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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Jurassic World movie review: lack of humility before blockbusters

Jurassic World yellow light

I am the prime demographic for this movie, and I found it only sort of inoffensively blah. Chris Pratt: He’s no Jeff Goldblum.
I’m “biast” (pro): love love love love love the original trilogy (yes, all of them)

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

I cried, my geek peeps. I cried at the opening of Jurassic World. Not at the bit where a baby dino cracks itself out of an egg, though that is awesome and in the world of this movie you know that someone has created @EmergencyCuteDinoBabies on Twitter and it is Everything.

No, I cried at the helicopter shot swooping in over Jurassic World — the park is open! — because I want this to be real. Why isn’t it real? Why haven’t we scienced into existence dinosaurs right outta the past? I know the whole point of this franchise is to highlight how probably incredibly stupid this would be but I wanna see a brontosaurus, dammit. I had a recurring nightmare as a kid about dinosaurs — including superscary T. rex — walking around the streets of the town where I lived, like right near the mall and everything, and even though they were frightening I loved those dreams. I walked down the streets of New York in the early 90s reading Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park in an already dogearred paperback — this is the only book I can say this about — because I could not put it down even during the process of getting myself from one place to another.

The first Jurassic Park film was one of the movies I thought about when I first started writing film criticism, as I pondered whether I would be able to find things to say about movies for more than a few months. I even really like the second and third films, which I know a lot of people, even major dorks like me, have problems with.

Basically, I am the prime demographic for Jurassic World.

And I found it only sort of inoffensively blah.

You cannot imagine how disappointed my geeky self is at this. MOAR DINOSAURS, I screamed. And I was mostly thwarted.

Here’s the thing: Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Lego Movie). He’s no Jeff Goldblum. He’s no Sam Neill. He’s not even Bob Peck aka Robert Muldoon the raptor keeper or Pete Postlethwaite the big-game hunter from The Lost World, who are closest to what his raptor wrangler Owen Grady is supposed to be. I don’t blame Pratt per se, even though I really don’t see why he is considered a movie star, he’s just not that interesting though I’m sure he’s a very nice guy don’t troll-bomb me bro. I blame the script, which lacks almost all the humor of the original series. (Product placement is not a decent replacement, but dear god, this movie seems to think chain-corporate logos are sneakily funny.)

But damn if the ghost of Ian Malcolm doesn’t hang over this movie, saying things like “That’s how it starts, first comes the ooing and the ahhing, later comes the yawning and the snoozing” and “They were so preoccupied with whether they could make a sequel to Jurassic Park that they didn’t stop to think if they should” and “That is one big pile of shit.”

No, that last is not fair. Jurassic World is not that bad. But it ain’t very good, either. It’s the people who are a problem. The dinosaurs are still realistic (which is cool). But the people border on the animatronic. The characters here are not vivid like those of the original trilogy are. I kind of don’t care if they get eaten by dinosaurs.

I can’t even with Bryce Dallas Howard’s (50/50, The Help) Jurassic World administrator Claire Dearing, whose job is sort of vague but seems to consist of her being an ice queen who is a Bad Aunt to her nephews (Ty Simpkins [Insidious: Chapter 2, Iron Man 3] and Nick Robinson [The Kings of Summer]) who are visiting the park. We don’t get a good sense of what her actual job is, beyond how it brings her into contention with Grady, Raptor Whisperer, who is all These Animals Have Rights! while she is all Corporate Profits! Then she slowly starts to remove her clothing while they run around getting chased by dinosaurs, and she smiles when someone refers to Owen as her boyfriend even though he isn’t. Cuz that’s what ladeez do! Owen also gets to sexually harass her for laughs, haha. If only the movie were making a point about how men can sometimes be the real prehistoric monsters. But it isn’t. The movie thinks he’s cute.

And it’s not like the dinosaurs are really all that amazing, either. This is one of those movies that, I suspect, thinks it has built-in responses to potential criticisms… like how the dinosaurs are sort of more-of-the-samey as what we’ve seen before. See, Jurassic World the theme park exists in a world in which genetic engineering has been bringing dinosaurs back to life for the past twenty-something years, so an entire generation of kids has grown up with the idea that dinos are living creatures, boring zoo animals like elephants or something, not amazing creatures out of the history books and legend. Which means that everyone is really blasé about, like, baby stegosaurus petting zoos (OMG). Which is why Ingen mad scientists (like returning B.D. Wong, now in full-on villain mode) have cooked up Indominus rex, a combination of T. rex and if you cannot guess which other dino species you have not been paying attention.

But in the big climactic dino-battle finale between T. rex and I. rex, it’s really difficult to tell the difference between the two of them. And even worse, it’s kinda hard to tell whom the movie thinks we should be rooting for. I think it ends up reversing Bob Muldoon’s clever-girl respect for smart lady dinosaurs, but even now, I’m not sure.

I don’t think Ian Malcolm would approve.


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Jurassic World for its representation of girls and women.


yellow light 2.5 stars

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Jurassic World (2015)
US/Can release: Jun 12 2015
UK/Ire release: Jun 11 2015

MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate threat, occasional bloody moments, action violence)

viewed in 3D IMAX
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Mila Swan

    Jurassic world and park: 4 movies in one minute. Parody

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIFIY54YBJs

  • LaSargenta

    Indominus rex, a combination of T. rex and if you cannot guess which other dino species you have not been paying attention.

    T. rex + Mad Max?

  • Eyes of Texas

    What do you get when you combine a group of B rated actors, an unproven second string director, a script that’s been 13 years in the making, and a $150M budget for special effects? Oh, yes, add two sappy precocious kids and a PG-13 rating so you don’t alienate families with kids. The result is Jurassic Park 4, aka Jurassic World. Suspend reality (again) where actual velociraptors were the size of a tom (male) turkey and try to sell audiences on the idea those same fake velociraptors not only become good guys, they can be attack trained, saving not only the day, but Hollywood hopes, also saving the movie and its $200+M investment. For further disbelief add one Mosasaur, make it the size of the Titanic and able to leap from the water, just like Shamu.
    If you’re intent on spending $50-100 for a family outing it’s your choice. Remember you’ll be able to stream JP4 or buy the discs before Christmas. Instead check out the novel “Re-Creating the Cretaceous: a Tale of Survival.” It’s the story Hollywood should have made into a movie. Its recreation of dino DNA is more detailed and original than M Crichton and Hollywood ever envisioned. There’s no triceratops petting zoo or velociraptors jumping through hoops of fire. Featured in “Re-Creating the Cretaceous” are numerous newly discovered, menacing avian, aquatic and terrestrial creatures who defy Hollywood’s imagination. “Re-Creating the Cretaceous” is an adult novel with graphic violence. Best of all, it’s available now.

  • Jurgan

    Moral of Jurassic Park: Dinosaurs are too dangerous to control and a theme park with them will never work! Until we decide to make a sequel. Also, I wish they’d done the dinosaurs with feathers. I’d like to see that done well to shut up the fanboys who are all “but that wouldn’t be as cool!”

  • Alex

    “Here’s the thing: Chris Pratt. He’s no Jeff Goldblum.”

    No, he isn’t. Pratt has more charisma in one finger than Goldbum in his entire body.

  • Then you might enjoy this movie. That’s great. You’re using criticism correctly: you took something from my review that will help you decide whether or not to see the film.

  • Trey Patch

    I have to say I didn’t hate the kids. I normally hate kids in action adventure movies. That is a plus. I also like the final scene between the two techs during the evacuation. It is a good contrast to the main protagonists.

  • Jim Mann

    I liked it a lot more than you did, and in part that may be because I liked Chris Pratt’s character a lot more than you did. When you say “He’s no Jeff Goldblum,” my reaction is “thank god.” As much as I loved the first Jurassic Park movie, the one place it let me down was that Ian Malcom didn’t get eaten by a dinosaur. I really disliked his character.

  • Eyes of Texas

    What do you get when you combine a group of B rated actors, an unproven second string director, a script that’s been 13 years in the making, and a $150M budget for special effects? Oh, yes, add two sappy precocious kids and a PG-13 rating so you don’t alienate families with kids. The result is Jurassic Park 4, aka Jurassic World. Suspend reality (again) where actual velociraptors were the size of a tom (male) turkey and try to sell audiences on the idea those same fake velociraptors not only become good guys, they can be attack trained, saving not only the day, but Hollywood hopes, also saving the movie and its $200+M investment. For further disbelief add one Mosasaur, make it the size of the Titanic and able to leap from the water, just like Shamu.
    If you’re intent on spending $50-100 for a family outing it’s your choice. Remember you’ll be able to stream JP4 or buy the discs before Christmas. Instead check out the novel “Re-Creating the Cretaceous: a Tale of Survival.” It’s the story Hollywood should have made into a movie. Its recreation of dino DNA is more detailed and original than M Crichton and Hollywood ever envisioned. There’s no triceratops petting zoo or velociraptors jumping through hoops of fire. Featured in “Re-Creating the Cretaceous” are numerous newly discovered, menacing avian, aquatic and terrestrial creatures who defy Hollywood’s imagination. “Re-Creating the Cretaceous” is an adult novel with graphic violence. Best of all, it’s available now.

  • Beowulf

    Were it not for the 3D, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD would be just another Thomas Hardy potboiler. So, does the 3D add anything to this movie?

  • Er, what?

    No, the 3D adds nothing.

  • Bluejay

    T. rex + Mad Max?

    There *is* a dinosaur in Mad Max. It’s called toxic masculinity.

    http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s–5u3QSryd–/c_fit,fl_progressive,q_80,w_636/drsfldi2qecm9xtaigot.png

  • bronxbee

    oh good! i have one less competitor for jeff goldblum’s attention! ;-)

  • bronxbee

    wait — is Jurassic Park based on the Thomas Hardy Novel: Far From the Madding Dinosaur Park, or the one that was the Mayor of Jurassic Park?

  • Danielm80

    Please God don’t let Seth Grahame-Smith read this thread.

  • Allen W

    I liked it for the spectacle, but plot…meh. I had serious issues with Bryce Dallas Howard’s administrator abandoning her post to go hunting her nephews with Pratt, never mind not stopping to don sensible shoes before overland trekking. Would she have made a difference in the control room — maybe, maybe not. Yes, she discovers her inner-Ripley at the end (and that shot is very Aliens-esque), but too little, too late.
    You’d think after the 1st movie they’d have an alarm that goes off the moment the animal population count in a pen/paddock is higher or lower than expected and not wait to check it manually. There are a few other dumb decisions, but that one

  • amanohyo

    A 3D Madding Crowd would be kinda cool – sheep falling at the camera, Troy’s blade whizzing around your head, raindrops filling the screen during Fanny’s final hike, the carnival, Boldwood’s last stand… 3D period romance, I ship it. I ship it hard.

    In all seriousness, if Cameron had originally shot TItanic in 3D, the box office gross would have formed a green hole massive enough to reverse every wire transfer on Earth.

  • I would love to read Hardy’s Jurassic Park.

  • Yeah, they’re not very good at security at Ingen, are they?

  • Allen W

    With that one exception, Asset Containment is actually quite good at their job. They’re the ones who insisted that the I.R. paddock walls be made higher, which was in fact sufficient to keep it contained. They’re mainly let down by management (and user error).
    My biggest security gripe is that the Gyro-balls are apparently user-guided, with no provision to automatically return to base. I was hoping that the kids would at least have to override the autopilot with their VIP armbands, but no (maybe that was edited out)?

  • Allen W

    So: Nice guy in the control room does *not* get the girl.

  • Beowulf

    Exactly!

  • Summeriris

    I saw this the other day. It was the most predictable movie I ever saw. But that Bryce! She can outrun a TRex in stiletto heels with ease, something a jeep had a problem doing in the first Jurassic Park

  • I wondered why the gyros would be user-controlled, too.

    It made me think of Hammond moaning that the doors of the automatic jeeps in the first film should lock and not be openable by the occupants.

  • DarkMagess

    I like Chris Pratt well enough. Guardians of the Galaxy is the only other thing I’ve seen him in, though. And he seemed absolutely at home in that part, I imagine because of the comedy. I don’t think he’s a Bruce Willis. But I think he’d be a good Indiana Jones.

    I’m surprised that the original film was PG-13. I remember it being a lot scarier. Of course they also tagged it as a thriller, which this one was not. And it really felt like that was missing. Any sense of shock, distress, or tension. I’m not sure why I didn’t feel those things. People were in danger often enough.

    I honestly thought that when Owen kissed the girl, it was going to be a self-conscious “they do it in the movies” moment, because it felt so unnatural and out of left field. I wanted it to be like the moment in the control room later, where at least the guy was aware he was being a cliche and consciously acting out a scene.

    Something about using the T.rex like they did makes me think he’s the American Godzilla.

  • Beowulf

    “…he’s the American Godzilla.”

    Wow, great takeaway! Yeah, him roaring over the remains of the island was great.
    You never get over your first love. T-Rex was JP’s star,

  • Bluejay

    It’s not the first time the series has referenced Godzilla. There’s a moment in The Lost World where the T-rex chases a bunch of terrified Japanese businessmen down the street.

  • krismuse

    I like that they bothered to include an offhand comment to explain why they didn’t have feathers – to give the people what they wanted, ostensibly. But then again, the park is all about creating bigger and “better” dinosaurs, and lots of people nowadays DO want to see feathered dinos (so far, that’s the loudest critique of the movie I’ve seen online), so that’s not a very satisfying explanation. :

  • Mike McDonald

    Many would beg to differ. Just a small sample from critics over the years. Goldblum has ” always been blessed with oodles of charisma, “Simmering sexiness.”,”You can’t take your eyes off him”,”sensuality lord knows he has plenty”,”steals ever scene he’s in.”Pratt is a likeable enough fellow. Even if he doesn’t know what impotent means. Goldblum is a one off. A stand alone. Also see Buzzfeed’s 33 reasons Jurassic World is going to be the worst and Huffington’s 11 times Jeff Goldblum was the sexiest.

  • You can’t convince someone of another person’s appeal like this. Either an actor works onscreen for you, or he doesn’t.

  • The movie is a metaphor for itself: We need bigger and badder dinos to get people re-interested!

  • RogerBW

    After that spot of bother in London in the 1970s, the Dinosaur Squad makes sure it never happens again.

  • AJ

    Awful movie. What were they thinking? They actually made dinosaurs boring!?

  • Matt Clayton

    And it’s not like the dinosaurs are really all that amazing, either. This is one of those movies that, I suspect, thinks it has built-in responses to potential criticisms… like how the dinosaurs are sort of more-of-the-samey as what we’ve seen before.

    That’s actually one of my complaints about Jurassic Park 3, apart from the abysmal script and rooting for Tea Leoni, Alessandro Nivola and William H. Macy to get eaten. Your feelings about JW summarize my feelings for JP3.

  • Matt Clayton

    The Mosasaurus, aka the Shamu-saurus, was pretty damn cool. The trained raptors aspect I thought was handled sensitively and made more sense than it did on paper.

    I don’t get why Claire runs around in her heels throughout, and I question why Bryce Dallas Howard chose to do that. Either her heels would’ve broken in the melee or thrown aside… even in Tim Burton’s Batman Kim Basinger’s character removed her heels when climbing out of the Batmobile to run down the street!

  • RogerBW

    I suspect that many of us here are puzzled as to why any woman would choose to wear heels in the first place (as opposed to having them imposed on her by a dress code of some sort). Perhaps a woman who has made that choice might care to comment?
    The impression I get of JW is that it’s trying to have its cake and eat it: it’s trying to produce ever more new spectacle, while at the same time it’s condemning people for wanting ever more new spectacle.

  • Danielm80

    I’ve decided that instead of seeing the movie, I’m going to listen to Michael Giacchino’s soundtrack and make up my own story in my head.

  • bronxbee

    an excellent point in that essay, indeed. although nothing that hasn’t been said before, generally, by you and other women film critics.

  • BraveGamgee

    That theme has the nasty habit of tugging at my heartstrings every single time.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Yes, it is a good essay. But after hearing about the Migdia Chinea Varela case — in which a quota system designed to help minority screenwriters was used as an excuse to give a veteran screenwriter of Latina descent reduced pay — I am not optimistic about the way Ms. Ritchey recommends the use of quotas as a way of solving this problem.

    True, an imperfect attempt at a solution is far better than no attempt at all but I can’t help suspecting that female and minority directors are better off developing their own support system as well as their own means of fundraising via Kickstarter and the like. This is obviously easier said than done but it still beats waiting for a system that has no present incentive to change to either change of its own accord or to change because of a quota system.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Personally I blame that damn Helen Cutter for the whole mess…

  • Tonio Kruger

    Apparently her mother was Jaime Summers…

  • Tonio Kruger

    I’m waiting for Hardy’s T-Rex of the D’Ubervilles myself…

  • Matt Clayton

    I enjoyed JW myself, minor plot contrivances and characters aside. Everyone has their own opinions… what didn’t work for MAJ might work for you. I would recommend a cheap 2D matinee if you’re on the fence about it. It won’t have the same impact if you choose to Redbox or HBO it.

  • Bluejay

    Perhaps the battle can be fought on more than one front.

  • We keep saying these things, and no one seems to listen.

  • Ha!

  • Emm82

    I don’t want to compete – can we just go for a custody situation instead? :)

  • Emm82

    Thanks for disagreeing without being trollish about it. Nice to see.

  • Danielm80

    I’m not on the fence. I’m standing solidly on the side of the fence where there are no high heels or CGI dinosaurs. But a customer at my library today was reading his kids a picture book about dinosaurs. (It was called Dinosaur vs. Mommy.) He decided the story needed to be more dramatic, so he started humming John Williamsy music as he opened up the book: “Dinosaur vs. Mommy! Dah dah duh DUM!” I think that meets my dinosaur needs for the week.

  • Mike McDonald

    Spot on review. Jurassic World isn’t a patch on the original Jurassic Park. Which is superior in everyway . Read this at another negative review. with a bittersweet smile. No one in JW has the “cracked charisma “of Goldblum.Would have been grand to see him in JW. Dr. M would have had a field day with it and the raptor trainer. Even he couldn’t save it. Needed to throw out that script. But he would have been the best thing in it. Looking forward to seeing Goldblum in the ID4 sequel . At least those producers had the smarts to have him back.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Perhaps.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    …something something zapped by their tracking implants…

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Ugh, this movie. Now, I have no great love nor nostalgia for even the original “Jurassic Park”, but that at least was Spielberg somewhere near the top of his game.

    First and foremost, the dialog was just relentlessly bad. Every time I thought it couldn’t get worse, someone would be asked to deliver yet another scrap of stilted English that no human would ever say. At several points – like when BD Wong is being cagey about the genetic makeup of the I-Rex for no reason than to delay a reveal – I just wanted to yell to the characters, “Look, just pretend we’re not here.”

    This is the worst example of different versions of a script competing with each other since “Green Lantern”. How is it Grady Owen, who must have been on the island for months, if not years, training the raptors, has to have everything about I-Rex explained to him? Why does the movie need “Asset Containment” and “InGen Security” teams? Why does no one ever mention tracking implants ever again once the I-Rex removes hers?

    Meanwhile, neither version of the script seems to be in on it’s own jokes. The movie blatantly lampshades things like “Dorrito-saurus”, and “those ridiculous shoes”, and “bigger, louder, more teeth”. And then it just barrels along through all those things, without shame or irony.

    And I swear, the production team only ever heard of, but have never actually seen, a “Jurassic Park” movie. Use the raptors to hunt the I-Rex… except the (slightly smaller and less dangerous) T-Rex has been the only thing to save the humans from the velociraptors. Possibly thrice, but frack me if I’m gonna sit through a rewatch of “The Lost World” or “JP3”.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    It seems to me that “Jurassic World” has to ignore the existence of either of the sequels. I can recall no mention of Site B. Claire claims that an evacuation of the island would mean Jurassic World would “never reopen”, but the park’s current status, in light of the San Diego incident, would seem to contradict that statement. “JW” clearly indicates that the events of “Jurassic Park” occurred in 1993. It claims that Jurassic World has been operating with guests for at least a decade, and (less clearly) places its own events here in 2015. If we then assume that “The Lost World” and “Jurassic Park 3” also occur, in-universe, in years corresponding to their release dates, that means less than 5 years passed between the events of “JP3” and the opening of Jurassic World. I’m not sure that makes any sense. (To say nothing of the closing shot of “JP3”, with the pteranodons flying off Isla Nublar toward the mainland. What happened to them?)

  • Martin

    I’m still not sure if that point was intentional or an accident but I’m currently leaning on it being an accident. It’s just too on the nose.

  • Martin

    I wasn’t impressed by the new i-Rex at all. It’s set up as this walking nightmare and all we get is a slightly more involved design of T-Rex.

  • Martin

    I’m more puzzled as to why when challenged about her shoes, she fusses with her top to make it skimpier as if that’s a relevant rebuttal, let a lone a point.

  • I agree.

  • She distracts him with her boobs. Just like a girl!

  • Mike McDonald

    Just read a review of the new Jurassic Park/World Lego game. “Best of all Lego Jeff Goldblum. Swaggering, winking charm offensive that is hilarious.” Even in Lego form Goldblum steals the show.LoL.Also saw a poll asking which character would you like to see in the sequel to Jurassic World. #1 Goldblum’s Dr. Malcolm . No surprise there.

  • susmart3

    Agree with you about Chris Platt, he was so bland he might as well have been part of the wallpaper. Jeff Goldblum made all the Jurassics watchable.

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