Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi, 124 Minutes, 2015
1993’s “Jurassic Park” [IMDB] is a touchstone for a generation. The movie melded some of the richest, most evolved practical effects ever created with, then, bleeding-edge digital effects to bring every child’s fantasy to life: dinosaurs. After dragging audiences through two stunted, heavy-handed sequels, this movie promises nothing less than a rekindling of that original magic.
Spoiler: It doesn’t do it. There is no rekindling.
The movie is disjointed, predictable and horribly clichéd. It begins by contrasting two sisters, mom Karen (the criminally under-utilized Judy Greer [IMDB]) and workaholic Clair (Bryce Dallas Howard [IMDB]), the operations manager at Jurassic World. Karen is sending her kids to spend some time with their aunt so that she and hubby can settle a messy divorce (a plot point played for two beats and then utterly ignored). Karen is overly-emotional and spends a good chunk of her screen time chastising her sister that a woman’s life is nothing without the miracle of children.
Claire runs through the “working woman” cliché checklist item-by-item. She ignores her nephews to continue working, forgets their ages, reveals that her controlling personality prevents her from having a social life and basically robots her way through the story. That is, of course, until she’s allowed to humanize herself by displaying maternal instincts and liking a boy.
That boy is Owen (the always affable Chris Pratt [IMDB]) the ex-Navy animal expert. We first see him training raptors, being heroic and then arguing with one of our doofus corporate villains. In this case, Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio [IMDB]). He wants to (ridiculously) use the trained raptors as military killing machines. Owen doesn’t like that idea.
Owen’s a down-to-Earth guy, a fact the movie forces on us intravenously. Claire needs to argue with him so that they can build emotional sexual tension. She finds him sitting outside a ramshackle airstream trailer, drinking a Coca-Cola from a glass bottle and fixing up an old motorcycle.
How a freakin’ airstream trailer made it to a high-security, corporate controlled island in Central America is never explained, of course. Having Owen live somewhere other than a battered airstream trailer might force the script to actually develop his character with something ridiculous, like actions or dialog.
Finally, as required by Hollywood law, there are the kids. Claire’s nephews, to be specific. A little one that’s too smart and a big one that’s too cool. Their main job is to do stupid things and force Claire to embrace her feminine side. The little one also cries sometimes. That’s… basically it. They could have been replaced by a couple of those coconuts carved to look like monkeys.
The clichéd characters live within an even more clichéd plot. I wrote at some length when the trailer was released about my concerns with the story. Seeing the entire film hasn’t changed my mind. Where the first movie had an honest, if brief, discussion about the ethics involved there was never a question that those in charge thought they were doing good. As simple as it was, the story had some nuance.
Here, all we get is: “science is bad.” It creates a giant, highly-intelligent, super-predator for no better reason than money, and then lets it escape and wreak havoc. Corporations are bad since they wait too long to kill the monster and then worry about their profits more than people. Governments are bad since they just want to Army everything. All of this spawns a number of mini-threads that, like Karen’s divorce, are introduced, mentioned and then completely forgotten without resolution.
The plot forces the characters to do some insanely silly things to ensure the correct levels of chaos and disaster. The most obvious safety measures and common sense are ignored; often. It’s easy to overlook this in the name of entertainment, but sadly prevents the audience from ever feeling real sympathy for the characters. All too often it’s just easier to think, yeah: they deserved that.
Sadly, the most anticipated reveal in the movie, the genetically enhanced super-dinosaur, the Indominus Rex, kind of… blew. It’s design met the purpose, but was also an uninspired amalgamation of what came before. It was absolutely unworthy of the secrecy and build-up. In truth, similar criticism can be laid at the feet of the movie as a whole.
Ah well. Chris Pratt is always watchable and there are definitely some fun scenes. If you can check-out, mentally, enough to ignore all the silliness, both obvious and implied, you’ll probably have a pretty good time. Still, it does bear repeating: the magic is gone.