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That’s got to be a metaphor for fucking something.

Jurassic World would be an embarrassingly stupid and pandering movie if it didn’t have so many things going for it. And this is almost in spite of itself. Jurassic World is a pretty good time while you’re watching it, but a lot of stuff doesn’t hold up when you sit down and think about it. Even then, though, the movie is full of spectacle and (sometimes accidental) glimmers of awesomeness. It’s also criticizing the exact thing which it happens to be, and with that comes a certain degree of cognitive dissonance that accounts for much of the stupidity. The pandering comes from its total reliance on the still-amazing Jurassic ParkWorld “spares no expense” and no fucking dignity in reminding you that it is the bastard offspring of that far better and far more coherent film.

And yet… and yet… Jurassic World isn’t quite as stupid as some would have it. Nor is it such a huge crime for it to be reminiscent of Park and aware of itself as a mega-budget creature feature. The whole project started out with director Colin Treverrow taking a leap beyond the establishment of a Park that actually works and all the way to what happens when people get bored of it, when the people running it get complacent or greedy (again) or, even worse, creative. This is a cool idea, and the movie even tries to explore it. However, even as it thematically punishes hubris and showmanship for its own sake, it traffics in exactly those elements, delivering as bombastic and “more more more” a movie as can be imagined. That is a weird balance and World never strikes it with the cleverness of, say, The Lego Movie, which is kind of a master class in being subversive and commercial at the same time. World isn’t even close to that. But it does try.

Most people will enjoy Jurassic World as evinced by its ridiculous earnings and the fairly good natured reception it has gotten from moviegoers. Critics have been somewhat less kind, for a variety of really good reasons. Where I fall into it is basically some sort of middle ground between acknowledging the flaws in a deeply flawed movie, and also being able to put that aside and appreciate what it gets so right. In theory, anyway. I had a sense before sitting down to write this that I might write myself into a negative review. We’ll see.

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That these two have a history before the movie takes place does a lot to help get their dynamic going.

Jurassic World is the best park ever. It’s hyper futuristic, safe, a hotbed of cool biotech research, and it’s got dinosaurs! Two brothers, Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) are sent there to see their aunt, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is a key administrator. Their parents are going through a rough patch, and Zach is leaving a pretty devoted girlfriend behind with a cartoonishly “teenager” disinterest (he ends up chasing girls half the movie)… and neither of these threads ever goes anywhere. But don’t worry about that! It’s not important. Because hey man, there are fucking dinosaurs in this park!

Including a new one cooked up by fiendish Dr. Wu (BD Wong) who is still around and a bit more of an asshole than he was in Hammond’s day. The Indominus Rex is a hybrid dino made to really get the people excited about the park again. This is a recurring theme in the movie, by the way, this idea that the park is somehow not performing. A lot of characters mention that they need to get more and cooler attractions and shit, but there is no real evidence that people are bored with the park. Zach is a bad example because he is bored of everything besides teenage girls, until he comes face to face with Indominus, and then he cares about dinosaurs again so maybe that’s… uh… a good example then? WHATEVER IT’S NOT IMPORTANT. Everybody loves the park is what I’m saying. Until, that is, pterodactyls with giant fucking heads come and maul them.

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Meanwhile…

Aside from the new mutant dinosaur, there’s also a training program led by ex-Navy guy Owen (Chris Pratt) who has built a kind of rapport with a pack of velociraptors and is getting pissed off about how Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) wants to weaponize them. In true Bond-villain fashion (I’m talking like weird old Bond, not new hotness) Hoskins is inexplicably certain that raptors and possibly other dinosaurs are natures predator drones and hooo boooy does he gots plans for them. It was Hoskins that was sort of the key in understanding that Jurassic World isn’t really trying to be anything other than a ridiculous cartoon, which made it a lot easier to deal with its foolish and hilarious moments and subplots.

Anyway, the Indominous can’t be contained by mere mortals and it quickly tricks its way out of its paddock to sport-kill its way through the rest of the park. This sets of a chain reaction of events that basically derail the whole fucking place, and threatens to derail the whole fucking movie along the way. As cartoonish as World insists on being, the Indominous is one place where it really goes too far for too long. This… character… is basically whatever the movie needs it to be and it becomes painfully obvious that not a lot of logical thought is backing up the various things it does or the fact that the people who created and bred and raised it had no idea it could do things like camouflage itself or speak raptor. This stretches credulity past the Hoskins-Dino-Soldiers hilarity and into “our audience are fucking idiots anyway” territory. I can handle a movie that revels in its own stupidity provided its honest about it. Treating the audience like idiots is a big no-no for me.

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Not that giant dinosaurs really care.

The Indominous gets loose and the Two Brothers go missing in the park after an ill-advised detour. This forces Claire to ask Owen for help getting them back. The bulk of the movie’s fairly good second act is spent moving pieces around toward a pretty fucking memorable climax. Along the way, Claire and Owen have sass-offs and Owen postures about being a badass or about how dinosaurs and animals are precious and Claire should start respecting them. There’s a strong current of respecting non-human life in the movie that is largely free of the “natural order” bullshit that Michael Crichton believed in and infused the original film with (cuz of his book!). World has a more evolved attitude, fed through Owen, in that these things are here and they’re animals and not products and we should respect that. Okay, and this is the one place where the movie can criticize the Park (and itself) without running into the problem of being what it’s criticizing. After that, it gets into the bread-and-circuses logic of bigger and better gimmickry and showmanship, known problems for big dumb movies… which is definitely a thing that Jurassic World is part of.

A lot of people are saying that Howard and Pratt have no charisma, so the relationship falls flat or overdoes the “uptight woman, cool worldly man” cliche. One of the things I actually really like about World is that it’s so fair to both of these characters. It’s still a problem that Claire is the only female character in the movie, but she’s a badass in her own right who quickly rises to the challenge of the park disaster and provides key saves and ideas that make her every bit the hero that Owen is. Like Mad Max: Fury Road, this is a movie where the female and male leads are allowed to kinda share the action hero glory. In Fury Road it was part of the theme and DNA of the movie, but here it’s more accidental. The movie always reminds us that Owen is the cool hero, and rewards him for it, but it’s Claire that changes from uptight robot to hyper-competent savior and the movie seems pretty okay with that. So does Pratt, who gives her a big reward kiss when she saves him from a bird dinosaur. That said, the boys still prefer Owen which seems like it’s going to pay off with an undercut somewhere… but never does. Still, I appreciated how much cool shit Claire does, and how much cool shit Owen does, and that there was room for both of them to do cool shit.

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For example, the most iconic and awesome moment in the film.

On top of that, the relationship between Gray and Zach is pretty good, and maybe better than the movie deserves for how much time it spends on it. Zach is, like we’ve discussed, a bit of a ponce, and his brother is a cool if sensitive kid who really wants to hang out with his big brother and look at dinosaurs. With their parents on the rocks, they are realizing that they’re all the other one has, and the way they bond when the chips are down and the big mutant dinosaur is up is kind of touching. Then again, I’m a consummate sucker for stories about brothers. As far as emotional cores go, though, this isn’t enough to anchor the whole movie.

The key relationship should have been between the kids and Claire, but that basically doesn’t go anywhere. She can be inferred to have warmed up to them and learned something about being more human than corporate automaton, but it doesn’t really gel or cohere in the way that Grant’s thing with Hammond’s grand kids did in the first movie. This one is really lacking for that magical Spielberg touch of wordless character development, I’d say.

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The hamster ball is a cool idea!

It might be best to see Jurassic World as a monster movie more than as something trying to be that and something else, the way Jurassic Park pulled off better than maybe any other movie that ever bothered. Seriously, one of the things you’ll take away from World is just how good a fucking movie Jurassic Park is. This one is riding those coattails so hard that it actually rises slightly above pandering, some of the time, and becomes respectful in service of introducing the franchise to a new audience… which is the goal, in spite of all the callbacks and reliance on the original, which is something more common in remakes or reboots than in sequels. The closest example of a similar relationship is that of Tron and Tron: Legacy, two movies separated by as many or more years and just as full of awareness and reliance of a predecessor.

That said, there are missing links (see what I did there?). There’s no real awe or wonder in this movie, and it’s been replaced mostly by posturing, cartoonish indulgence, and a lot of cool gizmos and simplistic moralizing about hubris. Any character in this movie who even begins to have an ego or ambition is summarily punished by explosions or dinosaurs, even likeable-if-douchey Marani (Irrfan Khan). The one exception is the noted death of Claire’s assistant, who gets such a ridiculously violent and zoomed-in death that it’s a truly bizarre moment of “what the fuck did the actress do to deserve this?” in the middle of a movie that is otherwise pretty sane, if stupid.

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This is one exception. The Bronto’s death scene is like the meaner, less elegant child of the sick Triceratops scene in the first movie… but it definitely works in underlying the “respect for these animals” theme and is a beautiful moment in general.

Even without true awe or wonder, though, Jurassic World offers plenty of spectacle and the kind of shit that makes you go “awesome” because awesome now means something different than “full of awe”. I mean, this is the movie where Chris Pratt rides a motorcycle alongside a bunch of raptor bloodhounds, hunting a giant rampaging dinosaur. Everybody saw that in the trailers and even the people who laughed at how ridiculous that shit is were delighted and cheering deep down at the level of action figures and Saturday Morning Cartoons. On top of that, there’s a big fight between the Indominous the same T-Rex from Park, teamed up with the lead raptor. And even though that shit makes no sense whatsoever, and even though the end has the Rex and Raptor basically give bro-nods before wandering off into the jungles of Isla Nublar… WHATEVER IT’S NOT IMPORTANT.

What’s important is that you get to watch this dinosaur fight you never even knew you needed to see. It’s indulgent in a good way. A delightful way. You’ll be happy you got to be alive in a time of Chris Pratt on a motorcyle riding with raptors, and a raptor teaming up with a t-rex to fight an asshole. And ultimately, if I’m right about that then Jurassic World has got something to offer and is not just another empty-headed big summer movie that fails to make sense of its own storyline and themes while insulting its audience. This is a pretty fun movie, and most of that fun is earned.

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Of course I was gonna post this picture. What the fuck did you think?

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