Because the Future is Fun

Jurassic World – The DragonDark Verdict

Jurassic World

Many minds significantly smarter than DragonDark’s have deliberated over the possibility of alternative, parallel universes existing alongside our own. It’s certainly an intriguing proposition, and one that we’re prone to pondering in the wee small hours. Maybe an evil Peyton Westlake exists somewhere out there, easily identifiable by his absence of a goatee beard and articles that praise the work of Ryan Reynolds. Perhaps a utopia exists, another Earth identical to our own except the Transformers franchise never got off the ground and people have learned to accept just how great Superman Returns actually was. Heck, it’s even conceivable that this site looks very different elsewhere – some kind of home to factual profiles and discussions on the creepy-crawlies, critters and creatures that so regularly face character assassination in the SF and fantasy genres.

One potential editorial for DiscoveryDark (note to self – register that domain name just in case) could be the fascinatingly short lifespan of the mayfly. You’d have to ask an entomologist about the ins and outs as our knowledge begins and ends with pub trivia, but we got to musing on how hype for modern movies endures a similarly short existence. Let’s take Jurassic World as an example; launching into multiplexes last Thursday after a largely apathetic build-up, Colin Trevorrow’s fourquel smashed box office records on Friday, leading to an enthusiastic dinogasm exploding across social media on Saturday. Just as sure as night follows day the backlash erupted on Sunday, with Bryce Dallas Howard’s (admittedly impractical) footwear in particular leaving the Twitterati so butthurt that JP5’s big bad will presumably be a Megasoreass. By the time DragonDark got to see it this Monday the world will have moved on (lets call it the Game of Thrones effect), but surely there’s at least one of you out there yet to see Amblin’s return to the world of prehistoric peril. If that’s you, then we have good news for you; Jurassic World is well worth two hours of your life, if you’re a fan of Spielberg’s original.

“What nonsensical witchcraft is this?” I hear you cry. “There are people who don’t like Jurassic Park?”. Well yes, because this is the year 2015 and everybody hates everything. Trevorrow clearly isn’t among their number, as World homages/imitates (pick your poison) Spielberg’s game-changer throughout it’s running time. That’s not so say this is a clone of David Koepp’s original screenplay, but Parkophiles will spot an abundance of familiar props of varying subtlety, recognisable subtextual commentary on the nature on keeping animals in captivity, and even a handful of shots and sequences that are lifted almost wholesale or reversed from The Beard’s playbook.

The characters, such as they are, are equally familiar. BD Wong’s Henry Wu may be the only returning player but Howard’s Clare apes the Alan Grant arc of swallowing a disdain of children to save young lives, Irrfan Khan’s Masrani is apparently the only billionaire even more benevolent than John Hammond (what are the odds!), and Ty Simpkins’ Gray Mitchell is a Tim Murphy substitute if ever we’ve seen one. Chris Pratt adds some of the finest teeth-gritting running and baseball sliding seen on-screen since the glory days of Marc Singer in V as raptor-wrangler Owen, and Vincent D’Onofrio waddles his way through antagonist duties with his usual oxymoronic combination of odious charisma. This is a very cursory guide to the leading characters of Jurassic World because, in fairness, they are more like tropes than fully developed human beings.

Somehow this isn’t detrimental to the movie as an experience, as this is a glorious return to the franchise that it was fair to consider extinct; 2001 may not have been 65 million years ago, but we’ve already discussed just how short memories can be where movies are concerned. The plot, such as it is, has been largely covered by the extensive promotional campaign; John Hammond’s dream is a reality, and Jurassic Park is now open and fully functional. Alas, the spoiled punters that pile through the gates are over it (“kids think of a stegosaurus the same way they see an elephant in the city zoo”), and surly teenagers such as Nick Robinson’s Zack are more interesting in texting than T-Rexes. New attractions with sharper teeth are the only way to keep the crowds coming, and thus the Indominus Rex is born; a hybrid attraction grown in a lab from a cocktail of deadly dino DNA. Everything will be just fine as long as Phil Tippett does his job and Rex is kept secured in a paddock. Naturally this means the scaly scamp escapes, and proceeds to wreak merry havoc on the tourists.

It’s the dinosaurs that we pay to see in a movie such as this, and for the most part they don’t disappoint – we may all be too grizzled and seasoned to have our jaws drop to the floor like they did in 1993, but anybody in touch with their inner ten-year-old will find something to marvel at here. The trailer gave away a number of money shots (mosasaurus, pteradons and raptors – oh my!), but the set pieces are far more than just an exercise in box-checking saurus-spotting – especially the death from above attack, which takes a solid enough sequence from JP III and makes it truly spectacular. The animatronics are undeniably superior to the CG, but the advances in technology do elevate the adventure; the Indominus skulks around in plain sight and is never less than intimidating, while cameos from countless other species are delightful. A line of dialogue attributed to Masrani early in the movie, suggesting that a dinosaur’s emotional well-being can be assessed by looking into their eyes, is also useful advice; some of the raucous reptiles feel more human than the actual cast thanks to some careful ocular emoting.

As is often the case with belated sequels, Jurassic World largely ignores the later franchise entries and acts more like a spiritual sequel to the original JP, complete with the violence and body count (one character meets a particularly memorable demise) and Brachiosaurus-sized plot holes that such a description suggests. It’s an unashamedly old-fashioned blockbuster, and what it lacks in character development and watertight scripting it makes up in sheer bloody-minded fun. There are punch-the-air moments aplenty as Michael Giacchino’s swelling score pays tribute to John Williams, old friends return and older habits die hard (raptors gonna raptor!), and while the primary players are blander than blancmange some of the supporting cast engender plenty of laughs, particularly a well-written scene between control room co-workers Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus.

Jurassic World is certain to divide opinion, and attract all kinds of criticism; for being brainless, for being scientifically inaccurate, for dressing Bryce Dallas Howard in ridiculous heels while she runs from dinosaurs in jungle terrain, for the crime of being a sequel. Disparage away, cynics, for nothing this site has to say will change your mind. That said, it takes more intelligence and effort than many are prepared to give credit for to make a movie this entertaining (sadly Colin Trevorrow has already announced that he won’t be returning for any sequels, presumably because it’s an exhausting enterprise) – and the Wachowski siblings are entitled to a wry smile at demands of originality, having seen Jupiter Ascending sink without trace while people continue to flock to the superhero sequels they claim to be so fatigued by. This is a rollicking good ride at the movies with a hugely satisfying conclusion, nothing more and nothing less, and holds no claim to be any kind of enlightened artistic endeavor. In a nutshell, despite what the weather may have you believe, the summer has finally arrived.

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