PVT – Jurassic World

“Creation is an act of sheer will.  Next time it will be flawless.” These are the words spoken by John Hammond in Jurassic Park, and while I can’t say that it was flawless I can say that Colin Trevorrow certainly came very close.  Jurassic World was better than I ever could have hoped for a JP sequel and if you haven’t seen it yet then for the love of all that is good stop read this and get to a theater right now.  JW did beat the magic and splendor of the first film, but honestly who could have possibly thought that would happen?  Just trust me; it’s worth it.

Spoilers below.  Let’s head into the park.

I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

The tone of the movie, from the get go, was on point.  We have a shot of a dinosaur foot stamping down onto the white ground, but as the camera zooms out we see it’s just a bird standing on some snow (evolutionary reference ftw).  But even before that the first thing we see are some raptor eggs as they hatch, and the new hatchling raptor taking its first tentative glimpse at the world around it.  It’s a symbol of a new beginning and a new park, but very reminiscent of the hatching scene in Jurassic Park.  And in fact, the movie was rife with symbolism and references to the earlier films.  To count them all would be quite a project, but I’ll make an attempt.  I noticed Ian Malcolm’s book in a few scenes, and Bryce Dallas Howard’s character Claire remarks that the desk of Lowery is too “chaotic” (perhaps both a reference to Malcolm as well as Dennis Nedry’s messy workstation).  Even Lowery (Jake Johnson) himself is wearing an old Jurassic Park shirt straight off eBay.  While hunting the I. rex the ACU leader watches two drops of blood fall onto his wrist, and both drops veer off in different directions.  Perhaps that’s another slight nod to Malcolm’s “drops of water” test with Ellie Sattler in the first film.  Judy Greer tells her son to “push a green button” when she calls, harkening back to Hammond telling Sattler to “push a green button” to turn on the park fences.  The kids’ parents are getting a divorce as well, just like Lex and Tim’s parents.  Claire starts shouting for the kids in the middle of the jungle, prompting Owen (Chris Pratt) to tell her to be quiet or the I. rex may find them (a running gag from JPIII).  The I. rex stares into the gyrosphere very much like how the T. rex in JP stared into the Jeep, and even the shot of Owen hiding under the car as the I. rex’s mouth gapes inches away is very similar to a shot from TLW when a T. rex gapes through the window at Sarah, Ian, and Nick.  The overweight worker getting eaten as he sits on the ground was also reminiscent of Gennaro’s death on the toilet.  Owen also has a few lines about these dinosaurs being “animals,” similar to how Grant reassures Lex and Tim that the Brachiosaurus are “just animals.”  Claire looks in the driver’s side mirrow at an approaching raptor, just like how Muldoon looked in the mirror at the approaching T. rex.  There’s a hologram of a Dilophosaurus, neck frills and all.  We get to see Mr. DNA again, if only for a moment, and Gray (Ty Simpkins) picks up a pair of night vision goggles just like the ones that Tim used in the original film.  In fact, that entire sequence when the kids stumble upon the old Visitors Center was pure fanboy bliss; we get to see the fallen skeletons that the raptors and rex had destroyed in the first film, and Zach (Nick Robinson) picks up a shred of the “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” banner.  The kids then walk past the mural depicting raptors and Parasarolophus in the dining room, that same mural that we see a raptor shadow on when Lex and Tim are eating desserts.  And then they repair one of the old worker Jeeps and take it for a spin.  The shot of the I. rex in the Visitors Center as it smashes at Owen and Claire is framed just like the last shot of the rex in the first film as well.  But by far the best reference in the entire film is at the end, when Claire uses a flare to draw the old Tyrannosaurus rex out to fight the Indominus; Rexy smashes straight through a Spinosaurus skeleton before engaging the hybrid, a glorious and well-earned middle finger at the fight in Jurassic Park III.  That fight was absolutely astounding and everything I had hoped for, and I nearly cried out in exultation when Blue joined the fray.  My entire theater burst into applause when the rex came out and the I. rex was dragged down by the Mosasaurus.  Holy crap.

Hail to the Queen, baby!

References aside, how did the film hold up from a narrative standpoint?  I think it actually did very well.  JW hits on a very interesting concept; people get bored easily, and the more common something is the less they are going to draw attention to it.  Dinosaurs in the JP universe were revealed to the public in 1997 when the bull rex rampaged through San Diego.  This film takes place in 2015; that’s 18 years later.  And as a result all of the young people in the film were born into a world where dinosaurs weren’t extinct.  Some of them, like Gray, still hold reverence and interest in the prehistoric beasts (much like how some kids today love going to zoos and seeing animals, but then we have his brother Zach (who was a grade A douchebag, btw) as a perfect example of why Jurassic World is worried about attendance; even today plenty of kids hate zoos or are bored when they go to them. So what do they do in order to spark new interest in the park?  Build a new dinosaur of course, a hybrid that is bigger and more dangerous and “cooler”, and will get people wanting to come see it.  And of course they succeed, naming their new abomination unto God Indominus rex, “untamable king”.  And of course that name is extremely fitting, and Jurassic World perfectly follows in its predecessor’s footsteps by speaking on the hubris of man.  Surprisingly quickly the film reminds its characters that the kind of control they are attempting is simply not possible.  Nature, in the form of the I. rex, proves that it cannot be contained, that life breaks free and expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, and it does so very painfully and extremely dangerously.

It's a shame we didn't get a cameo by  Sam Neill or Jeff Goldblum; a scene with Ian Malcolm speaking against the park would have been fitting and strong (if not obvious) foreshadowing.
It’s a shame we didn’t get a cameo by Sam Neill or Jeff Goldblum; a scene with Ian Malcolm speaking against the park would have been fitting and strong (if not obvious) foreshadowing.

The effects in this film were phenomenal.  The CGI looked amazing, and it took me a while to realize that.  At one point Hoskins interacts with a raptor confined in a muzzle, placing his hand on its head and neck.  It took me a second to realize that was an animatronic.  It had initially looked CG to me, and I suddenly came to realize that I just couldn’t tell the two apart, but I felt like I was trying to hard to “see” the CGI.  Once I stopped doing that it all looked great.  I loved how damage and wounds were persistent across the dinosaurs, and the I. rex was seen to react to bullets even if it was ultimately able to shrug it off (no BS unstoppable tank that ignores guns completely; it was a living animal).

I actually love the Indominus rex’s design.  When I first heard about hybrid dinosaurs I was terrified that we’d get something akin to the Chaos Effect line of toys that came out in 1998; brightly colored models that look far too obviously like someone took a base model of one dinosaur and stuck on a few characteristics of another.  Fortunately, what we got instead was a creature that resembled a T. rex no more than any other theropod dinosaur would, and carried its own unique style without being exaggerated or loud (loud meaning colors… it was plenty loud otherwise).  Elements of the animals that it borrowed DNA from are there; its snout is more raptor-shaped, for example, and it carries the complex camouflage and color changing ability of cuttlefish (which I suppose technically implies that it could be brightly colored if it wanted to).  The white color of its skin actually makes perfect sense; dead cuttlefish and other cephalopods tend to be very pale and unsaturated, obviously unable to change color.  The camouflage is itself another reference, this one to the original novels by Michael Crichton; in The Lost World there are Carnotaurus that can change their skin patterns at will and blend into their surroundings perfectly, just like the I. rex does against the ACU.

This “Ultimasaurus” is exactly what I was worried about seeing; it’s a Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, and Ankylosaurus all in one. This particular toy wasn’t released, and actually has fairly muted colors compared to the other figures like the Compstegnathus and Ankyloranodon.

Speaking of the books, Jurassic World takes quite a few cues from them.  There’s the aforementioned Carnotaurs, of course.  One of the raptors (I think Charlie) gets blown up by a rocket launcher; this happens in the first novel as well, when Muldoon is hiding from some raptors in a pipe.  Gray and Zach jump into a pool with a waterfall in order to escape the I. rex, and in the novel Grant, Lex, and Tim are on a raft that spills them over a waterfall into a similar pool (though in their case the rex was in the pool waiting for them, rather than at the top).  And then there is B.D. Wong as Henry Wu.  As you recall, Wu was the chief geneticist at the original Jurassic Park; it’s his work that made everything possible.  He doesn’t get much screen time in the first film, just talking a bit about how all the dinosaurs are female, but he gets plenty more development here.  Wu was responsible for designing the I.rex, as he was all the other dinosaurs in the park.  But then that’s just the thing; he designed all the dinosaurs, and then makes a point that I absolutely knew they would make in this film; none of the dinosaurs are real dinosaurs.  Every single one of them is genetically engineered with sequence gaps in their DNA filled in from other creatures; they had always done that.  The I. rex was just another step along that line of thinking, but every species was designed with public opinion in mind.  Wu very explicitly points out to Masrani, the new CEO, that real dinosaurs wouldn’t look like the ones they have, and I can’t help but assume he was talking about the raptors in particular (and you can read a bit more about that in an earlier post I made about the accuracy of the dinosaurs in the JP films).  Wu in the novel has a very important conversation along the exact same lines, though a bit varied.  In the novel he tells Hammond that they did make real dinosaurs (though I would still disagree with that) and that Hammond should sign off on a new version for each species so that Wu can tone them down and make them more like public opinion would expect them to be (slower, for the most part).  Point is, in both film and novel Wu is arguing about the validity of the dinosaurs in the park, what the public expects, and that they should be operating on that expectation; hence scaly raptors and a Mosasaurus that is way too big.  He’s portrayed in a villainous light in JW, arguing against being a “mad scientist” (and those are his words, not mine), and apparently had some sort of agreement going with Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) who wanted to use the raptors for the military like trained attack dogs.  Wu in the novel never struck me as a villain (and I’ve read Jurassic Park at least three or four times), just a scientist who was obsessed with his work.  His character change is an interesting one, and may set up for a possible sequel later since he successfully escapes the island with a suitcase of embryos.  Maybe Dodgson had payed off the wrong employee in Jurassic Park.

…..yeah.

I liked Irrfan Khan’s character Simon Masrani a lot.  He was a perfect second-Hammond; he cared about the animals and his guests, wanting them to be safe and have fun.  He seemed more than willing to throw money toward those endeavors.  And just like Hammond he was unwilling to kill a 26 million dollar investment, even when it was so blatantly a threat to public health; remember that Hammond had screamed at Grant not to kill his raptors.  Masrani, like Hammond, was invested in his animals to a fault.  And ultimately it is Masrani’s hubris that kills him, as it is Hammond’s hubris that gets people killed, when he tries t step into a situation that he does not fully understand and cannot really control; piloting a helicopter.  That said he seemed like a good man who actually gave a shit, and seemed more aware of his lack of control than Hammond did.  “The key to a happy life is to accept you are never in control.”  I’m willing to believe that he knew what he was getting himself into, but also knew he was the only one available who could pilot that helicopter.  You could see in his eyes when he accepted his fate.

The deaths in this film were absolutely gory without actually throwing severed body parts at people.  I liked it; they didn’t pull any punches.  The I. rex was a violent and intelligent animal; it wasn’t going to cover up its kills for viewers.  Seeing those Apatosaurus lying dead and dying was a punch to the gut; this animal was not even operating under basic instincts anymore.  I nearly had tears in sympathy at the suffering that sauropod must have been going through, and the death of Delta and Zero was likewise heart wrenching.  Zara’s death at the hand of the Mosasaurus was particularly gruesome, and I think takes the award for “worst death in a Jurassic Park movie.”  The poor woman was not only beaten and pecked by a Pteranodon, but she got dunked into a pool, half-drowned, and then was swallowed alive and whole by an aquatic reptile.  I can only hope that she suffocated quickly and didn’t have to suffer being digested very long.  Absolutely horrible way to go for a woman who didn’t deserve it.  But then, that was the point.  Hoskins’ death, at least, was warranted and much more satisfying.

One complaint I’ve seen relatively often is the amount of product placement in the film; the Mercedes logo, for example, is front and center in the frame more than once.  But you know, I didn’t notice it very much.  And besides that, the film is very aware of itself; there is a very meaningful scene when Lowery talks ill of big companies owning everything, and the Indominus is supposed to be sponsored by Verizon.  The word “Tostidodon” is thrown around.  But Claire points out how it’s a necessity.  I don’t think anyone likes product placement, but when you’re running a business sometimes you need people with deeper wallets to help you out, and that’s only going to happen by getting their name visible.  Maybe there were a lot of “ads” in the film, but I think it worked.  It made it more real by grounding the park in reality.

 

I do have some questions about the film; one or two things did bother me a bit.  For example; Owen and two other workers head right into the I. rex pen once they think that it’s gone.  I probably would have ensured it before I stepped in there.  Then a dinosaur that had lived its entire life in solitary confinement (and, as Owen points out, had no social concepts) was able to speak fluent raptor and turn Owen’s raptors against the humans, but then those same raptors suddenly decided not to kill anyone anymore.  I’m going to chock at least the last part up to the idea that the raptors weren’t quite comfortable with siding with the I. rex, and ultimately remembered where their loyalties should lie.  I do agree with one redditor who suggested that they should have included a scene where the I. rex hits or hurts one of the raptors.  Owen made a point that if they ever tazed or shot them then the raptors would never trust him again; would have been a better way to turn the raptors back to the “good” side.  Second, that the kids were able to repair a 20+ year old Jeep that had been sitting in the jungle by replacing its battery.  I’m not a car guy, but my understanding is that sitting around for two decades isn’t good for things like tires, fuel lines, and other important bits.  Maybe they did more work on it off-screen, but then again we got to see the old Jeeps so I barely care.  Third; Claire spends a majority of this film running around in high heels and seems completely content.  Not only that, but she successfully outruns a T. rex in them.  I do have two points that make this acceptable to me.  One; that rex is the original rex from the first park, recovered when Jurassic World was being built.  She’s got to be at least 23 or 24 years old, if not older.  In real life the oldest specimen we know of is Sue at 28 years old.  Rexy has some years on her; makes sense to me that she’d be a bit slower.  As far as being able to run in heels at all, my girlfriend said “it’s possible” when I brought up the point.  I think I’ll extend to her better knowledge on that regard.  The crappy security measures were also pretty annoying (how about we make that implant shock the I. rex if it gets too far from its paddock, not if it gets too close to another fence), but then again we’ve seen in past films that InGen didn actually “spare no expense” as much as Hammond kept implying, and security measures were either poor or nonexistent.  At least they are consistent.

This ride also carries with it so many issues. You give minors a free-roaming vehicle that allows them to literally drive right up to dinosaurs with no fences at all? What would stop someone from ramming into a dinosaur for fun, or even (I don’t know) ignoring orders to bring the sphere back when the park closes? Jimmy Fallon was funny, though.

So did I enjoy this film?  Absolutely.  It was extremely fun and the action didn’t feel overwhelming or gratuitous.  It’s fast-paced; we get into the action pretty quickly and the core conflict is revealed within the first 30 minutes or so.  I had a smile on my face almost the entire time, and from the moment the “Theme to Jurassic Park” started playing I knew we’d finish the scene with a beautiful view of the park in all its glory and the music rising à la the brachiosaur scene from the first film.  And I loved it.  And I want more.  I hope the Blu-Ray has deleted scenes and extra materials; I’ll be pouring over those the day it’s released.

Jurassic World is the best JP sequel to date, and Trevorrow absolutely spared no expense.

2 comments

  1. I totally agree, Zara’s death was absolutely terrible, and while I love the creativeness of deaths in the Jurassic Park series (like Eddie Carr’s death; body ripped in half by two T-Rexes), Zara’s death, not only did I not like it, but I’ll go as far to say it’s also both the worst death in terms of being the most unjustifiable dead. I mean like it wasn’t bad enough for her to be eaten, but even the way she goes out is pretty gruesome, I can applaud the movie for not pulling punches, but Zara’s death is one “punch” I wish they did pull.

    Also, it sucks that she died knowing in Jurassic Park III, that raptor egg stealing asshole Billy survived.

    Also, Zara reminds me a lot of my best friend, so yeah, that’s also part of the reason I didn’t like what happen to Zara.

    Like

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