World feature full-body in-motion dinosaurs, something that animatronics have not been able to fully replicate. Sure, the suits from the Walking With Dinosaurs Live Arena Spectacular are good but they aren't good enough for Jurassic Park. That being said, there are some shots here (not just with dinosaurs) that could have been very easily done with practical effects instead of adding in the creatures in post-production. I counted a grand total of three, seriously, fucking three animatronic shots. Maybe. I'm sorry, I know that's just how movies are made now because the studios want them made as quickly and as cheaply as possible but this franchise has built its reputation on being able to balance in-camera puppeteering with mostly high-quality CGI, which upon reflection this film is seriously lacking in parts, particularly in the end scene. You know, the scene where it probably counts the most. Even though the theatre and I were still going "OOOHHH," I couldn't help but think, "God, that CG better be refined for the Blu-Ray." This is probably the one and only thing that Jurassic Park III has over Jurassic World (yeah, I said it).
This scene is the only one I can say with complete certainty that used animatronics. Regardless of how well it turned out, that still feels criminal when talking about a Jurassic Park movie.
Alright, time to wrap this up. Was it worth the 14 year wait? Eh, kinda? Not really? Hard to say. I can't tell you that I'm 100% satisfied with the end result but I did clap with the rest of the audience once the credits rolled because Jurassic World does have an element of fun to it and while I don't really know if I like the fact that this one completely ignores the events of the previous sequels, I did feel it washed the putrid Jurassic Park III out of my mouth. However, with how long this movie was in developmental Hell and the fact it has a $150 million price tag on it, you'd think something truly pants-shittingly awesome would be in theatres right now instead of, well, this. It will be interesting to see how well (or not well) the film holds up upon repeat viewings but time will tell. I will say that if Universal Studios was smart, they would know that the seeds planted here for future installments should be cast aside and end the series here on as close to a high note as they can. It's a pipe dream, I know. Given the franchise driven state of Hollywood, the generally positive feedback that the film has received and that ticket sale projections are putting this film's opening weekend intake somewhere near the $155 million mark, we can expect Jurassic 5 (no, not the hip-hop group) in theatres somewhere between 2019 and 2029. Yay.