Earning a whopping $511.8 million worldwide in its opening weekend, Jurassic World has officially become the 2nd highest grossing domestic film of all time, as well as the highest grossing film debut globally of all time. This makes the third time this year that Universal Studios has dominated the box office, with 50 Shades of Gray and Furious 7 shaking things up earlier in 2015. Clearly, Jurassic World (and its star, Chris Pratt) can do no wrong. So, why do I have such mixed feelings about it?
This rant contains spoiler-filled content. Continue reading at your own risk.
Jurassic World (JW) takes place, per the park employees, “a little over 20 years” since the fiasco at the first park. Jurassic Park (JP) occurred in 1993, so we are exactly 22 years removed from the first event. JW is a fully-functional, Disney-like theme park that inevitably implodes thanks to the arrogance of mankind. You know…the same thing that went wrong in the first film. Humans underestimated the animals! That’s pretty much the entire movie in a nutshell. I don’t need to tell you any more of the actual plot of the film, as it is more fun to just experience the ride for yourselves.
I have seen the movie twice already, and most likely I will see it at least one more time while it is still in the theaters. It was a good time. JW is by far the goriest of the 4 dino-films, showcasing the most deaths and gratuitous blood spatter in the series. JW also labors under the assumption that the entire viewing audience has seen the previous films and knows the details of JP’s doom as well as the rules of dino behavior–the optical limitations of the T-Rex, the hunting methods of the raptors, and so on. I can understand not wanting to waste precious time explaining back story, but at least attempt to retain some semblance of continuity. As commented on in the movie, kids nowadays aren’t shocked by dinosaurs any more. When JP was released, the mind-blowing special effects caused equal parts amazement and terror in the viewers. In the intervening 22 years, we’ve seen the same level of special effects on day to day television series. Like the movie touts, fans want bigger, better, faster, more. Be careful what you wish for, am I right? So, let’s just get on with the rant, shall we? Lord knows I have a lot to ramble on about, and your time is precious.
First off, Chris Pratt. Don’t be that guy. Please. Between The Lego Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy and JW, you are know a hot commodity. You are Hollywood’s “It” boy who can do no wrong. And, I for one, simply adore you. The problem is you are EXACTLY the same guy in every movie. You are on the fast track to becoming the white Morgan Freeman. Wait…that’d be Jack Nicholson. I’m going to need you to do some other movies, pronto. I know that you have some serious acting chops and I’d like to see you use them. While I have no real problem seeing you be the comical, reluctant hero-type over and over, I’d hate to see you become typecast. I’m not saying you need to do a Nicholas Sparks movie. But, pulling a Daniel Radcliffe and showing some skin could be nice. Better still, you need to play a villain. You need to be the bad cop. Look what that did for Denzel. Make people uncomfortable watching you. Then jump back into your spaceship and dance your way across the galaxy. Come on, Pratt. Break our hearts.
Okay, back to the movie. While JP and it’s first two sequels focused on the message of animal conservancy, JW paints a giant target on the backs of places like Sea World. The scene in which children are running wild through a ‘petting zoo’ of baby dinosaurs made me physically ill. When you watch the original JP and see with wonder the majesty of these animals (yes…let’s just pretend this is all real for the sake of discussion) it is humbling to be in their presence. Fast forward to JW and children are chasing them around like goats and pigs, and riding triceratops like elephants. Don’t even get me started on elephants. People make me sick. And in this case, fictitious people who are careless with beautiful CGI creatures, made me just as sick. Point taken, JW. There are many world zoos and parks that need to catch up with the times and provide proper sanctuary to the animal species they are trying to protect, rather than cater to the whims of the park visitors. Respect nature.
I took great issue with the presence of Dr. Henry Wu. In JP, Henry was very proud of the work that they had done. However, when things went to shit, surely he was brought up to speed on all of the findings of Dr. Grant and Malcolm (both of whom saw their careers damaged after reporting on the events of the island). Henry would already know that the frog DNA used to fill in the sequence gaps enabled the all-female population of dinosaurs to quickly adapt to same-sex reproduction, with new offspring producing males. Life found a way. Why then-even after Hammond shut everything down and worked with the Costa Rican government to have the dinosaurs protected as a nature preserve–would Henry agree not only to recreating the same species of dinosaurs for InGen, but also agree to develop hybrid animals? He knew full well that the presence of other animal DNA would cause new traits in the resulting dinosaur. Yet, he created the ridiculously named Indominus Rex, a dinosaur that is equal parts T-Rex, Gigantasaurus, tree frog, chameleon, albino snake, cuttlefish, and Velociraptor. Henry then seems genuinely surprised upon learning that the I-Rex had special skills such as the ability to camouflage itself. Henry was a ‘bad guy’ in JW. That was so disappointing. Knowing that the island with over 22k visitors was under attack because his ‘asset’ was out of control, Henry showed zero remorse. He secured embryos in a case and was whisked safely off the island in an InGen helicopter. In JP, he was fascinated by science. In JW, Henry is fascinated by success and money.
Speaking of the science…
For sanity sake, we are going to focus on the films alone, and not the novels. JP was built on an island called Isla Nublar. It co-existed with a neighboring island called Isla Sorna. Both islands had identical labs and headquarters. Nublar was divided into a small number of geographical areas, each protected by massive electric perimeter fences. Electric cars would bring visitors along an access road through these areas and in the case of predators, around paddocks. When the dinosaurs would hatch from the eggs, they were brought to Sorna, which was somewhat of a nursery. Then at the right stage of infancy, they were brought back to Nublar and introduced/released into the wild of their assigned park area, which we witnessed with a raptor in the opening scene of JP. Sorna was also equipped with the same building layouts as a Plan B island, backup for Nublar. At the time of the film JP, a hurricane side-swiped the island chain. Early in the film, Nublar was evacuated (according to records, so was Sorna, naturally). Thanks to the acts of greedy Nedry, we know the fate of Isla Nublar. By the end of the film, power had been restored, so electric fences were operational. But that didn’t matter, because the T-Rex had already damaged numerous fences throughout the park. Animals would eventually move freely through them. According to JP science, though, the animals would die off thanks to their imposed Lysine Contingency.
Now, with Sorna having also been evacuated, there was no one left to control the movement of animals. Sorna contained species that hadn’t yet been brought over to Nublar (check the labels on the embryo tubes stolen by Nedry, more species were to come). The events of JP were just a test run for the insurance company for endorsement. The park wasn’t fully operational or staffed and was not quite ready to open. Sorna was then left virtually over run by a multitude of dinosaur species. As we learn from the films, the Lysine Contingency failed for two reasons; a) the animals adapted and learned to breed on their own, possibly allowing for newer generations less-dependent on the hormone, and b) as stated, the animals received enough lysine to survive from the natural plant life on the island. Sorna flourished. By the Lost World (LW) Hammond was in poor health. His greedy nephew, Ludlow, wanted to build a Jurassic Park: San Diego and sought to capture animals from Sorna to bring stateside. Hammond sent a team of archeologists and nature conservationists, along with Malcolm, to Sorna to document how the animals had evolved and adapted in the (as quoted) 4 intervening years since JP fell, in order to have the animals protected by government and left alone in their now natural habitat.
So, for 4 years both islands lay untouched by man. The disastrous results of LW ensured that the island of Sorna was protected. At this point, no one has mentioned Nublar at all. I assume they all thought that the inhabitants of the island perished, rather than survived on the same damn plant life that grows on Sorna. I digress. 4 more years pass and Dr. Grant visits Isla Sorna with a group of people seeking to rescue their lost child who was para-sailing near the island, illegally, hoping to catch a glimpse of a dinosaur. We are introduced to new species, previously unseen in the films, because they have grown unfettered on this new nature preserve. We come across a destroyed aviary that housed (as stated) genetically modified Pteranodons, a flying species with a 6 meter wing span (yet the creature never manages to fly to any neighboring islands? Give me a break. Those things should be global by now). By the end of Jurassic Park 3, we know that dinos rule Isla Sorna and no one gives a thought to Isla Nublar. [Side note: The pteranodons did some serious damage in JW, though, didn’t they? Again, what’s stopping them from flying away altogether?]
14 years after J3, 22 years from the original JP, we arrive at the implausible JW theme park. Throughout the film it is mentioned that the new park has been up and running for a few years already. The entire island is state-of-the-art, with new facilities and a monorail. Unlike the original JP, though, this park has far too many individual paddocks. JP kept fewer animals and in open spaces, like a safari tour. JW, perhaps trying to prevent another disaster, keeps the more dangerous creatures in cage-like containment. The animals are created and ‘born’ into this contained life-style. No more free-range chickens of old. This is where my major problem lies with this movie. In order for a park of this magnitude, including a new expanded man-made lagoon large enough to house a Mosasaur, it would have taken years to complete. Plans for Disneyland Paris began in the late 1970s. Construction began in 1988. The park opened in 1992. This was by an established company with numerous other theme parks to work off of, and without the complication of working with dinosaurs. Hollywood would have us believe that JW was quietly and secretly being constructed on Isla Nublar while two international government bodies, as well as the founder of InGen and the Hammond Foundation, simultaneously worked to protect the neighboring Isla Sorna? Yet, the new JW is still owned and funded by the Hammond Foundation and its beneficiaries since Hammond’s death, and InGen is secretly using the park for field tests as they work towards weaponizing mutant dinosaurs for warfare (hello, Dr. Henry Wu). JW can’t exist in the previously established timeline canon.
Isla Nublar would have experienced a similar population boon as did Sorna, though the types of species would have been limited. We know that there were 3 raptors alive in JP. We see two of them losing a battle with the T-Rex; the third was locked in the walk-in freezer by Tim. But, as pointed out, raptors are clever and can open doors (Ellie comments on this, citing the one she locked in the power shed, which immediately shows up to open the door to the control room they are now in). It is possible that the single surviving raptor could have eventually reproduced. Perhaps not quite as possible for the lone T-Rex. Which could mean that, depending upon how long that one T-Rex lived, the remaining dinosaurs on the island were without a natural predator. IF that were the case, herbivores would have made island reconstruction a hell of a lot easier. It still makes no sense to me that this park exists. Plans would have to have begun during the 8 years that fans were busy observing Isla Sorna. The idea that these two timelines would overlap for Hammond is absurd. Which means it would have to have begun after the events of J3, 8 years after JP, which puts us in 2001. Again, that’s only 14 years–less actually, since JW implies that the park has been operational for at least 2 years–so, 12 years to redesign the park/island, make Nublar safe, build the entire park, redesign even more species, train them to allow humans to control them and ride on them like ponies, and so forth. Jurassic World is impossible.
The timeline and existence of JW is just as ridiculous to me as watching Bryce Dallas Howard outrun a T-Rex in high heels. Come on now. Any normal woman would have kicked those shoes off and ran barefoot, especially knowing that, and I quote, “We’ve clocked the T-Rex at 32 miles per hour.” Yes, 32mph. How good are her shoes? What brand are they? Their stock just soared.
CGI was my other main issue. When JP was to be released, the public knew very little about it. This was before the age of instant news and internet gratification. Spoilers were hard to come by. The movie posters gave nothing away. And, audiences were just as in awe of the first Brachiosaurus as Dr. Grant was. And, the T-Rex traumatized adults and children alike. This movie was loud and this movie made long-extinct animals seem very, very real. What did it was just the right ratio of animatronics to CGI technology. CGI, when used correctly, can enhance a scene. It needs to be used in just the right lighting to come across as plausible and not cartoonish. The puppetry and physical animation used in JP made the experience come to life. JW, on the other hand, was nearly entirely CGI. It looked impressive, for sure, but it made it less real for me. The I-Rex did cause me to jump a few times, but JW should have been far scarier given the capabilities of this new creature. But, honestly, to this day, nothing scares me like the debut scene of the T-Rex in JP.
Not only were the raptors CGI in JW, but they were dumbed down. We learned all about their bravery and cunning in the first films. We truly feared the raptors. Whenever a raptor is on the screen, I am frantically hoping that the actors will check their peripherals because I know another raptor is ready to pounce. They aren’t just pack hunters; it’s a tandem thing, a dance if you will. One locks you gaze as the others attack from the sides. In JW, the raptors, having been raised in the new-style of containment captivity have accepted Pratt as their ‘Alpha’ and run around behaving like a pack of hound dogs. When he enters their compound to rescue a coworker, all 4 raptors approach him from the front, effectively negating Pratt’s numerous speeches about the millions of years of instinct these animals are born with. If they had any raptor instinct at all, they would have come at him in proper formation. Later on, they claim I-Rex as their new Alpha and begin running wild, attacking people individually, chasing cars, again behaving like dogs, rather than like a well-oiled machine. Starlord and his dino-dogs. I can’t shake my head in disappointment enough.
JW takes it a step further by attempting to compensate for the raptors by making characters of them. They are given names and are all but anthropomorphized. At no point in the series was I made to feel guilty if something happened to Jaws. I didn’t get upset when that lady shot Cujo. Why, JW, do you feel it important to tug at my delicate heart strings by having Blue and his siblings be harmed by I-Rex? Why am I referring to a raptor by name? Stop making things cute! I did get into a debate over the final battle between the I-Rex, T-Rex and Blue. The question posed, Why didn’t the T-Rex turn around and attack Blue? My answer is this: T-Rex was exhausted, near death, and appreciative of Blue having quite literally saved his neck. It’s the tale of the Lion and the Mouse (which apparently is a fable, not a bible story, as was my biblical argument). Let’s equate it to Magneto and Charles Xavier: sometimes you need to work together. It’s chess. It’s a gentleman’s warfare. Mutual respect on the battlefield. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Live to fight another day. What more cliches do you need? I was waved off in a huff.
I guess, the point of all this rambling is moot. I’m entirely stuck on the details, unable to suspend my disbelief, yet fully capable of accepting dinosaurs brought back from extinction as reality. I have serious issues. I am that way with the Walking Dead and the Terminator series, too. I can fully accept the over all concept but get pissed off when the tiniest of details doesn’t make sense (Hershel’s shotgun doesn’t hold that many rounds!) JW aggravated me in the same way that World War Z aggravated me. I had to convince myself that the book, and in this case previous 3 films, didn’t exist. If I can separate what I am seeing from what I know, Jurassic World is a phenomenal movie. It is exactly what it set out to be: a summer blockbuster, a marketing coup, a toy store’s best friend. It works under the assumption that the new generation of kids, very young kids I might add, brought to the theater would accept it for face value. They assume parents who grew up with the original films, and who will see JW for nostalgia purposes, have explained the details to their kids. Sadly, many of those kids have never seen any of the originals. And, they don’t need to. They don’t care. Kids today...bigger, better, faster, more. I just keep waiting for the pendulum to swing back the other way, for people to realize that we go to the movies for the stories, not the CGI effects. The special effects are the sprinkles on top that make it better, and shouldn’t be what makes the film.
I really did enjoy this movie, don’t get me wrong. Like I said, I saw it twice and will see it again. It’s a fun, thrilling time and a visual spectacle. This film deserves the financial success that is has and will continue to achieve. But, the end result mirrors the end of the movie: Jurassic World, like the I-Rex, is scientifically advanced and far superior in the eye candy department. You will be entertained. However, when we see the final shot of the broken, battered, worse-for-wear T-Rex, we are reminded of how truly superior Jurassic Park was. You can’t beat an original. Even the writers of JW know that. Clever humans.