Continuing the hip trend of Hollywood poking fun at itself, Jurassic World arrives bigger, flashier, “cooler,” louder, and with “more teeth” than any of its franchise predecessors. It’s a shame then that once-indie director Colin Trevorrow and a whole smorgasbord of writers seem incapable of focusing on anything else, forsaking the crucial importance of characters almost entirely. This would work, if Trevorrow and company had sunk their teeth deeper into Jurassic World‘s satirical side, but they don’t. What results is a limp prodding at the summer blockbuster that is, in and of itself, a limp summer blockbuster.
“No one’s impressed by dinosaurs anymore,” Claire, an executive working for the theme park states in a sales pitch to potential investors from Verizon Wireless. She’s pitching the Indominus rex, a genetically engineered dinosaur hybrid killing machine that, as expected, escapes and skyrockets the body count. It is an early scene, one which creates the allegory between Jurassic World and the movie theater, one of the film’s very few clever aspects. My favorite moment includes Zach Mitchell, a cliché and angst-filled teen, messing around, disinterested, on his smart phone while the T-Rex from the original film mauls a live goat at feeding time just yards away. Another scene, featuring the underwater Mosasaurus, lowers tiers of sitting spectators underground at feeding time, and Trevorrow wittily crafts it to look nearly identical to a modern day IMAX theater.
Unfortunately, moments of wit and intelligence in Jurassic World are rare. Chris Pratt, who does his best Indiana Jones impression, and Bryce Dallas Howard do their best with impossibly underwritten roles (their romance is given less than three exchanges to develop), but characters holding any emotional weight are nowhere to be found. Indeed, I felt more of an emotional connection with a few of the dinosaurs, most gorged gruesomely by the Indominus, than I did for any human. The two leads, brothers Zach and Gray, share a brief conversation about their parents’ potential divorce which is meant, I think, to act as the film’s emotional core. These family worries, and “character moments,” obligatorily tossed in by Trevorrow and his writers, ultimately detract from the spectacle when they should reinforce.
And reinforce they should. Although Jurassic World has a few glorious moments of suspense that the series is known for, tonal inconsistencies and sheer stupidity (such as a ridiculous moment of human-dino understanding) make up most of the film’s spectacle. Trevorrow largely fails to balance the sense of amazement and excitement alongside the threat of danger, and World‘s set pieces subsequently fall short. The body count is absurdly high, resulting in a movie whose action scenes left me deadened instead of on the edge of my seat. For all of Jurassic World‘s jesting at the diminishing effect of spectacle and the idea that “bigger is better,” it certainly buys in, succumbing completely to “sequelitis,” with disappointing results. World wants to have its cake and eat it too (personified by its mockery of product placement amidst an unprecedented amount of product placement). A few genuinely scary and thrilling sequences aside, this is a complete mess. Normally a summer blockbuster of questionable logic can be given a pass if it excels anywhere, but I have to draw the line somewhere.
★★ out of 5