Cut & Print: The Edge of Jurassic World
In addition to full-fledged movie reviews, comicbooked’s “Cut & Print” can incorporate any and all types of observations about films, even to the point of pondering on a certain aspect of it.
Judging by the box-office numbers, you’ve all seen Jurassic World by now. If not, what are you waiting for? It’s a lot of fun. Indeed, it’s an easy film to recommend to almost anyone. Check out our prior review of the film (not written by me) if you don’t believe me. I would have to say that I agree with every aspect – including the individual and final star ratings – to a “t.” So, go out and see it if you haven’t.
Why are you here? Well there is something about specific about this film that needs to be discussed, a flaw, that while not fatal, does keep at least myself from enjoying the film as much as I’d like to. No, it’s not at all the fact that the film has exactly the same structure, and a very similar ending, as the first film. That’s not a bad thing; indeed, it would have been a mistake for this new adventure to not mirror the first film in many ways. After all, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and one of the many points of the Jurassic Park films is that chaos itself is, indeed, predictable.
We’re not going to go that deep here. The most fatal flaw with this film is simple: it has no edge. It goes through it paces (again, the same paces we’ve seen before in the first film) and the plot moves along at a crisp pace, thanks to a focus script that always knows what it wants to accomplish, so each individual scene has a specific purpose. But where’s the edge? Where’s the sharp commentary, or the biting humor? The film moves along efficiently, but dryly.
I’ve only seen the film once, but there was a moment that had be laughing, but it was a throwaway moment and I’m not even sure if was intended to elicit such laughter. There’s Vincent D’onofrio in the control room, watching with enthusiasm as things start to fall apart, and, to this point, at least, it all will play nicely into his plan. There’s a shot of him enjoying himself in the control room, and he gets his hands on a large soft drink and the cup has a Jurassic World logo plastered on it.
Kind of meta, to watch Jurassic World come apart at the seams while drinking from a Jurassic World cup. I think his expression sells the humor. The moment, however, is a commentary on what these films are all about: how the powers that be were quicker to slap a label on what they were doing and sell it to the public as new and cool, rather than to think it through. It’s the very point that Ian Malcolm made in the first film. The first film also had a similar humorous moment: after the dinosaurs have broken loose, we get a wordless shot of the Jurassic Park Gift store, with one eery smiling stuffed dinosaur, along with a bunch of Jurassic Park merchandise.
Despite the moment I described, the new film really lacks the edge the first film had. The first forty minutes of this picture dragged. Sure, we always kind of wanted to see a fully-functioning theme park with dinosaurs actually realized on screen, so the film takes us there using its two children as our eyes so we can see the various attractions, but it doesn’t quite work. All of the dialogue between the boys and their parents is routine, as is the dialogue between the two boys themselves. More to the point: think about what we are watching here. We are watching two characters who are watching things. We’re not actually at the theme park, they are. As fun and unique as Disney World is, watching someone on screen riding Soarin’ is nothing like actually riding Soarin’ itself. So, in this film, we are watching two boring characters as they set out in the park to watch things. These things that they are watching might be dinosaurs, but the scenes themselves – one after the other – serve little purpose.
The smartest thing about these scenes is that the boys can be preoccupied with their cell phones, and that point says a lot about modern culture, and how young person’s interest can only be held until they receive their next text. The movie was smart to incorporate this theme, but it was not entirely successful, especially since the younger of the two boys really was overdoing it. He always felt like he was acting, and not really seeing these attractions. (Funny, the same kid, Ty Simpkins, was able to trade barbs with the master of trading barbs, Robert Downey Jr. In Iron Man 3) The real problem with these scenes is that they lack that edge: not only do they not really tell a story, they don’t offer anything for the audience to really chew on. Imagine if, instead of the rather straightforward dinosaur theme park we got in this film, that the business people who created the park took it too far. Imagine if they found ways to edge these closer and closer to the realm of satire, where the whole idea of theme parks is played up for its absurdities.
To be fair, there is a bit of theme-park satire in the film: just study the various stores and restaurants on Main Street, where we see most of the patrons milling about before the dinosaurs get loose. There Margarita-ville, there’s the highly corporate “Samsung Innovation Center,” among other nice little details. While subtlety is usually most welcome when delivering satire, something less difficult to make out would be most welcome in this film. After all, the “seven-dollar sodas” (which was spoken out loud and not something that the audience had to squint to see) got one one of the biggest laughs in the film: we need more of that humor, particularly in those early scenes where we go through the motions of the theme park experience.
Spielberg knew this all-too-well when he made the first film, and the theme park wasn’t even open yet. Even the visual gags in that film, such as Jurassic Tennis, was easier to make out. We all got a big laugh at the “Coupon Day” comment because it really was something theme park managers might come up with. Plus there’s always Ian Malcolm pointing out the fact that T-Rexes really don’t about park schedules.
Once Jurassic World hit it stride, it became a better-than-average monster movie: it doesn’t ever break new ground, but it was surely an entertaining ride. Yet, seeing a fully-functioning dinosaur theme park was the main draw of the film, even over the fact that it was a “monster movie (we’ve all seen monster movies before, right?), so I was surprised how little life those theme park scenes had.
Remember the admittedly cartoonish film Gremlins 2: The New Batch? The film had a pretty thin story of monsters wreaking havoc, but it was ultra high tech office building, and that setting allowed the film-makers to build a pretty clever satire of office culture and big-business moguls. With it’s setting in place and the knowledge that the film’s plot, such as it was, was rather thin, the makers of that film weren’t afraid to push the envelope, and to lay the satire thick even before the creatures start to run amok. That’s why the film is still a cult classic: there’s something witty in every frame. There is a lot of humor, wit and satire that could be mined in the idea of a giant corporation opening the ultimate theme park, and it seems that the writers of Jurassic World didn’t see the opportunity right in their face. I can understand the filmmakers not wanting to make this film a farce (which Gremlins 2 clearly was, and they certainly wouldn’t want to overdo it here) but when the the story has yet to grab us and the characters that are supposed to be our eyes into this world (in this case, the two boys) are as dull as dishwater, the audience could have used a bit of wit and even levity.