As a young lass plopped in front of a VHS player and mini television combo, my third bowl of sugary cereal in hand, I discovered the wonder of violence and thrill that dinosaurs can instill in human beings. Star struck by the cunning velociraptors and, of course, Dr. Ian Malcolm’s sculpted chest (bless Spielberg for the fanservice), I never knew I had this internal glee for dinosaur-caused deaths in an action flick — or even for dinosaurs in general. The 1993 classic, “Jurassic Park,” allowed for many ‘90s kids to gain an appreciation and even excitement about the prehistoric period. It demonstrated how these extinct beings can arouse tension and thrill to future generations that would soon be saturated by all the flashy gizmos of the 2000s.
Flash forward to a similar scene 15 years later. Seated in a local theater, I have my popcorn in hand and a sugar high prepped by four peanut butter cups as I eagerly awaited for “Jurassic World” to blast the screen and slap me with amazement. The long-coming sequel did slap me, yet it was not with amazement but rather counterproductive messages on commercialism and genetic cloning. Though the film attempted to create a Dr. Ian Malcolm equivalent to grace the screen with wit and presence in the form of Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), his ragtag bunch of underdeveloped characters and shaky romance left me flabbergasted. Not even Pratt’s bod could save this summer flop’s plot line from straying into untouched tangents of family issues and nostalgia. I have too many feelings that can possibly be written into a dissertation, but let me just settle on a few pitfalls that “Jurassic World” dug for itself.
The beginning of “Jurassic World” seemed eerily reminiscent of its predecessor, “Jurassic Park III.” Kid(s) with soon-to-be separated parents goes off for fun vacation in the tropics. Kid(s) ends up in dangerous situation with dinosaurs. Kid(s) is saved with rescue mission that ends with some casualties. In contrast to “Jurassic Park III,” there is one major difference in terms of the new film’s young protagonists: there are two siblings, one horny 16-year-old and one dino-aficionado eight-year-old. Despite their varied personalities and age gap, there is one unifying factor between the two — they both are terrible characters.
The two siblings seemed like a cheap tactic to bid the younger generation’s’ attention with “real” problems, like fears of divorce and, I guess, hormonal situations. For the first half of “Jurassic World,” the older brother, Zach Mitchell (Nick Robinson), spends his spare time awkwardly eyeing female amusement park goers, while his younger brother, Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins), whimpers over their parents’ possible divorce. Both these issues could have been productive side plots to the film’s overall narrative arc, and could have brought some sort of dimension to these very standard characters. However, these issues are immediately chucked to the sidelines and never addressed again by the siblings as they predictably have a run-in with “Jurassic World’s” main beast, the Indominus Rex.
What gets my gears grinding is how even the movie fails to address them. There is no brief montage, scene or close-up of consolation or growth on these issues — just a 180 degree shift in character development as Zach becomes a caring brother and Gray becomes fearful of dinos rather than divorce. Their dialogue and actions just puts focus on their unoriginal characterization, apart from their amusing remarks on Owen’s badassery. However, even Owen gets bogged down by the commercialization critique the summer blockbuster attempts to do.
Immediately from the get-go, as a pretty panorama shot tries to enrapture the audience with the dino-themed park, I was fascinated not by the wonders of dinosaurs, but rather the woes of capitalism. In tandem to the scenes illustrating the fast destruction by dinos, the two brothers are shown experiencing what Jurassic World has to offer with a Disneyland-esque monorail and San Diego Zoo-esque attractions. Gone is the viewer’s awe toward dinosaurs as the same prehistoric creatures are tamed for the appeal of theme park goers, which is a brutal, yet necessary message in this day and age of the need for the new thrill in commercialized products. This is especially vivid when the two brothers attend a water show where a prehistoric whale consumes an entire great white shark. The scene reminded me of SeaWorld’s Shamu shows, as attendees wear ponchos in order to stay dry from the prehistoric whale’s violent lurch toward its lunch. It was one of the film’s most well-thought out scenes until even its critique toward capitalism falls by the wayside for a critique against genetic modification or against military violence, which is all stuffed into one huge nod toward nostalgism.
Initially, I liked where “Jurassic World ” was going in terms of plot line. It was an interesting continuation of what John Hammond’s investors intended to do in “Jurassic Park” — build an amusement park that would make them millions. However, the new film seems even too aware of the nostalgic sentiments its viewers will have toward the 1993 classic. So aware, that it fetichizes and commercializes the nostalgism, yet fails to address the issues that the first movies created. It seems like the whole cast of characters seem to forget the previous mistakes of John Hammond in the name of some sort of goal depending on the character.
If you’re going to make a sequel, at least address the previous films’ conflicts. Don’t just redo them with some hybrid of raptor and T-rex (though that was pretty cool) in order to state the same message: dinosaurs are beyond human control and ingenuity. Try to solve it or at least extend it with characters aware of the conflicts and willing to address them. Owen’s character was great at this until he too falls by the wayside as he easily agrees to use his beloved raptors for a military-esque mission. Try to solve it with interesting plot lines that aren’t so predictable; It got to the point that I could sarcastically state “dun dun dun!” before a turning point occurred (I’m looking at you, scene where the hybrid breed of the Indominus Rex is revealed).
“Jurassic World,” I had so much hope for you, but like your plot lines, you cast me off to the side with the only excitement I was able to experience being my hasty departure from the movie theater. I hope your equally predictable sequel does better (the helicopter scene where Dr. Henry Wu or obligatory-scientist-wanting-to-innovate-science escaped with a suitcase of dino embryos was pretty telling).
Rating: 2 stars