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Monday, June 15, 2015

Jurassic World: Pretty Dinos; Mediocre Storytelling

"Jurassic World" was a letdown. The dinosaurs look as real as cinematic dinosaurs have ever looked. The storytelling is thuddingly dull. I loved the Steven Spielberg / Michael Crichton 1993 "Jurassic Park." During this film I kept looking at my watch. Even the music is used badly here, something you notice in the first five minutes of the film.

The plot: Jurassic Park has been updated to Jurassic World. Two cute boys visit without their mother. Their aunt is Bryce Dallas Howard, spokeswoman for the park. Vincent D'onofrio wants to weaponize the velociraptors, to use them in the fight against Al Qaeda. Chris Pratt is a velociraptor trainer. Jurassic World has genetically modified dinosaurs into indominus rex, a larger version of a tyrannosaurus rex.

Chris Pratt is hot and masterful and deserves a better movie. Bryce Dallas Howard is pretty but lacks charisma. Vincent D'Onofrio's twitchy, creepy opportunist is the single most interesting and menacing performance in the movie, and that includes the dinos.

None of this – the two cute boys, the absent mother, the aunt-nephew relationship, Pratt's animal training skills, the weaponization of velociraptors – matters worth a darn. Each subplot is given approximately five lines of dialogue and four minutes of screen time. BD Wong pops up at the last minute and he acts like a mad scientist for about ninety seconds; that subplot goes nowhere like all the rest.

There are many scenes of people in a control room staring at a large video screen. Sometimes onscreen action is presented in a color-bleached format, to resemble the image on a computer screen. This control-room-point-of-view device serves only to break up the action into smaller, shorter bites, because in the internet age we all have shorter attention spans and we see reality as on a computer screen, don't ya know.

The opening scenes show visitors enjoying the park. Then of course something goes wrong and the I-rex escapes. The I-rex eats a bunch of people. Some escapees find a twenty-year-old Jeep from Jurassic Park days and drive it away from the I-rex. I don't know much about cars but I do know that there is a car in a local parking lot that's been there for three months and two of its tires have gone flat. I would believe that you could make dinosaurs out of amber before I could believe that a twenty-two-year-old Jeep could be driven.

People outrun dinosaurs, if they are people the movie wants to survive. If they are extras or bad guys, no such luck. And why is it such a bad idea to use velociraptors to fight Al Qaeda?

Bryce Dallas Howard outruns dinosaurs while wearing spike heeled shoes. Really.

It's amazing that dinosaurs have one goal in life – to eat as many people as they can – given that dinosaurs and people didn't inhabit the earth at the same time. An aviary containing pterodactyls is broken. The pterodactyls swarm out of their aviary and have one goal – to eat people. All the pterodactyls immediately fly to the park full of humans and start snapping them up as if they were potato chips – you can't eat just one. This is especially ridiculous given that pterodactyls were lightweight dinosaurs who evolved to eat fish.

Animals in nature kill to eat, to defend their young and their territory, and to establish dominance. Killing is hard work and animals conserve their energy. They don't burn up any more precious calories than they absolutely need to. Timothy Treadwell spent thirteen years annoying one of earth's largest land carnivores, Kodiak bears, before one couldn't take it any more and finally broke down and ate him. Dinosaurs in Jurassic World race through forest, swamp, and parking lots, top speed, mile after mile, passing up other potential prey, in order to eat one particular human being. No real animal has ever behaved that way.

I just didn't care about this movie at all. I missed the original. Wayne Knight, the obnoxious fat guy, and Jeff Goldblum, and his priceless pronunciation of "chaotician." I missed Spielberg's magic touch in moments like the impact tremor in the footprint and "objects in mirror are closer than they appear."

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