Despite Expanding from a Mere "Park", "Jurassic World" Still Feels Overstuffed Review

Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the manager of Jurassic World, a theme park featuring live dinosaurs. At the start of Jurassic World, she is juggling three major crises. First, her boss Masrani (Irrfan Khan) is pushing for bigger, scarier dinosaurs to feature in the park, and the new genetically enhanced dinosaur, the Indominous Rex, is proving difficult to handle, even in containment. Second, outside forces have more nefarious purposes for genetically-enhanced dinosaurs than entertaining tourists. Thirdly, the resort and park are packed with guests, including Claire’s visiting nephews Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson), who Claire has not seen in years. When the Indominous Rex gets loose and starts killing everything in sight, including other dinosaurs, Claire has to team up with Owen (Chris Pratt), a raptor wrangler and her ex-boyfriend, to take down the Indominous Rex and save her nephews as well as the other 21,000 tourists on the island.

Jurassic World is a summer blockbuster that also wants to be a commentary on summer blockbusters, much like Kick-Ass wanted to be a commentary on the superhero genre. Claire talks about how guests are wanting scarier dinosaurs. Every time they introduce the next big attraction, attendance goes up. As a result, the creatures they are cooking up in the lab are less natural, like over-the-top CGI special effects or touched-up supermodel actresses bent over sports cars. The film taking place inside a theme park also eludes to summer blockbusters being like roller coasters that need to be taller, faster, and more thrilling than anything that came before.

Like Kick-Ass, it is sometimes successful in subverting the audience’s expectations, but sometimes, Jurassic World falls into the very formula that it is trying to lampoon. Chris Pratt’s raptor pack, the banter between Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus, and most of the action scenes, especially the final dinosaur showdown in the middle of the park, are exactly what I want from a popcorn movie. As a theme park nerd, I also appreciated the little nods to the Disney World Resort and Sea World, particularly the importance of corporate sponsorship for new attractions and the prominently-placed Margaritaville. It is a familiar sight to anyone who has been to CityWalk in Orlando.

Unfortunately, where the movie falls flat is exactly where it should be succeeding, which is in the relationship between the two leads. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are both great actors, though I think Howard still hasn’t found the role that shows just how good she really is. With the film poking fun at blockbuster action movies, I hoped that their relationship would shake up the bickering-couple-in-a-crisis formula that pops up so often in disaster movies. Howard gets a few good hero moments, like unleashing a certain favorite dinosaur during the final fight, but some of the dialogue feels recycled and outdated in the worst way possible. Claire likes order and plans everything. Owen wears board shorts on a first date and lives life in the moment. When she pulls up to his camp site out in the jungle, I half-expected to see Derek Shepherd’s trailer parked next door.

Most of their first scene is spent rehashing their one bad date, which I also have to question why two adults are still agonizing over one bad date. Owen makes jokes about her being uptight, and Claire calls him a slob and runs around the jungle in high heels. Isn’t there an extra pair of sneakers kicking around her control room or that research lab? Speaking from experience, no one wants to walk, much less run through a jungle in those shoes. That muddy ground will swallow those heels right up.

Later on, when Owen is helping track down Claire’s nephews, Claire inexplicably starts screaming Gray and Zach’s name, because screaming is always the best idea when a killer dinosaur is on the loose. Owen tells her to shut up, and he tells her that if they are going to survive, she has to do everything he says. Everything going on here has been seen and done before, and the writers can do better. In fact, they did do better in a hilarious scene with Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus’ characters, which happens later on in the film.

The biggest problem with Jurassic World, however, is that its “more is more” mentality extends to the movie’s subplots. Wow, there are a lot of subplots going on. Some of them are unnecessary while others introduce one-too-many conflicts. For example, Gray and Zach’s parents are splitting up, and Gray is really upset because Zach is also going off to college soon. On top of that, Zach has a really clingy girlfriend but is heavy-duty flirting with girls at the resort, and Gray seems to have some problems with his social skills. A lot of his dialogue hints that he might be on the spectrum, especially considering his encyclopedic knowledge of dinosaurs. A movie like Jurassic World doesn’t really have the time or patience to flesh out all of these conflicts, so it begs the question of why introduce all of them? Zach going off to college and Gray struggling to fit in is plenty to put on these characters, and now that they don’t need to introduce those other conflicts, they have the chance to make Gray and Zach more than archetypes.

The subplot that I go back and forth the most on is Vincent D’Onofrio’s secret military plans for the dinosaurs. D’Onofrio’s ulterior motive adds another complication for the heroes that I’m not sure is necessary, but I feel guilty suggesting that the writer should have cut a subplot in which Vincent D’Onofrio is building a dinosaur army. (Yes, I am aware it’s not technically a dinosaur army. He wants to use them more like drones, but “dinosaur army” sounds way more fun.) On the other hand, without the military angle, there is more time for dinosaurs eating tourists, and that is a large part of the movie’s appeal for me.

Overall, Jurassic World is an entertaining but flawed summer movie. The sheer spectacle of the dinosaur fights and moments of humor from Jake Johnson make it the second-best film in the Jurassic Park franchise and an enjoyable Saturday afternoon matinee, but don’t expect more than that.

On a last note, this is the second year in a row where Judy Greer’s talents were wasted in a franchise summer blockbuster film. Last year was Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. In Jurassic World, she plays Gray and Zach’s concerned mother and Claire’s sister. Most of her screen time is spent crying or pestering her sister about when she is going to have kids. Take note, this is what it looks like when a movie wastes Judy Greer.

"Jurassic World" opens June 12, 2015 and is rated PG13. Action, Adventure. Directed by Colin Trevorrow. Written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly. Starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Irrfan Khan, Lauren Lapkus, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, Vincent DOnofrio.

Jun
16
2015
Rachel Kolb • Staff Writer

I love movies, writing, and breaking into song in public. You can follow me on Twitter @rachelekolb or check out more of my work at http://rachelekolb.wordpress.com.

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