Jurassic World: Guardian of the Theme Park. That should be the full title of the fourth installment in this franchise. Sadly, it isn’t. And for all the cautious optimism I could employ, the movie isn’t a sign that carrying on with the series was a particularly good idea.
Fair warning, I may spoil a few things along the way here but I doubt that if you’ve watched the latest trailers, you care much about ruining plot points anyway.
In Jurassic World, we’ve skipped the idea of explaining how a successful and safe (up until this movie) dinosaur theme park has been developed. The script has also skipped the notion of logic but we’ll get to that. We’re introduced to a family on the brink of divorce, with one small kid super into dinosaurs, and his older brother whose hormones are in predictable overdrive. Their Aunt (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a big muckety muck at Jurassic World and has agreed to show them around with VIP privileges … and so off go the kids to Costa Rica … while the adults maybe get on with the divorce … who knows, it’s a dumb plot point that doesn’t mean much and isn’t really handled or resolved anyway.
Once at the park, Howard is of course too busy to take the kids around herself and a poor British assistant is tasked with babysitting. (Shocker: She’s terrible at it and the kids soon ditch her to explore on their own.) While this is happening, Howard has been tasked with working with Chris Pratt, who’s ex-Navy and somehow his training with boats/planes/who knows it’s never explained, gives him the skills to train velociraptors … sort of. Because he’s been able to bond with a pack of vicious killing machines, he’s brought in to assess the new dino on the island, a genetically created splice-job named the Indominus Rex. This one’s bigger than a T-Rex, as smart as a velociraptor, and has a few additional special abilities from other animals that come into play during the movie. Shock and surprise, this new killing machine gets out of her enclosure, and it’s up to Howard and Pratt to save the day.
Look, I know I just gave a lot more exposition than I normally do but it couldn’t be helped. Not if I was going to be able to explain just how terrible this movie is. As I stated earlier, I was cautiously optimistic. I certainly didn’t expect to be awed like I had been over twenty years ago with the first Jurassic Park, but I figured the goal here was to at least make the movie fun.
Problem number one is the script. It’s insipid. It’s demeaning to the intelligence of the audience. And for everyone who’s gone berserk examining the lack of gender equality in film lately, this sets women back a few decades. The kids’ mom is played by Judy Greer … who was apparently paid by the tear because of the five or six scenes she’s in, all but one of them involves her devolving into a messy saline puddle.
Then there’s Howard. She’s saddled with one of the worst “heroine” roles in quite some time. Coming off the heels of George Miller’s phenomenal Mad Max: Fury Road, wherein women are shown to be strong, intelligent, and three-dimensional, this problem is only exacerbated more. At first, Howard plays the sad stereotype of the successful business woman with a stick up her ass. She’s forgone meaningful relationships due to the demands of the corporate world. As the dino guano hits the fan, she plays the typical damsel in distress for a while, making plenty of horrifically stupid decisions that would have gotten her killed if Pratt wasn’t around. Then, as the film comes mercifully closer to an end, she somehow grows the stones to do something to save everyone that is equal parts courageous and stupid (given that she should know better since she works at Jurassic World). None of these changes in her behavior make sense and really the entire relationship between herself and Pratt is something more common to films like Jewel of the Nile and Crocodile Dundee … only even less flattering to woman-kind.
It’s at this point I could start ranting about the sad, stereotypical inclusions of Vincent D’Onofrio and Irrfan Khan but this movie doesn’t deserve that much effort. While the VFX and sound design teams clearly put in a lot of work, studios need to take a lot more care to understand that a bad script is a bad script. You can gussy it up with all the bells and whistles to distract audiences as much as possible but it doesn’t make the movie any less awful.
After rewriting the script, a new director might have been a wise choice. Colin Trevorrow does well with some of the side characters, like Jake Johnson, who also worked with him on the underappreciated Safety Not Guaranteed. But how that meant he was ready for a blockbuster like this is a bit odd. Most of the action pieces look as if they could have been designed by almost anyone and there’s really not much cohesion going on here. I still blame the script first and foremost, but as the director, he should have seen how off-track things were going and attempted to right the ship.
Seriously, if this was the movie Spielberg was so excited to get to audiences that he resurrected a franchise that should have been killed by the previous dreadful sequels, then I’m surprised he hasn’t just forced another soul-crushing Indiana Jones sequel down our throats yet … oh wait, that’s still coming? Super.
Look, the sad reality is that Mad Max: Fury Road has set an extremely high bar for other action films to pass. Hell, it’s a high bar for most movies to pass lately. Jurassic World doesn’t come close to justifying the ticket price and honestly, I’d watch The Lost World again before subjecting myself to another round of this kind of pain (but not the third one … even that may be worse than this). I’ll admit that I got a good number of laughs in because it is so insanely bad and cliché, but I could have made better use of my time unpacking boxes after a recent move than sitting around watching this drivel. Although the movie currently somehow has an 8.6 rating at IMDb, that kind of internet buzz only further destroys my hope in humanity, but take that for what you will.
Maybe you take a chance on this for free on the home market but even then, I don’t think you’ll ever get hear someone get on somebody’s case for not watching Jurassic World. I say: Visit this attraction at your own risk … and after pondering where that money could be better spent.
MPAA rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril
Running time: 124 minutes