‘Jurassic World’ Lets Loose a Mighty Yawn

Much like the poorly-conceived, exceedingly loud, tourist-approved hybrid dinosaur at its center, Jurassic World is a huge summer blockbuster whose DNA contains the highlights of a dozen other films and adds up to a lot of…something. It has some action, some thrills, some people being swallowed whole by giant lizards. What it doesn’t have is consistency, depth or a single original idea.

That goes double for its characters. Chris Pratt is [Down-To-Earth, Rugged Manly Action Man], while Bryce Dallas Howard is [Emotionally Distant, Frigid Career Woman] who is just waiting for a manly man of action to awaken her feminine instincts (the film’s gender politics are also millions of years old). There are two children in constant peril, an unscrupulous military man just waiting to exploit the situation when things go wrong, and a whole bunch of other characters who you probably shouldn’t get terribly attached to. But hey! Dinosaurs! Cool, right?

Well, not exactly. In a way, it’s unfair to expect that the fourth film in the surprisingly robust Jurassic franchise could maintain the sense of wonder that cemented the first film into the cultural consciousness. But that doesn’t excuse the production from being lazy, either. There’s virtually no build-up to the film’s dinosaurs. They just show up right away with all the overblown fanfare that typifies a standard John Williams score. It could be that like the in-universe theme park crowd, we’re just not as thrilled with them anymore, but a metatexutal reading like that is giving the film far more credit than it deserves.

The solution, for both us and the film’s tourists, seems to be showcasing a genetically engineered dinosaur called the Imperious Rex. Spliced together from a countless list of other creatures seemingly with abandon, it’s the dinosaur to end all dinosaurs. It’s the thing that eats apex predators. So, of course, the most logical thing to do would be to show this relentless, gigantic carnivore off to tens of thousands of soft, chewy happy meals. As soon as you’re awed by its design, you’re questioning how logical it was to make it in the first place. It’s a thunderingly dumb idea in a film where a whole lot of allegedly smart people do amazingly stupid things.

Then again, that’s part and parcel of your typical disaster movie; logic goes out the window for the sake of a few thrills. It’s just a shame that nobody seems to want to elevate the material above the template set by the previous films or wants to do anything remotely original with it. Pratt and Howard’s love/hate banter was a lot better when it was Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas in Romancing The Stone. A tense, chaotic fire fight between security forces and some hungry, hungry raptors was a lot better when it was marines and xenomorphs in Aliens. And so on and so on, et cetera, et cetera. There’s even an extended bit in the middle of the film where the characters stumble onto remains of the park from the first film (apparently, the Jurassic World park was just built on the corpses of the old site like the house in Poltergeist).

The film isn’t all bad. It’s a moderately effective action adventure, and director Colin Trevorrow has a very strong grasp of frame and flow, and the dinosaur battles are staged and choreographed with skill and efficiency. It’s clear Trevorrow loves the raptors as much as everyone else, and whenever the raptors show up, the film livens up considerably. Pratt proves again that he’s a very capable action film lead, even if the script gives him nothing to work with. Likewise, it’s not Howard’s fault that the script makes her character one-dimensional, but her role could have been filled by any number of actresses with more experience in action films and a stronger personality. Keira Knightley does a perfectly good American accent is all I’m saying.

There’s just one question that Jurassic World needs to answer, though, and that question is “WHY?” It’s been nearly 15 years since the last film, and it isn’t like the series has anything involving a cohesive, franchise-wide narrative. Instead of responding with a tremendous roar of confidence, the response is a mighty yawn of “Eh, I don’t know. Dinosaurs, man.” In the same summer that gave us the incendiary, game-changing Mad Max: Fury Road, Jurassic World seems content to just dig up an artifact and put it on display.

FBOTU Score: 5 out of 10 / C

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