Jurassic World (Spoilers)

Let me preface this by saying I saw Jurassic World in perhaps the worst theater I’ve ever been in because all my friends bailed on me, and by the time they did, all the tickets were sold out for the only time of the day I had available, so I had to buy the tickets at a theater I never go to.  The 3D screen was terrible because I could see 30% of the second eye on the left side of the screen.  And there was no surround sound.  The only audio was from within the screen, which wasn’t even loud enough to startle me awake if I were falling asleep (I didn’t).  Plus I got in 6 minutes late, so I probably missed some exposition about where they were.  But I put it together that they were on one of the original islands, if not the original.  I do not believe the theater experience negatively affected my opinion of the story, but since I missed out on some exposition, and the surround sound experience, I feel like I didn’t get fully into any moment.

Here’s my general feeling about the movie:

If you go into the movie expecting to ignore the main adult leads (you know, the way we pretend Orlando Bloom wasn’t in Pirates of the Caribbean, or that Giles was never in Broken Arrow), and avoid comparison to Spielberg or John Williams, it’s a very entertaining blockbuster movie which would stand on its own merit if the others didn’t exist.

I thought it was fun and gave lots of good allusions to the first.  However, it was frustrating that IT WAS THE SAME DAMN PLOT, on crack.  Only this time, there were more guests, AND they were aware of the mistakes that were previously made.  Even so, they go ahead and create a new dinosaur, named Indomitus Rex — because four year olds would have trouble saying “Indomitable Rex”.  Oh, I’m sorry, she used another name … “Archeoencephalcochus” or something.   So obviously, it breaks loose, and they make bad decision after bad decision… you kind of Hammond’s nephew in Jurassic Park 2, or the screenwriter of Jurassic Park 3.

I enjoyed it a lot for the imaginative dinosaur scenes.  And the new Indomitus Rex is loaded with really neat monster abilities!

What frustrated me were some early plot-holes, and the main characters’ inability to feel any emotion from joy to fear, sorrow, or aggression.  The two adult leads were a beautiful blonde in white wearing high heels, and a gruff velociraptor trainer who carries himself like a boy scout but responds to actions instead of taking charge.  The female lead is a perfectionist and a bitch about it who pawned her nephews off on some assistant (a nanny) she hired for that one day and had never met before.  The two have this weird relationship where he tries to break her callous shell.  But he wasn’t nearly charming enough for that.

So the movie goes through the motions, through neat little scenes with predictable outcomes (the dinosaur always wins) until its logical conclusion, which actually, I really appreciated.  The ending was surprisingly similar to the original Jurassic Park ending (hats off to ya!) with enough twists on it to keep it fresh.

Beyond plot, aesthetically, the thing I think was lacking most . . . was a good score.

There was no identifiable theme for any of the dinosaurs or characters.  There may have been one theme I liked and recognized twice, but I didn’t associate it with any character of moment in the movie.  The Jurassic Park theme came back once, when the boys stumbled across a hut with Jurassic Park merchandizing and equipment.  It was the piano cue which shot me back to the moment in the first movie when Hammond and Ellie are talking about the Flea Circus over ice cream.  At some point before or after that scene, the Jurassic Park piano theme played as it panned over the merchandise that would never be sold.  Maybe it was actually at the very end of the movie. Anyways, the old music in this scene in the new movie was so immediately powerful, that I realized I hadn’t recognized the music at all before or after that scene.

The other thing I noticed immediately, that I got over pretty quickly, but wanted again from time to time, was lack of Spielberg’s cinematic style.  This movie felt like a mix between epic helicopter shots and coverage.  Spielberg doesn’t do coverage for a talking scene.  The characters are moving or directing the camera to follow some motion.  The camera is moving.  The characters may talk over each other.

In action, you have action, dolly and pan, cut-on-action, dolly and pan, cut-on-action, dolly and pan.  You get foreground, rack focus to background.  You get foreground-background two shots.  You get characters running up to the camera and looking past it.

You get many things no director does any more.  And it’s a shame.

There some very Spielberg shots in The Rock, when Michael Bay was still young and he relied more on his more-experienced D.P., who happened to also D.P. Jurassic World – John Schwartzman. Nowadays, Michael Bay does three things:  long elaborate C.G. shots, spinning camera shots, and lots and lots of shorts shots with no panning.  I can’t tell exactly John Schwartzman’s influence on the movie, except to say it looked good?

Again, the whole movie just felt like coverage, with an epic scale.  At least the scale was spot on.  Lots of long shots juxtaposing massive animals with tiny humans.  Well done.  If you didn’t hook me with Spielberg-isms, you did well on the grandeur.  And the helicopter shots.  I loved every one of them – and there were lots!


A Commentary as The Plot Unfolds

So we follow the story of an over-worked female park manager who hires an assistant to watch her nephews who have flown all the way out to Costa Rica to spend two days with HER.  When her sister (the boys’ mom) finds out, she cries.  She doesn’t get angry, she cries that their aunt won’t even set aside time for the kids.  So the kids run away from the assistant and explore the park themselves.

Meanwhile, a non-chalant boy scout is demonstrating how he had trained a pack of velociraptors to mildly respond to his command – for the first time (well I assume so, because a co-worker says “You finally did it!”).  A military dude watches this demonstration and tells him basically “Tell me how to do it, so we can train them as bunker busters”.  Side note—this was one of my subplots for my own take on Jurassic Park, so I was pleased that they included it, but displeased that there was no tact to it at all!  He straight out said “Tell me how to do it, join me, or we’re doing it on our without you.”

So the kids run off to an orb ride, where there’s a glass sphere that rolls about Jurassic World in herbivore expanse.

The boy scout––okay, he’s not a boy scout, but he carries himself like a troop leader, with a voice like he’s barely out of high school––is brought in to assess the new dinosaur Indomitus Rex – who we haven’t seen yet.  He realizes there’s a large scratch on the wall, like it was trying to climb out.  They ask command where is the dinosaur.  The computer indicates it’s not inside!  So they assume it’s left the cage!  The girl gets in a car, and heads to the command center.  She phones them on the way and tells them to turn on the tracker on the Indomitus Rex.  Herein is annoying plot-hole number one.  Why would she leave the compound if she thinks the Indomitus Rex is out and about.  Wouldn’t she call from within the building?  And why don’t they have the tracker at the console that indicated the dinosaur was not in its cage?

Next, our boy scout and two or three workers enter the cage to inspect the scratches.  Annoying plot-hole number 2.  Why is he wasting his god-damn time inside the cage when the god-damned monster is out and about?!!  That’s not a hero to me!  That’s an idiot.  Besides the fact, he’s casually strolling about as if there’s not rush to be anywhere.

When the girl gets the command center to turn on the tracker, the tracker indicates that the dinosaur is actually in cage.  She has enough time to call our boy scout but only moment before the dinosaur rears its face.  They start running away, and the dinosaur chases after them.  All sense of scale and speed is lost because it appears that the dinosaur needs some time to catch up to them, even though they’re only about 50 feet away.  So he grabs one of the workers with his arms.  Not stunted t-rex arms, but long human-like arms with dino claws.

One of the remaining workers gets to the gate, and begins to open it up for himself.  Never mind that there is a giant dinosaur he would let into the park as he runs out the gate without shutting it.  He sort of turns back to shut it or maybe the boy scout does it after he runs out, but the dinosaur gets to the door and shoves it open.  Now it’s genuinely loose.

Now is an allusion to J1.  The worker who ran out first hides behind a car, and the dinosaur slowly creeps around to assess them car and him.  Meanwhile the boy scout cuts the oil line of the car he’s hiding under and douses himself in oil.  It calls to mind that earlier the girl made fun of him for smelling saying the Indomitus Rex has good smell. So after the dino eats the worker, he approaches the truck that the boy scout is hiding under, sniffs about and moves on.  I guess you can argue, he couldn’t see him under the truck, and he couldn’t smell him so he moved.  But when I saw the movie first, I thought he was blind like the t-rex and needed smell to guide him.  I think I’m wrong.

So then, he disappears into the park; the northern region, far from the populated areas.  Except that the rolling glass balls are free to roam in that area.

They all meet at the command center and the boy scout gets mad: how can you not know it’s in the pen?  “We use thermal sensors to detect where it is.” (Oh yeah, THAT’S a great idea!)  We mixed its genes with other reptiles and amphibians; it must have learned how to chamoflauge its heat signature.  (Oh yeah! THAT SOUND FEASIBLE!).  “Well that thing is really smart then.  It left those claw marks to make us THINK that it had escaped, so we would open the gates and let it escape.”  (Well, I don’t think that the dinosaur had that in mind – in fact, it is a very unlikely plan – so NO.  I’m not on board with that.)

Now what do we do?

We have staff trained to handle loose dinosaurs.  We’re smarter than Jurassic Park.  Our boys will go to work.
You’re going to kill it?

God no.  That’s a multi-million dollar asset.  We’re going to tranquilize it.

That’s a bad idea.  You beefed up this dinosaur, you won’t tell me what’s its capable of, and this girl doesn’t even know!  You’re sending those men to their deaths.

They’ll be fine.

Ok. I guess so. I’ll stick around here, and watch.

Sure enough, they get out there, find out it’s killing for sport, and that its tracking device has been clawed out! And while they’re look at the tracking device, the dinosaur attacks and kills them all.  No one gets a good shot off, and when they do, it’s not strong enough.

See?  Your men are gone.  You have evacuate this island.

No.  Let’s just move everyone inside.  We’d never re-open if we evacuated.

But people are going to die. (You should have told them “You’ll never re-open if people die! And they already have!”  I keep waiting for the hero to take charge.)

No.  We’ll find it in time.

To which I’m wondering how?  It’s got no tracker.  Your combat men are dead.  Aren’t you worried about your nephews?  Don’t you know about Jurassic Park?

Moving on.  Now the boys in their glass ball find an opened door in the gate.  “They’re telling us to head back. Ride’s closed.”  “Come on, Let’s live a little.  Screw the rules.  We’re VIP.”  (Of course.)

Sure enough, they run into the Indomitus Rex.  Pretty awesome scene.  They barely survive.

The glass ball had a tracker, which the Aunt begs the Boy Scout follow – in his gas jeep.  But the boys have moved on – the tracks indicate they escaped.  The Aunt tries to be all rough and tumble, but comically comes off like a model (at least they’re self-aware).  I’m later told she went through the entire movie in high heels.  And she was wearing white.  As for our boy scout.  He’s not scared.  A little frumpy.  And completely passionless.  They sort of have chemistry, but I don’t see her or her character being interested in this guy because he doesn’t seem very commanding.  In fact, I’m surprised he’s still alive right now, considering the only weapon he has is a field rifle.  Maybe a handful of shots?

So here I am interested in which characters?

The boy scout who has to be told to take action.  Who wanders around in an “empty” cage as a killer dinosaur is on the loose.

The female lead who pawned her nephews on some assistant (nanny) she hired for that one day?  Who is a perfectionist and a bitch about it.  Who cannot emote the entire movie: joy, sorrow, or aggression.

The CEO/financial investor who was actually pretty cool and can-do; who is in town for the day (to see the Indomitus Rex), but is making all the bad calls?

The army guy who wants to train velociraptors but has the presence of Dan Akroyd?

Or the boys?  The boys.  Who just learned that their parents are getting divorced, whose Aunt abandoned them.  One of which is an angsty teenager; the other a know-it-all (or know-all-the-dinosaurs-all) upset with his parents’ break-up.

Then, the guys in charge load a gun to a helicopter and go chase after it.  There’s only two helicopter pilots on the island, and the one who flew in is missing – probably lost in the ride closures.  So the investor/CEO is the pilot.

They find it in the park, but it gets into an atrium, and lets the flying dinosaurs free.  They flood out of the area, crashing into the helicopter on accident, sending it crashing to the ground where it explodes.  Then for some reason, they continue on to the park and attack guests!!  Pretty awesome.  But something about crowd scenes lacked Spielberg’s style.  It felt very TV.  Almost just plain coverage.

So the movie moves along through predictable outcomes (the Indomitus Rex always wins) until its logical conclusion, which actually, I really appreciated.  The ending was surprisingly similar to the original Jurassic Park ending (touche!) with enough twists on it to keep it fresh.

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