Meet Indominus Rex, a designer dinosaur with the brain of Hannibal Lecter and a cloaking device like Predator! Steven Spielberg steps back and lets a pro team put together the most-likely-to-earn-billions entry imaginable for the Jurassic Park franchise, where dinosaurs love to eat people, but not cute kids or privileged heroes. The special effects are better than ever in 3-D.
Blu-ray + DVD
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
2015 / Color / 2:1 widescreen / 125 min.
Street Date October 20, 2015 / 34.98
Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, BD Wong, Judy Greer, Lauren Lapkus, Brian Tee, Katie McGrath, Andy Buckley.
Cinematography John Schwartzman
Film Editor Kevin Stitt
<Original Music Michael Giacchino
Written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly, based on characters by Michael Crichton
Produced by Patrick Crowley, Frank Marshall
Directed by Colin Treverrow
Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Is a review even necessary? Jurassic World broke most box office records and pulled in its billion-dollar take in record time. Everybody saw it, especially families; watching dinosaurs chow down on helpless humans is good wholesome fun if done tastefully, and if nobody we care about becomes dino kibble. There’s not much more really relevant to say beyond congratulating the pro filmmakers on their perfectly constructed blockbuster attraction. I think the last Jurassic Park sequel was at least fifteen years ago. This show outpaces the others by far, upping the excitement quotient in all departments.
The movie incorporates self-referential humor as a part of its main theme. This new dinosaur amusement park has found it necessary to up the ante. “Lion Country Safari” — like excursions into dino turf are possible in self-propelled bubble vehicles. Instead of Namu, the park has a colossal aquatic Mosasaurus to splash and wow the spectators in the grandstands. In the constant flood of dialogue exposition (well done but still a weak link) we learn that the theme park, just like filmic contenders for movie blockbuster status, can’t just keep giving the public more of the same. Living dinosaurs? Old hat. Reconstituting extinct prehistoric reptiles isn’t enough for the fickle public, as they demand a Love Interest… wait, that’s a different movie. They demand bigger and scarier thrills. Jurassic World’s scientists provide a super dino that’s bigger, smarter and more aggressive than any other. But can the park’s staff keep it under control?
Frankly, if this movie teaches us anything, it’s that minimum-wage employees couldn’t be trusted to keep goldfish from becoming a deadly threat. The park = blockbuster movie analogy breaks down immediately, in that the movie is far better organized. The park is a lot like that Italian cruise ship that turned on its side, and its captain decided to jump ship. When an emergency occurs in Jurassic World, the park guests are left to the mercy of pre-recorded generic public address messages. The brainless kids at the turnstiles whine to nervous customers, “I just work here.” The zillionaire playboy big boss Masrani (Irrfan Khan) has left too many details to his underlings, while the head gene-splicer Dr Wu (BD Wong) is a Frankenstein who’s sold out to the military spooks. ‘Privatized’ military ambition is represented by the testosterone-charged Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio). His sex drive is so invested in weaponry that he can’t help touching people he thinks he’s motivating with his war-play / foreplay battle jargon. Hoskins is deep into the bio-weaponizing ideas from Aliens. He froths at the mouth to think he’ll be able to command trained Velociraptors as shock troops in our next war.
Jurassic World is the logical next step for the franchise, very neatly turned out. It’s a remake of the first film, except that Jurassic Park saw Michael Crichton’s dino Disneyland self-destruct before it even opened. The two sequels followed with dinosaurs being grown or reproducing on their own elsewhere. This one returns to the Westworld concept. The park is a going concern, yet ceases operation in just one afternoon, after a catastrophe that everybody should have seen coming.
The movie is clueless about wealth and privilege. Disneyland has priced-out everybody that can’t plunk down $100 + for a single ticket; so I assume that Jurassic tickets cost a fortune. The old movie Westworld is a playground for decadent rich people that want to play out various fantasies; the fun is watching them freak out when Yul Brynner and the rest of the robots fail to answer their roll call and ran amuck. Here in Jurassic World only specially chosen rich folk and ‘special’ people get to survive. Everybody else is fair game for those fast-chomping ‘raptors and the bottomless-bellied Indominus Rex. Our pampered ‘special’ kids and our heroic adult leads are definitely special.
Audiences fully accepted the film’s kids Gray and Zach (Ty Simpkins & Nick Robinson), whereas I have little sympathy for them. They’re being sent on a special vacation to a lavish, fabulous destination, and they act inconvenienced. The parents are soooo into these entitled little spuds. Their helicopter Mom expects her sis Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) to drop everything to prove her sisterly worth, and is enforcing her will with constant teary-eyed phone calls. Claire is considered a selfish flake because she doesn’t play mother hen. She instead assigns the boys to her assistant. A clueless nanny type, this poor woman is shown little respect by the boys and zero from the filmmakers, who use her as the butt of jokes. Beverly Hills kids will immediately identify with this.
A different scale of privilege works when it comes to who lives and who gets devoured. When all heck breaks loose, we don’t see children or mothers killed, just a few faceless male customers. And whatever you do, don’t show a dog or cat being gobbled up, like in The Lost World. That kind of reckless insensitivity is no longer acceptable in Hollywood family fare. But Jiminy Jurassic, it’s open season on working people. The soldiers are given non-lethal non-weapons to subdue a quarry with a PhD in reptile ruthlessness. It’s no surprise that they are all wiped out. Nope, the mercenaries’ Life Function Readouts flat-line identically to the away team victims back in Aliens, expiring one after another on the big video display. Hoskins’ special troops pointedly resemble vile Blackwater mercenaries, just so we don’t worry about what happens to them.
But the movie really has a grudge against punch-clock employees. To run their rides, Jurassic World hires dull-brained mouth breathers. The security staffers are inattentive dopes that couldn’t prevent a dinosaur fossil from escaping. These third-class dino snack-people get eaten up left and right, and pretty horribly, as if being un-cool exempted one from survival privileges. The most appallingly insensitive death is saved for Zach and Gray’s chaperone-lady, who is just trying to do her job. They ignore her and run away, and she weathers their thoughtless disrespect. Her reward is to be the patsy in a monstrously cruel sequence designed as a fancy joke, complete with a bigger joke for a capper. Everybody laughs as she’s consigned to a horrible fate. What fun!
What’s wrong with having some wickedly cruel humor? Jurassic World sets itself up as a principled family film and expects us to take its characters fairly seriously. There are some good emotional details between the boys, true. But the real lesson is that some people matter and others don’t. The rich, beautiful, privileged and pampered have a wild adventure, and everybody else must play amusing victims. I’m actually (choke) conservative on this — to my mind Jurassic World fails the civilized values test. S.L.O.D.* lists it as mildly morally objectionable for all. (*Savant Legion of Decency.)
The movie skates through its character scenes. Although the actors are charming, the uptight Scarlett / macho Rhett romance stuff between Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire is just terrible. You’d think George Lucas had volunteered to donate some of his specialty, scintillating dialogue. Modeling millennial characters after the sex-talk in things like The Big Sleep is a bad idea that just gets more popular. But Ithe makers of Jurassic World know they’re simplifying the characters down to one dimension. The blockbuster audience rejects dramatics more complicated than that in Marvel Superhero movies. This show is just what a contemporary blockbuster needs to be: clear and bold, with everything obvious. Like Billy Wilder said, all the subtleties have been made obvious, too.
Working as an ugly counterpoint are the ‘nerd’ couple up in the control room, Vivian and Lowery (Lauren Lapkus and Jake Johnson). She’s a mouse and he’s a fanboy and the movie seems happy to label them as likeable losers. In the context of this movie, Lowery makes what is a very noble gesture, staying at the helm to help those he can. For his trouble he becomes the butt of yet another joke (“I do have a boyfriend.”) I’d much rather see the deserving Vivian and Lowery hit it off than watch the purebred leads swap smart remarks. And what about Miss I-can-run-a-mile-in-high-heels Claire? With every park official blown up or devoured, Claire becomes the ranking Jurassic World executive. Her responsibility ought to be the safety of all those helpless park guests in her care. Well, they all can go play with the pterodactyls, because Claire mostly abandons her post to perform personal errands. In the world of post-Spielberg family values, being true to Family means other responsibilities don’t exist.
Let’s talk about the good stuff in Jurassic World. The filming, the direction, the designs, are all tops. The park is actually fairly credible, and so detailed that we don’t stop to worry about how much of it is real, and how much is CGI. In fact, the film is so awash in entertaining production value that we start believing the dinosaurs are real. Colin Terverrow doesn’t let Spielberg’s franchise down. If anything, the show has fewer show-off shots than Spielberg might use. We get the usual quota of non-suspense suspense scenes. Gee, the plastic bubble of this vehicle is cracking. Will Indominus eat up the kids? The Nickotime!™ arrangement of disaster films is in force as well. Important cast members can repeatedly escape slicing jaws and smashing tails with just inches to spare.
Indominus Rex is a terrific monster foe, a designer dino. He’s a souped-up, industrial strength hot rod tyrannosaur with a few extra dorsal spikes. A helpful clue to his super-powers is shown only in a deleted scene: as Crichton imagined in his book The Lost World, the beast has the power to camouflage himself like a stealth Predator monster. Of course, in effect it makes him all but invisible. Where’d Dr. Wu obtain that particular gene, from Casper the Friendly Ghost? Making Indominus more intelligent than the average bear is the best touch. This thing is as wily as a fox. He escapes from his paddock the same way Hannibal Lecter broke jail in The Silence of the Lambs, by fooling the turnkeys into thinking he’s already gotten out.
The Velociraptors are handled quite well, even the idea that Owen can train them, to a degree. They work in a pack, like the “Doberman Gang.” The script and Treverrow’s direction allow us to anticipate and follow the Velociraptors’ shifting allegiance between Alpha Daddy Owen, and Alpha Daddy Indominus. The masterful monster battles are great fun, even when they stretch things for the sake of a good surprise. That Mosasaur does seem to be rather outsized, as big as your average Polaris submarine. It figures in an especially slick trick for the finale, lurching thirty feet onto the sidewalk to grab an unwary dinosaur. Terrific! But if the Mosasaur can do that, why hasn’t it been eating park guests all day long? It should be able to pluck bunches of them right out of the grandstands.
Jurassic World was THE show last summer for every average filmgoer on the planet to go see. And there’s no crime in that. I’ve read two newspaper show biz pundits so far this week, that seem concerned that a new Spielberg-associated production, a normal drama, might not have a shot at ‘Jurassic’- sized box office returns. That the business can regard a movie a failure because it doesn’t do Jurassic business, shows how misaligned the movies are right now.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment’s 3-D Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD of Jurassic World Is an expertly crafted encoding of the big-theater experience. I got a lot of the same theater kick due to the excellent 3-D, which is easy on the eyes yet always adds an extra feeling of presence.
The 3-D disc carries two extras, in 3-D. An interesting set of outtakes includes a clearer explanation of Indominus’ inbred talent for making himself invisible. Chris and Colin Take on the World is a chat between director and star. They remember the first film from when they were kids.
The other extras are on the 2-D disc. There’s a half-hour making-of show with input from crew and cast. I like to look at these to see which of the enormous sets were actually on camera, and which were added in digital post. Other featurettes cover the visual effects, the film’s technical set pieces, a look at some details that might slip by, and a montage of Nickotime™! close-call moments from the four previous films in the series.
The DVD copy is just the movie, with no extras, and a printed code allows one to make the internet download connection for the Digital HD copy.
This movie gives us a jungle survival chase with big dinosaurs, attractive people, and almost no downtime to worry about the kinds of issues I mull over up above. Jurassic World has more than enough fun to make it just as entertaining at home. It’s also a great workout for a home 3-D setup. Now if they could have just skipped the goofy scene of ‘riding motorcycles with the raptors.’ That infantile idea must have been a childhood fantasy of one of the filmmakers.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Jurassic World 3-D Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD
Sound: Excellent English, French Spanish
Supplements: Featurettes Welcome to Jurassic World; All-Access Pass; Innovation Center Tour with Chris Pratt; Chris and Colin Take on the World; Dinosaurs Roam Once Again; deleted scenes,
Deaf and Hearing-impaired Friendly? YES; Subtitles: English, French Spanish
Packaging: One 3-D Blu-ray, one flat Blu-ray and one DVD in keep case in card sleeve.
Reviewed: October 25, 2015
Text © Copyright 2015 Glenn Erickson