12 June 2015

Review: JURASSIC WORLD

"Gunther! Harpo! Roll over!" (only slightly exaggerated)
Sorry about the mess- I didn't know blogs could gather dust. If anyone's still reading, I'll hopefully be writing to you a bit more often in the next few weeks, on subjects like why I really can't imagine any other film topping Mad Max: Fury Road this year, (cue an avalanche of other masterpieces) and a little thing called BlogalongaStarWars. But we're really here because Jurassic World is a terrible and wonderful sequel to Jurassic Park all at once.

Previous sequels The Lost World and Jurassic Park III have had a hard time finding a logical plot to follow the pitch-perfect blockbuster mayhem of the original. Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World trumps them both by doing a sublimely illogical one instead. Years after John Hammond's dream went awry, an equally eccentric businessman has turned the venture around and as the unimprovable tagline has proclaimed, the park is open. They've spared no expense (except maybe common sense) in genetically engineering a monstrous cocktail of a creature that inevitably goes rogue on the island, but this time there are 20,000 tourists in peril.

It should go without saying that barely any of the characters here are smart enough to work at Jurassic World, with only two obvious exceptions. The first is Chris Pratt's ultra-competent raptor trainer, Owen Grady, an ex-Navy SEAL who is even more superheroic than Pratt's Marvel character and thus about 50 times less interesting. The second is Larry, a scene-stealing techie played by New Girl's Jake Johnson, who becomes the most valuable player by virtue of being the only intentional comic relief in the film.

But neither of them are the main character in the film and there's a bit of a vacuum in that regard. The most significant character arc belongs to Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire Deering, the operational manager of the theme park, but she's so vaguely drawn from the start that the added brush strokes don't give us much of a picture by the time she comes around to redemption. In another sub-plot, Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins play her errant nephews, but they become part of the scenery after a breathlessly exciting opening sequence that comes close to capturing the awe of Spielberg's original film.

Composer Michael Giacchino knows exactly when to press the John Williams button and our first sight of the supposedly functional resort is rightly accompanied by that eye-watering theme music. The film is packed with such fan service, but not in a distracting way. If anything, it could stand to be a little more distracting, because Trevorrow's script (co-written with Derek Connolly from a draft by Apes reboot scribes Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver) plays like a first draft in motion.

As a film that's posed as a critique of corporate horse-flogging, that's the only explanation for what can only be described as a stunning lack of self-awareness. The film's Big Bad, a designer-saurus called the Indominus Rex, is designed to be bigger, scarier and more deadly than the T-Rex, to capture the public's imagination once again. That's exactly the part that the character is meant to play for us jaded bastards too. In a post-Blackfish world, this could have been a fascinating revival of the themes of man vs. nature posed in the first film, but instead it flattens out all of the dinosaurs into monsters for simplicity's sake.

All of this is set against the most obvious product placement in any movie for a long time. It's more like Jurassic Wayne's World, but without the wherewithal of that parody. Starbucks and Ben & Jerry's could make it in there as storytelling over story-selling, but a Pandora jewellery store stretches credulity. That's before we even mention Vincent D'Onofrio's redundant villain role, essentially advocating for an infamous previous draft of this sequel in which raptors would be deployed to eat terrorists. He has the same IQ deficiency as the other characters, but so soon after Daredevil, you kind of want him to bellow "This theme park doesn't deserve my love" so it was worth him turning up.

And most of all, this film is an absolute blast. Don't get me wrong, I haven't pointed out anything that doesn't become hugely apparent and distracting while watching Jurassic World, but the amount of unintentional hilarity here is staggering. It makes your jaw drop just as many times as Spielberg's first film did when you originally saw it, but it's much funnier too, from the inventive horror behind some of the deaths to the audacious stupidity behind certain characters. If this had been a little more like a Jump Street-style winking parody of the Jurassic Park franchise, I would have no hesitation in calling it a masterpiece.

Jurassic World isn't a good movie, but it's a superb Jurassic Park sequel. It has a low bar to clear with the previous two instalments, but its flailing reaches for the heights of the first film are admirable and supremely entertaining. It's a majestically silly blockbuster, more in the vein of Gremlins 2: The New Batch than anything else, and I would only count that against it because its deadpan moralising and rubbish dialogue means that it genuinely doesn't seem like they meant it that way. If so, then it quickly becomes the thing that it pretends to hate, but if you really want to enjoy a dumb blockbuster this summer, there's much mirth to be had in watching it wrestle with itself.

Jurassic World is now showing, in 2D and 3D, at cinemas and IMAX screens nationwide. Follow me on Letterboxd for more reviews.

I'm Mark the mad prophet and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

No comments: