Published Oct 20, 2015In a weird way, the Jurassic Park franchise is following in the footsteps of the Child's Play series. Although the scope and financial return is substantially different, Child's Play similarly reached a point of exhaustion with its third instalment and reinvented itself as a self-conscious satire and ostensible remake of the original with Bride of Chucky. Jurassic World doesn't take it quite as far as the rather prurient and nihilistic horror-comedy did, but it's still snarky and irreverent, acknowledging its own whorishness while dropping its knickers and holding out its hand for your cash.
Much like the original, but without any real effort to establish characters or any sense of heart, this glossy and exceedingly polished blockbuster opens with two kids — Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) — being shipped off to an island of dinosaurs. Once there — again, just like the original, only with a more overtly expository sensibility — the children are mostly neglected by a caring but preoccupied ersatz parental figure (here, it's their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the acting director of Jurassic World), who ultimately finds their natural parental instincts (Don't we all just want to have babies and protect them, deep down?) when dinosaurs escape their pens and start eating people.
The distinction here is the overwhelmingly snide corporate critique. As characters sip their Coca-Cola and drive their Mercedes-Benz Coupé, Claire doles out snarky exposition about the need to manufacture new dinosaurs in order to keep people (and celebrities) coming to the parks. The ethics here are about big business and their lack of moral responsibility in trying to appeal to the masses, and while this is an interesting approach to take — particularly with such a huge franchise that similarly has to sell bigger, better bullshit to put asses in seats — there's something cynical and hypocritical about acknowledging the cheapness of a plot that inserts a genetically modified dinosaur into the mix while simultaneously relying on it for dramatic effect.
Amidst the lazy writing and overly mechanical manner in which it rehashes the cadence and structure of the original film, there are some moderately inspired and fun moments. Trevorrow's acknowledgement of event movies such as Aliens (the slaughter of the A-team sent in to contain the situation) and Predator (the heat signature and night vision) have a playful referential sensibility that suits the raised eyebrow approach to storytelling. Similarly, the re-creation of the jeep scene with the kids in the original — replacing the jeep with a transparent sphere and leaving Jeff Goldblum's replacement (Irrfan Khan) to fly helicopters elsewhere — does effectively chill, particularly on the 3D Blu-ray (the regular Blu-ray as viewed on a 4K TV often looks like a video game) release.
But there's something dull and weirdly lethargic about Jurassic World, despite its technical acuity and shrewd adherence to the timing and pacing of the original film. As the plucky hero (Chris Pratt) jumps into tense situations, harnessing the raptors when not finding time to throw a kiss at Claire (mid-pterodactyl attack), there's a strained feeling about it all. There's also often a lack of logic, as in a scene where Claire and Owen (Pratt) step back to shed a tear over dead dinosaurs while looking for the two potentially dead or imperilled kids. Watching the very extensive behind the scenes footage and interview segments included with the Blu-ray, it seems that this stems from an overly rigid preparation process with an overabundance of invested voices.
Spielberg, studio heads, artists, writers and Trevorrow are all shown in meetings at different phases of production, with guided animations driving every action scene and every aspect — the action, the drama, the comedy and the romance — all being measured and calculated by marketing professionals, which explains why Jurassic World feels so hollow and heartless despite ultimately succeeding at what it attempts to do.
Of course, since most viewers only wanted to see dinosaur carnage, the fact that there's really no idiosyncrasy or sincere moments really doesn't matter. And, in case we hadn't already exhausted the social tendency to vilify "the other," all of the villains and troublemakers in this movie are overweight, which will help reassure a populous desensitized to a pervading culture of repression and denial.