Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Jurassic World - They're Dinosaurs... Wow Enough?

         These words are uttered by Chris Pratt’s character in response to ‘corporate’ and their notion that it now takes having to create a genetically modified hybrid super dinosaur to satiate the current seen-it-all-before dinosaur theme park visiting audience. Just regular old dinosaurs don't cut the mustard anymore.

        Although undoubtedly also an intentional sly dig by the filmmakers at the state of Hollywood blockbusters today, Jurassic World itself unfortunately falls into the same trap itself, both in terms of its content and delivery.

        Seeing John Hammond’s vision - a fully functional dinosaur park (spared no expense, of course) - in operation is a joy to behold, and these sequences offer much of the imagination and sense of awe that occupies much of the first part of the film. But despite numerous call backs to Spielberg’s (now evidenced by three attempts) frankly untouchable original, this latest film in the franchise falls somewhat short in trying to replicate that JP magic, without really getting why it was so effective in the first place.

        For example, the sequence involving an assault on the gyro-sphere: it apes the iconic T-Rex and jeep set piece in the original Jurassic Park – but has none of the carefully crafted buildup and tension. It’s all over so fast. Similarly, raptors chasing the group in a lab: done in a few seconds. There are no finely crafted and choreographed set pieces that made the first so effective - not to mention also genuinely terrifying.
       Instead we have a scene where there is a lot of screaming and shakey POV camera footage as idiotic and anonymous soldier-types get slaughtered – often off camera. Do they consider modern audience’s attention spans to be so short that these quick fire action sequences are the way to keep them interested?

        Even John William’s iconic score if only teased at certain moments – when really they should have just gone all out and played it over the rip-roaring triumphant scenes toward the closing of the film. Point being, if you are going to go the trouble of repeatedly (and not so subtly) homaging something, at least understand why it worked in the first place and attempt to replicate that.

        There is no doubt that Jurassic World features excellent design and CG work throughout, but it is odd that at times it somehow doesn't quite feel as realistic and believable as it should. Despite the original film being made over two decades years ago, its amazing how that one still trumps World in terms of how it integrates its special effects so effectively – a seamless mix of both practical and CG. Maybe it's the over-reliance on CG in World (even the approach to the entrance gate looks like a video game cutscene!) and the scarcity of practical effects for much of the dino action, that makes them lack some of their physical oomph on screen.

        That being said, there are some terrific vistas and one large scale ‘disaster’ type sequences (the pterodactyl attack) afforded by the advance in technology - where you really get to see the danger of multiple dangerous animals running amok in a crowded theme park. If only the film had more of these chaotic sequences rather than yet another scene of people traipsing through the jungle, just to be somehow snuck up on by a massive lizard.

        It’s not all glum though – there are good instances of humour here and there and a couple of neat reversals, particularly in terms of gender roles and heroism tropes. Overall, however, too many illogical moments and inconsistencies (the brothers laughing and joking as normal together moments after narrowly escaping being eaten alive, Claire outrunning a T-Rex in high heels) make this more of a simply fun and light viewing experience rather than anything truly awe-inspiring one like we may have hoped.

        Is it the case that we can never really truly capture the magic of Jurassic Park ever again? Do we, in this day and age, really have to resort to superpowered Rex’s and weaponised raptors just to keep people interested in the franchise? I guess having ‘just dinosaurs’ really isn’t ‘wow’ enough anymore.

17th June 2015

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