Friday, June 19, 2015

Movie Review: "Jurassic World" (2015)


RAWR!  Jurassic World just had the biggest domestic box office opening weekend EVER, and right now it's the hottest thing to smash into the planet since the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.  This movie is the roaring, stomping, jungle-crushing behemoth of the season, and even if it can't recapture the sheer thrilling novelty of the iconic 1993 flick, it will do just fine for a mega-blockbuster popcorn flick for Summer 2015.  Really, how can you lose with Steven Spielberg as producer, the latest in eye-popping special effects, and a Goliath Franken-saur that treats other dinosaurs as chew toys, never mind 20,000 tourists?  

The movie does have its flaws.  Lots of them.  I didn't care.  I pretty much ignored them except for indulging a few eye rolls, because I had sprinted to the theatre for two things and two things only.  I raced there to see (A) Chris Pratt wrangle velociraptors (my all-time favorite dinosaur!), and (B) all kinds of other prehistoric critters wreak ridiculous amounts of bloody havoc by land, sea, and air.  In terms of those two basic requirements, Jurassic World delivered.  Everything else is distraction and detail.  

Here are a few more thoughts:

The Bad:
A huge number of characters in the flick are completely annoying, and I was rooting for them to get eaten by dinosaurs.  Some are flat-out mustache-twirling villains, some are irritating one-note cardboard cutouts, others make completely stupid decisions, and still others are a pair of maddening kids.  FOR THE RECORD: I am (and have been) sick of annoying kids in disaster flicks who are in constant danger but who are apparently contractually bound to not die, thus making all those imperilling moments basically hollow.  Yes, I know the presence of kids is a cheap way to crank up the human interest and activate the audience's protective instincts so it then cares about what happens.  No, that doesn't absolve you from trying to make the kids interesting.  Hint: Annoying is not the same thing as interesting.  OK, I can't believe I'm going to say this, but ... The kid in San Andreas was WAY better than the kids here.  

*Spoiler Alert for the next paragraph*  You know what I really hated too?  Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong) makes it out alive ... AGAIN!   He made it out of the first Jurassic Park, remember?  He was the geneticist who blithely made velociraptors, a fact that Sam Neill's character clearly deplored in the lab scene.  Here he, having obviously learned nothing from that previous experience, is behind the creation of Indominus Rex, the hybrid dinosaur made in a test tube.  In Jurassic World Wu's character is all about arrogantly, thoughtlessly screwing around with nature and having nary a thought about consequences.  If anybody deserves a good dose of poetic justice by getting turned into a dinosaur's lunch, it's this unrepentant jerk.  But noooooooo, he makes it out while untold numbers of hapless tourists don't.  Yes, I get that narratively speaking, you want him around to cook up more monsters for the inevitable sequel, but that doesn't mean I'm OK with him getting to escape.  Sooner or later this guy's gotta pay.  Oh, since we're on the topic of Wong, some people have pointed out his apparent agelessness.  Aside from a little silver at his temples, he looks pretty much the same as he did in 1993.  Is he a vampire?  An Immortal?  NO, DUH.  He's Asian.  Asians don't age.

Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire, the control freak corporate suit who gets caught up in the mayhem, and her character arc is as about as believable as her running through the jungle in high heels and not (a) breaking a heel, (b) spraining her ankle, (c) both.  The subplots of her family (the annoying kids are her nephews, with a sub-subplot of divorcing parents) and her one-date past with Pratt's Owen Grady are basically distractions.  

The movie does take its own sweet time getting going.  Maybe I'm just impatient, but I was definitely getting antsy by the time someone finally gets eaten.  YES.  Finally the real action can start!  Or maybe I'm a bloodthirsty fiend.  Both?

Oh, and I miss Jeff Goldblum.

The Good:
You mean aside from Chris Pratt as a rakishly charming raptor whisperer and the general mayhem that erupts when Jurassic World finally lets chaos reign?  I'm not going to lie: it was really cool to see the amusement park in operation (remember how it had not opened yet in Jurassic Park?) and fully realized as a surprisingly realistic amusement park/zoo/prehistoric SeaWorld/safari/resort.  There are some great details in the depiction, right down to the petting zoo and a unhappy baby brachiosaur getting hugged by an over-eager kid ("Help meeeeeee" was written all over its face), feeding time at the aquarium, an exquisite cameo of Jimmy Buffett carrying a drink in each hand in front of a Margaritaville franchise ... 

Speaking of franchises, the promenade of the park is so completely believable it made me laugh.  Alongside the different tourist venues and welcome centers and sculptures and fountains are restaurants and storefronts: I spotted Brookstone, Pandora, Jamba Juice, Ben and Jerry's, and Starbucks, and I'm sure there were more.  Product placement isn't always so hilariously meta.

The ending of the flick is sheer delicious silly fun.  I can't say much more, but I loved it.  Let's get real: Jurassic Park overall is a much smarter movie.  Still, Jurassic World is much better than the other 2 awful sequels, even though director Colin Trevorrow doesn't have Spielberg's deft touch (but who does?).

Oh, and keep an eye out for some fun nods back to the original Jurassic Park.

The Freaking Awesome:
Jurassic World has spawned some great responses. I give you my two favorites:

(1) Marvel honcho Kevin Feige responded with glorious grace and humor to being dethroned as opening weekend king.  The Avengers has been bumped from the top spot. Note how the T-Rex is holding Thor's hammer!

(2) Zookeepers everywhere have embraced Pratt's now-famous velociraptor wrangler pose.  You simply must see the Internet's newest meme.  Thank goodness for the humor, delight, and sheer fun of #jurassiczookeeper, because all too often the Internet (and Twitter especially) is full of hate, rage, and stupidity.  Here's my favorite so far:

The Verdict:
Mad Minerva gives Jurassic World a grade of B+ for sheer rip-roaring fun (and Chris Pratt with velociraptors) despite its flaws.

Rotten Tomatoes gives this a Fresh rating of 71%.

The official website is here.

Jurassic World runs 124 minutes and is rated PG-13 for dinosaurs running amok.

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