Jurassic World: The Review You Won’t Get Anywhere Else!
This review is a special blog post release. I release one piece of content per day on this site, but as I promised on my podcast–Sovryn Tech–I would make this available on the same day as the release of the recent episode. So no new content tomorrow, you’re getting a “double load” today.
The year…was 1993. I was 12 (?). And there were dinosaurs. Lots of them. In the theater. And I was really, really giddy.
Of course I’m talking about the Steven Spielberg opus, “Jurassic Park“, the film based off of Michael Crichton’s seminal novel. Not that it’s a surprise to you, since there is a new Jurassic Park franchise film out this year of 2015 (and its name is in the title).
But that is the first surprise of the bunch here: it’s 2015 and “Jurassic World” is a thing. It’s been over 20 years since the first film awed audiences and almost 15 years since the the entry into the franchise debuted (a movie I enjoyed much more than 1997’s “The Lost World“): “Jurassic Park III“, which came out in 2001. It’s not just Jurassic Park that seems to be getting revitalized this year. A new Star Wars film, more X-Files, a new Terminator movie (not that the Terminator franchise has been on any kind of hiatus as late), and in other forms of entertainment you have a new Mortal Kombat, a new Street Fighter, a SECOND Shadow Warrior game…frankly, we are completely surrounded by the 1990’s right now. And as much as I’d love to go on a tangent about the 90’s (so far) triumphant return, I want to concentrate on the film that I just saw: “Jurassic World“, because really, I enjoyed the hell out of it.
BE WARNED: I consider people that don’t like spoilers–and that viciously complain about it when things get “spoiled”–to be terrorists. Those that hate spoilers are holding the world literally hostage from talking about things, and myself, I don’t negotiate with terrorists. So this is the only warning you get about spoilers ahead.
Let’s do this in sections…
Look, ever since the first film in this franchise, THERE IS NOTHING IMPRESSIVE ABOUT MOVIE EFFECTS ANYMORE. Straight up. There’s no point in talking about it unless it somehow looked bad, but honestly, I’d enjoy it if a movie looked rough around the edges for once. Suffice to say, the CGI was perfect in this film, and everything looked real. There. Done.
This is really important and so I want to get it out of the way early. I don’t know what hole Michael Giacchino crawled out of a decade ago, but he is the greatest thing to happen to music–all music–within that same time frame. From the Wachowski’s marvelous “Speed Racer” to the J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek duology and much inbetween, this guy is the modern day Jerry Goldsmith, and can do wonders with a film’s score, even when it has tried and true themes (which the Jurassic Park franchise has, thanks to John Williams, and the Star Trek franchise has thanks to Alexander Courage). Giacchino’s work in this was not a disappointment at all, and he may have done a more solid score than Don Davis did with “Jurassic Park III” (which is no small feat, in my opinion, as it’s one of my favorite soundtracks). The new musical cues totally fit in with John Williams‘ original framework for the franchise, but it’s somehow largely new compositions. Haunting, thrilling, and awe-inspiring at the same time, it’s everything you could want in a dinosaur film.
Most people barely pay any attention to a film’s music, unfortunately, unless it’s some kind of pop theme, but they are integral to the pacing, action, softer moments of a film. “Jurassic World” is largely what it is because of Michael Giacchino, that’s a fact.
But what is “Jurassic World”? Well, in brief: it is a very worthy addition to the franchise and totally worth the price of admission. It presents and does new things in the Jurassic Park universe, which is exactly what I was wanting out of this film. I wanted old dinosaurs, new dinosaurs, dinosaurs doing things on film we’d never seen before. I wanted a lot of homage paid to the previous entries in the series, so the fanboys (like myself) could get “serviced” proper. And it delivered on all counts. Was the plot anything terribly original? Not necessarily. But it was original enough, and it had some interesting points that I’ll get to here.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to give away the whole plot here, you can find that elsewhere. But essentially, a couple of kids are going to visit their auntie on Isla Nublar (the original island in the series, not Isla Sorna from the previous two sequels), and Isla Nublar is now a massive theme park and resort called, thus the title of the movie, Jurassic World (and that auntie that I mentioned kinda runs the place). This theme park has to find new ways to keep impressing park goers, so they start creating hybrids (a particularly ridiculous small Pternadon-Tyrannosaur hybrid being one such creature), and have come to the point of creating a mysterious new gigantic vicious, intelligent hybrid called “Indominus Rex” that’s a cross between a T-Rex and other things. Indominus Rex breaks free from its cage, of course, and “all hell breaks loose” on Isla Nublar again. Oh, also, there are teams on Isla Nublar that train Velociraptors like they were Navy dolphins or something as there are people at InGen (the original corporation that brought dinosaurs out of extinction and have been the franchise’s villains ever since) that would like to militarize the dinosaurs (believe me, the plot isn’t as crazy as it sounds when you actually see the film).
Now the director of the film, Colin Trevorrow (who did I fine job of directing, but for some reason won’t be directing the next film in the franchise), claims that the underlying theme of this plot is all about the dangers of human greed and excess, particularly embodied in the Indominus Rex, and I can certainly see that. But whatever, I want to get into some nitty-gritty thoughts on what was portrayed here.
THE PLOT POINTS
1. The actual Jurassic World theme park. I loved it. With the pyramid in the center of it all, the holograms of dinosaurs all over the place, the interactive interfaces to learn and quiz about the dinosaurs. The resort accommodations. The gyrosphere vehicles. The labs where all of the “de-extinction” magic occurs. The control center for the park. The monorail through the mountains. All of it was gorgeous, and is exactly what I’d expect a modern-day Jurassic Park would look like. This part of the film is a part that I really enjoyed for the sames reasons that I enjoyed the first 45 minutes of the original film the most: because it was all about seeing humans interacting with dinosaurs in a very believable way. No need for action or violence or any of that shit, just what would it look like if human beings were around dinosaurs. Fantastic stuff, and I very much felt like I was 12 again seeing it. Admittedly, I could have done without all of the overly-blatant “advertising shots” or “product placements” of Brookstone and Margarita’s and other real-world chain stores being shown around the park, but otherwise, it was stunning.
2. Speaking of “product placements”, Mercedes-Benz was all over the place in this film. While I certainly sympathize with the idea that this shows the “human excess”, I think Mercedes being all over the place on Isla Nublar makes perfect sense. First off, it pays homage to “The Lost World” as Mercedes vehicles were used through that film. I feel the same way about the recent Ninja Turtles film: Yes, Pizza Hut was everywhere, but that’s part of the whole 90’s experience, because back then Ninja Turtles and Pizza Hut were hand-and-fucking-hand. It fits, and its part of the history of the franchise. And yes, Mercedes-Benz certainly does fit in a jungle/outdoor situation. Have you ever seen a G-Class Mercedes SUV? They are–and have been for decades–some of the toughest vehicles on the planet, and are taken on many a jungle adventure. So I considered having Mercedes vehicles everywhere to be proper fan service.
3. But speaking of vehicles and fan service: the 1992 Jeep Wrangler. Red and gray. Just as it was in the original 1993 film. It was beautiful to see them. Also in the garage with the Jeeps were those really cool night vision headsets from the first film. Fanboys would be the only people to know what they were as they weren’t actually used in “Jurassic World”, and so once again, the fan service was solid. I would have loved to have seen the wild-colored Ford Explorers from “Jurassic Park”, but the Jeeps were a very welcome sight.
4. Which, while we’re on the subject of a welcome sight…or perhaps it should be “Welcome Site”. That’s right, the original Main Complex from the first film makes a debut. You know the one, where the giant T-Rex skeleton sat in the center (you even get to see the remains of that in this film). Even the banner that the then “living” T-Rex rips to shreds in the 1993 film makes a cameo (and then gets used as a torch). My jaw was on the floor the instant I saw what the characters were entering, because you always wondered what happened that building since the original film. Like I said, this movie pays a lot of service out to the fans, and this was no small part of that.
5. Another interesting bit of fan service that went without many realizing it, it seemed, was the character of Dr. Henry Wu played by B.D. Wong, who was a bit-part geneticist from the original film. It was wild to see him here, being the head of InGen’s lab operations. Not necessarily important to the plot, but it was a touch that I wouldn’t have thought of. It definitely gave you the sense of continuity (if you knew who he was) that the film needed. Otherwise, the only thing connecting it to other movies largely was the constant mentioning of (the now dead) Mr. Hammond.
6. Velociraptors. This movie really shows that Velociraptors are the actual stars of the whole franchise, and they are what matters. And what I realized while watching “Jurassic World” was that I really just want to see the Velociraptors doing there thing (or all of the dinosaurs, really). Like the Jurassic Park video game for Sega Genesis from 1993. It was a wildly successful game because you could actually play the Velociraptor! You didn’t have to be the human, and this appealed to people because that’s what they really wanted. Dinosaur action. This is key: I’m not really going to see a Jurassic Park film to see the humans. Yes, it’s great to see humans interacting with dinosaurs, but the dinosaurs are the main attraction, and I want to see them in action, be it fighting, or living peacefully, or whatever they’re doing, and seeing the in-movie humans fail to reign in that action is enjoyable, too. This might sound strange to some, but I take a certain delight in seeing “nature” stick it to man (not “The Man”). One of my favorite science fiction books of all time is “The Green Brain” by Frank Herbert (of “Dune” fame). The book is about “nature” literally attacking mankind for just going too far. Making things too clean. Too processed. All of it working against humanity’s own health, in the end. Now, this isn’t some kind of environmentalist screed, but it is an ecological consideration (environmentalism is a religion, ecology is a science). The Velociraptors very much represent evolution and nature in the abstract to me in these films, and I enjoy them outwitting any technological and clever efforts that the humans devise. Not that I’m against technology, by any means, I run a tech show obviously, but I do enjoy getting a good reminder that humanity’s attempts to control things outside of themselves is largely a fool’s errand, and the universe will bite you in the ass for it (I think sooner or later, this is exactly what happens to governments, considering that I think the evidence stands up that anarchy is the natural state of existence, SEE: Ants).
7. Indominus Rex. I loved the thing. I seem to remember a lot of “geek” sites saying this was a ridiculous idea a year ago, but I thought the creature was wild to consider and it worked as an impressive villain. It’s essentially a T-Rex and a Velociraptor (and other things) mixed into one. At first the film said that its genetic makeup was “classified”, and I thought it would have been interesting if somehow human DNA was thrown into the Indominus Rex mix, to explain why it was so intelligent, but it being a T-Rex mixed with a Velociraptor worked well enough.
8. Now to that, the hybrids and DNA mixing. While creating new dinosaur types is originally discussed in the film to create more exciting theme park “attractions”, eventually you discover that it’s all about creating “genetically-engineered war machines”. A line in the movie that describes the flaws in military drones is the foundation for the idea of the US military using Velociraptors, and many new creations, as “soldiers” and war machines. While I’m sure this will lend itself to humans literally getting mixed with dinosaurs to be super-soldiers in future films in the series (which would be cheesy, admittedly, but an interesting plot point and a commentary on the nature of weapons in general), I think there is something more to be explored here: Christianity. It was difficult for me to find any kind of reference to this online (this is the best I could find, though I like the fact that it is from 2005), but at a time in my life when I was a Christian, I remember the idea being discussed that some Christians theorized (the same Christians that think the Earth is only 6000 years old) that dinosaurs were wiped out in Noah’s Flood. Not because they couldn’t fit on the Ark (that’s a whole other conversation), but because they were genetically-engineered war machines created by humans! A wild notion, I agree, but many feel that the Antediluvian world (the world before Noah’s Flood) was populated by advanced civilizations that were so evil, that’s why “God” had to wipe them out. I’m an atheist, so I don’t buy the Christian aspects, but it’s interesting that this notion of dinosaurs being genetically-engineered war machines would finally hit the mainstream in the form of this movie. I had heard about it in the 90’s, so it took a while, and I remember ever bringing the subject up (even as an atheist) was met with vicious incredulousness. And that’s fine. But for all of the reviewers of this film to A.) like the film, and B.) think that the idea of genetically-engineered war machines was an interesting concept and could be a future possibility…really just shows that people will generally only take things even semi-seriously if they feel that the crowd thinks its okay to consider it or believe it. Regardless, I thought it was a standing commentary on the idea of genetic engineering, and not robots, being the future of military supplementation (which I have also discussed on my show, Sovryn Tech).
9. Before anyone gets worried about genetically-engineered war machines, however, I think “Jurassic World” has an interesting concept within that solves the problem: “Nature” actively works to achieve its own equilibrium. This can be seen in the exciting classic-Godzilla-esque final battle of the movie, where Indominus Rex gets ganged up on by all of the pre-existing species on the Isla Nublar. The battle with Indominus Rex is one that the humans on the island realize they can’t win, so they unleash a Tyrannosaur, Velociraptors, and even a Mosasaur “jumps in” for the win against the hybrid that is Indominus Rex. The message there? In my opinion, it’s that something so unbalanced in the ecological system won’t be allowed to survive by the rest of the ecological system. Of course this could be applied to all of dinosaurs in general, due to them not having actual complete dinosaur DNA sequences (they are supplemented by tropical frogs and other creatures, so they’re not exactly “natural” in the abstract), but the message holds all the same, in my opinion. I’m reminded of a George Carlin stand-up bit where he made the case that “nature solves its own problems”, and it does. And that’s a powerful concept to consider.
10. Dinosaurs without the feathers is fine. Recent science has shown that many dinosaurs–Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor included–had feathers. While I would have enjoyed seeing them with feathers now (and even the Velociraptors were very much toned down in look from “Jurassic Park III”), I think it can easily be explained away by the aforementioned fact that the DNA sequences of the dinosaurs in the film world are not “pure”, there’s frogs and a whole slew of other creatures’ DNA put in to fill in the blanks. So it’s very explainable, and to keep it attached to the previous films (I loved seed the holographic Dilophosaurus in the new Main Complex, by the way), I think it was a good idea. There’s going to be future films in the franchise, so maybe they can consider adding feathers then, but either way, it’s not a loss in my book, as awesome as it would be to see.
So look, in the end, “Jurassic World” wasn’t a great movie based upon metrics that make Martin Scorsese films great. Like “Jurassic Park III”, it’s great for what it is. A fun time, with some interesting science fiction concepts and messages, and it’s a chance to see a bunch of dinosaurs doing there thing (who couldn’t get enough of that?). It’s not a terribly deep film, no matter what I discussed here. It doesn’t have any messages about family (though some may think there is), the humans in it are just stock fair, and the actors did a good job working with the material that was clearly made to insure they weren’t the stars, which like I said, I think is a good thing in the case of Jurassic Park films. So head to the theaters and check it out if any of what I talked about sounds interesting (it’s totally okay if it doesn’t). Laying down money in the first week of a film is key to whether or not more will get made within its franchise, and that’s something I definitely would like to see happen with Jurassic Park. You can send the market signal that you love dinosaurs. I do.