June 17, 2015

Podcast Episode 60: We Root For The Dinosaurs In JURASSIC WORLD

Well that went about as well as expected.

What is there to say about Jurassic World?  It is a film which is at best problematic, and at worst complete garbage.  But then again, it's not as if The Lost World and Jurassic Park III really left a high bar to clear.  We all have fond memories of Spielberg's original and with good reason.  It's not only a fun and visceral piece of popcorn entertainment, but it's also a film that's brimming with great performances, compelling characters and sharp opinions on the scientific process and its sometimes dodgy relationship with morality and commerce.  It is, simply put, an all timer.

Jurassic World is none of those things.  Sure, you've got some fun set pieces and lots of crazy dinosaur action that, taken on its own, mostly works.  And it's fun to see what an actual working version of a dinosaur theme park would look like, even if some of it seems pretty half-baked.  I'm looking at you, nifty transparent gyro-ball car that is inexplicably autonomous with no safety measures.  (Seriously, how is that thing allowed to travel into restricted areas and why doesn't it automatically return to the gate when the ride is shut down?)  Then again, the idea of raptors being trained as some sort of military spec-ops unit is exactly my kind of ridiculous.  At one point someone compares them drones.  Seriously.

The main problem is that, while the dinosaurs all look great (though I wish they'd employed some more practical effects) the human characters and their relationships are all very poorly rendered.  Whether it's the two kids with their dramatically inert divorce backstory who exist solely as MacGuffins to be rescued, Irrfan Khan's well-meaning but oblivious benefactor or Vincent D'Onofrio's goateed asshole whose villainy is as ill-defined as his occasional southern accent, none of these characters ever gain any emotional traction.  The only characters who are able to provoke any kind of strong reaction are Chris Pratt's Owen and Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire.  Unfortunately that reaction is one of abject hatred and disdain.  Both are boring and two-dimensional on their own, but when paired together they threaten to single-handedly destroy the entire film.  Director Colin Trevorrow aims for this sort of old school, screwball comedy vibe that is executed in such a tone-deaf manner that it actually left me hoping against hope that both of the protagonists would end up devoured by the Indominus Rex, a genetic hybrid dinosaur whose abilities vary wildly (and are promptly forgotten) whenever the script seems to have backed itself into a corner. They might as well have named it Conveniensaurus Rex.

I mean sure, I guess you could "turn your brain off" and just enjoy the dino-mayhem and Jake Johnson's delicious snark.  But all Transformers movies to the contrary, I'd like to think that audiences are better than this.  We should demand higher standards from our blockbusters.  Truly great movies have characters you LOVE and root for, not just empty spectacle that trades on nostalgia and cheap sentiment.  The fact that Jurassic World had the biggest opening weekend of all time IN THE WORLD is more than a little bit depressing.  Maybe there will be a tremendous drop-off in second week grosses, but I kind of doubt it.  My social media feeds are full of people who loved this movie and most critics seem willing to shrug it off on the basis of, "It could be worse."  But I'd rather watch a movie like Tomorrowland which has a point of view and fucks up the execution, or Jupiter Ascending which attempts grandiose world building and sinks under the weight of it's own confusing bureaucracy.  Those movies at least have something to say.  Jurassic World is a snake oil salesman, selling you some slick packaging filled with actual cinematic poison.

Expect a sequel to be announced later this week.

Bart and Jamie join me on the podcast this week where we break down Jurassic World's numeous flaws and also revisit that timeless classic Terminator 2: Judgement Day.  Jamie discovers that the Terminator timeline/continuity is even more fucked up than any of us ever realized.

Next Week: Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (!) and Pixar's Inside Out

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