Thursday, 18 June 2015
Jurassic World (3½ Stars)
This film, the fourth in the Jurassic Park franchise, broke the record for the highest ever box office for the opening weekend, grossing about $520 million. At its current rate of popularity it looks set to become the most successful film of 2015. Does it deserve it? I'll try to give my opinion, while carefully avoiding spoilers for my readers who still haven't seen the film.
The film continues from "Jurassic Park: The Lost World" (1997), the second film in the series. The events of "Jurassic Park 3" (2001) aren't relevant to the film. After John Hammond's death his dream has finally been realised to have a dinosaur theme park on the island Isla Nublar. The park has been running successfully for years. While Ingen retains control in the background, the face shown to the world is a friendly family-oriented business run by theme park manager Claire Dearing. Not content with just bringing old dinosaurs back to life, Ingen is now creating new dinosaurs, by mixing the DNA of existing dinosaurs with one another and other creatures. Their newest creation is an Indominus Rex, a creature larger than a Tyrannosaurus Rex. After all, the public will only return if they see a new attraction each year.
Claire is visited by her nephews, Zach and Gray. The Indominus Rex escapes and runs havoc. The park's Velociraptor trainer, Owen Grady, is recruited to get the situation back under control.
Steven Spielberg was absent from the creative control of "Jurassic Park 3", but his absence is even more clearly marked this time round. At least "Jurassic Park 3" imitated the Spielberg style: an action scene to start the film with a bang, followed by slow scenes that introduce the main characters one by one, slowly building up the pace until the action is packed densely for the second half of the film. "Jurassic World" makes no attempts to be a Spielberg film. It starts slowly, and then the main characters are pushed upon us too quickly for the viewer to get to know them or relate to them. For instance, the children Zach and Grey are obviously an attempt to repeat the first film's pattern of having innocent young children caught up in a catastrophe. Whereas we got to know and love John Hammond's grandchildren in "Jurassic Park", Zach and Grey are just two dorky teenagers that we don't really care about. Claire Dearing is an ambitious career woman who fails to win our sympathy. Owen Grady is thrust upon us so fast that we hardly know him when he jumps into action. None of the main characters are well developed. Ironically, the only characters we can really warm to are Vivian and Lowery, two tech workers in the control room. They're irrelevant to the story, but we can relate to the sub-plot of their romantic attraction. As for Claire and Owen, who cares if they get together or not?
The action scenes in "Jurassic World" are spoilt by poor cinematography. In most scenes the camera is too close to the action, which hides what's really happening. Compare this to the other three films, in which the camera steps back and lets us take in the dinosaur attacks. The only exception is the pterodactyl attack, which is easily the best filmed scene in "Jurassic World".
This is supposedly the first film in a new Jurassic Park trilogy. I hope the next film will learn from this film's mistakes. We need more time to introduce the characters, and there should be well-defined character arcs. And bring back Vivian and Lowery.
One last thought. I've read a lot of criticism of "Jurassic World" being scientifically inaccurate, because we now know that dinosaurs had feathers. Really? Do we know anything at all? That's just the latest scientific theory, the flavour of the month, to be smugly quoted by non-scientists who want to sound smarter than the film makers. The fact is that scientists are just making speculations based on the very sparse evidence that they have at their disposal. 10 years from now, maybe sooner, scientists will have new opinions. There's nothing wrong with that. Science is a slow plodding subject, especially where the distant past is concerned. Let's step back and let the scientists do their work while the film makers do theirs. Apart from this, even if it is true that dinosaurs had feathers, it would be a mistake to show them like that in the film. The typical cinema-goer has grown up with images of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Stegosaurus and similar creatures. If he were presented with large feathered creatures that look like turkeys he wouldn't take them seriously when they attack.