Jurassic World

June 27, 2015
Chris Pratt in 'Jurassic World' (2015)
Chris Pratt in 'Jurassic World' (2015)

Far From the Madding Crowd may have induced feelings of melancholy, but I felt grief stricken upon reading that Jurassic World had broken all box office records in its first weekend. The revenue is now over a billion dollars, and rising, which speaks volumes about the state of popular cinema.

Just because Jurassic World is a late sequel to an earlier blockbuster, it doesn’t mean it had to be trash. No matter how formulaic the project a good director can always induce a spark of life, a moment of humour or style that gives us the wink. One can almost forgive a low-grade movie that acknowledges its own failures.

There is nothing to forgive but plenty to forget in Jurassic World, a $190 million blockbuster, directed by Colin Trevorrow, whose previous feature was a low budget indie called Safety Not Guaranteed (2012). No-one would imagine such a mediocre effort would put a director in the slot to take on one of Hollywood’s biggest pictures of the year. It continues the trend of ignoring recognised auteurs, and giving big-budget movies to directors better known for video clips, TV programs and small-scale features. The theory, one assumes, is that these no-name, less expensive directors will see the assignment as an incredible opportunity and do nothing to oppose the directives of the studio. It also suggests that anyone could direct one of these films.

This attitude extends to the script: an anthology of clichés concocted by husband and wife team, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, in collaboration with Trevorrow and Derek Connolly. There may be an equation here: ‘The quality of a script is inversely proportional to the number of credited writers.’

Then there is the casting formula: Find a hunky, blue-eyed nobody such as Chris Pratt, pair him with a female equivalent in Bryce Dallas Howard, add a couple of cute kids, a pair of wellknown foreign actors, and lots of extras. One would have to pay Brad Cooper and Scarlett Johansson a lot to appear in a film like this, in which acting ability is superfluous to requirements. For Irrfan Khan, who was superb in The Lunchbox (2013), and Omar Sy, who made his name with The Intouchables (2011), the paycheck is compensation for the embarrassment.

The real and only stars of Jurassic World are the CGI-created dinosaurs, who roar and flail around in predictable fashion, after a tedious 40 minutes of foundation laying. During this preamble we are introduced to Zach and Gray (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins), two brothers sent to visit their aunt Claire (Howard), who has a high-end job at Jurassic World, an island theme park filled with genetically resurrected dinosaurs.

Needless to say, while the boys are visiting, a new prototype of dinosaur gets loose and wreaks havoc. Once again Science has overstepped the mark and humanity must pay the price. The only hope of salvation lies with sweaty Owen (Pratt), an ex-naval strongman, who has been bonding with the raptors.

The dinosaurs are conjured from thin air by the wizardry of the computer, the rest of the cast is clipped from cardboard. What’s surprising is that the dinosaurs get some of the best lines. Indeed, the highlight of movie may be the moment when the mega dinosaur gets into a conversation with the raptors. One can almost see the subtitles: “Hey bro’ whatcha doin’ hanging with those dudes? Come over to Big Daddy’s side!”

Although everyone goes “Oooh” and “Aaah” about the special effects, surely there is a point when endless CGI becomes tedious. To compare Jurassic World with Mad Max: Fury Road, is to put a video game alongside a live action, high octane drama that never lets the viewer relax. The effort George Miller made is palpable in the final product, while Jurassic World reveals nothing but contempt for its audience. Who cares about the script? Who cares about the story? Just give ‘em plenty of dinosaurs and they’ll be happy. The box office receipts will do much to enshrine this piece of wisdom ever more deeply in the hearts of Hollywood executives.

Jurassic World
Directed by Colin Trevorrow
Written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly
Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, Jake Johnson, Vincent D’Onofrio, B.D.Wong, Judy Greer
USA/China, rated M, 124 mins

Published in the Australian Financial Review, Saturday 27th June, 2015.