jurassic world (2015)
Jurassic Park, Spielberg's 1993 monster movie, is a cult classic whose fan base has only now, over two decades later, found its identity; a splintered group who probably never knew they existed until Universal announced that, at long last, a fourth installment of what will now be known as the Jurassic franchise was finally on its way. No one could have foreseen that the same passionate fervor that overtook Star Wars fans when the special editions were released in the late 90's would suddenly spout from the massive number of closeted Jurassic Park fans who never knew of one another. I'm sure no one could be more thrilled than Colin Treverow, who now basks in the limelight of a cultural perfect storm that gives new meaning to right place, right time. Turns out, people fucking love Jurassic Park. It wasn't just a stride forward for special effects (as once thought), it literally captured the imaginations of a generation with its adventure and intrigue, memorable characters and poignant sound bites relating to the philosophical underpinnings of scientific and technological advances. The release of Jurassic World has brought a swell of hype spelling out that a long-buried truth has finally come to light and 1993's Jurassic Park is not just a fun blockbuster, but a cinematic masterpiece. I'm thrilled that the mole hill that begat this mountain is getting its day, and as a kid, the release of Jurassic Park and the summer of plastic dinosaurs, dinosaur-related candy and cereals, dinosaur books and dinosaur clothing (Yes, I had all of these things) it brought with it was great. The film itself is a great ride full of the voodoo that Spielberg do. Wait a minute, this isn't a review of Jurassic Park, we're supposed to be talking about Jurassic World.
The real show here is not Jurassic World, obviously, it's the cultural wave it started. Jurassic World's most memorable image of the "whale" Mosasaurus, suits it. In a film whose key image we're supposed to walk away with is probably designed to be Pratt riding a motorcycle with Velociraptors or even the genetically modified hybrid dinosaur causing destruction OR maybe a bunch of Pterodactyls swooping down and killing tourists, the one that sticks is the big thing, that no one suspected was there, jumping out of the water and splashing a crowd of people. The film has two things going for it. First and foremost, it moves. While part of what the initial film had going for it was its quieter moments of pondering man's place in the food chain, the sequels lacked any of said substance and also lacked in the thrills category. While Spielberg's The Lost World is a better film than literally anyone will give it credit for, Jurassic Park III was a debacle to say the least. Jurassic World doesn't hold back, nor does it stick to formula, with developments at a consistent pace that keeps the film going by sheer thrills alone. Secondly, it's a Universal Studios throwback that does a better job of capturing the spirit of Cooper's King Kong than Jackson's King Kong did. My praise for the film ends there (and Jackson's King Kong is a better film .. go figure), as the rest of the picture messes about in all forms of juvenile braying. Yes, the target-audience does indeed love their tales of mustachioed manly mens' masculinity trumping all forms of flora and fauna, including beast and pants-wearing human females like Bryce-Dallas Howard. Jurassic Park deftly asked the question of whether or not humans should mistake their Darwinian dominance for an invitation to play 'God'. Jurassic World chooses to ask "Yo, whose balls you think are bigger, bro?" in this endless parade of dudes and dinosaurs. No wonder we yearn for 1993, Spielberg, we didn't know what we had! Our heroes the first time around were mathematicians and paleontologists - Good luck getting any of the ex/present military or corporate spreadsheet-making characters on display this time around to wax on chaos theory. Jurassic World reminds one of what's happened to blockbuster filmmaking since the original's dawn of Computer-Animated effects. Our roots are no longer in the slasher genre, with monsters slicing the hell out of the poor saps who cross their paths, no more slasher morality either where the pure and innocent are spared while the nefarious meet their doom. This is actually a positive for the film, but a negative for human culture who views someone "annoying" talking too much on their cell phone as cause for dismemberment .. spoiler I guess, though it doesn't matter anyway. Jurassic World is deliciously unaware of itself, so the full range of stupid is on display with little tempering. How thrilling it is to watch as the dinosaurs break from their cages and wreak havoc on everyone's favorite thing to hate: tourists! Is there no better metaphor for the modern first-world than the family on vacation in a resort environment? For a generation the prides itself on conspicuous authenticity, who would find it a more prestigious vacation to live in a mud-floored hut for 2 weeks than luxuriate by the pool in the Bahamas, a deep chord is struck. Die, consumers, die.
Yes, Jurassic World has it all, even some well-placed jabs at the military/industrial complex. and honestly had garnered a deep sense of thrill-seeking satisfaction until it arrived at its final act. Suddenly, my worst fears were realized. The most influential movie to come out in the last 10 years, also produced by Spielberg, the Jurassic Park of this generation's day, was none other than Michael Bay's Transformers. The parallels were clear, the questions it raised about fan culture, who was driving the decision-making in Hollywood, what we once called "fan fiction" and now call "screenwriting" - all of it came crashing down as Jurassic World's final action sequence played in front of me. A wave of nostalgia. Remember the days I looked at films like Pirates of the Caribbean and Troy and thought of them as lesser films to the 'real' blockbusters being put out by 'legitimate' filmmakers? Well, no more! Welcome to the new high bar. The film becomes an embarrassing melee of dinosaurs that exhibit inexplicable levels of human qualities, the most likely answer being that the entirety of Hollywood's current-gen CG artists have been bred on filmmakers like Lucas, Jackson, Spielberg and the rest trying to add "performance" into the creatures they create. Jurassic Park's strength was that the "creatures" were animals and never exhibited anything but animalistic behavior. Jurassic World presents a master class in everything-wrong-in-current-filmmaking, like a refinement of juvenile, masturbatory filmmaking. What a tangled web, the modern blockbuster. It used to be that this style of filmmaking was for the mass of 'regular' folks out there. Has the niche become the mass? Has the herd of internet-dwellers and their fantasies infiltrated and taken over the asylum of film studios they once sought to do their bidding? Yes, it's true.