Monday, June 29, 2015

Jurassic World

Starting with an apology. Sort of. Yes, I know that I'm three weeks late on this one. But, hey, I was out of the country. I seriously contemplated going to see it in Denmark, because how cool would that be. Fortunately, I didn't waste my vacation time on this.

Short version: The effects were spectacular. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard were both really good. The direction and cinematography were both good. But the script was a godawful mess. And that reduced what could have been a really good movie down to something I wouldn't mind having on in the background while I work.

As this is likely to be a generally unfavorable review, I want to make sure to start on a good note. Whatever else can be said about Jurassic World, the effects were marvelously well done. There were moments when I actually had to remind myself that these weren't real animals. Given that this was the entire raison d'etre of the movie, I'm glad that they nailed it.

So let's jump from the really good to the really bad. The script for this movie clearly suffered from too many rewrites, too many studio notes, and just generally too many hands. The entire subplot around the family was hacked up into dozens of pieces without the connective tissue to make it either coherent or moving. The subplot around InGen was equally messy (I never could figure out what their connection to the corporation that ran JW was). And I won't even go into the gaping plot holes around a park that has already had a major breach having such ridiculously lax and convoluted security measures.

The interesting thing is that there are nuggets of a good script in there. I feel like at one time, there was actually a great movie that could have been made. The family subplot is neither novel nor particularly relevant, but it could have been used to make us really care about the two boys. With just a little more real emphasis, maybe the InGen plot could have clicked (like, oh, they are jamming/tapping communications and that's why cell phones and radios keep conveniently not working). Claire's character has the potential to be interesting, but it gets buried under a heap of cliches.

Bryce Dallas Howard did the absolute best she could with the material she had. And, in the end, that was basically good enough. It's not going to win her any acclaim, but she also has no reason to be embarrassed. Similarly, Chris Pratt was handed a role with absolutely no meat to it, but managed to fill it out through raw charisma and a sexy smile.

Personally, I found the callbacks to the original Jurassic Park to be both ham-fisted and unnecessary. Why was that building even still standing? What purpose did that entire sequence serve, besides nostalgic pandering? I mean, I get putting nostalgic pandering into a reboot. It makes sense. There were a number of nicely handled easter eggs sprinkled through this movie. (Though I'm curious if anyone knows why the grill was named "Winston's", because I haven't figured out that reference yet.) But an entire callback sequence either needs to serve a point (oh, hey, here's the original lab, why is it still turned on?) or needs to be quick.

My overall rating is: inoffensive and pretty. It is something I won't mind stopping on when it comes on FX, and leaving in the background. But it is not something that anyone needs to make an effort to go see. (If you do choose to see it, though, you should try to see it on the largest screen available.)

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