Released: 21st June
Seen: 30th June
I think it’s fair of me to state that Jurassic Park is one of the greatest movies of all time. From a pure visual effects point of view, it might just be the greatest. That movie was revolutionary, a film that somehow made everyone watching it feel like Spielberg had managed to wrangle actual dinosaurs to put on screen. I think we all remember being in absolute awe of the T-Rex attack on the car, that scene is a masterclass in how to make impossible things look realistic on screen. I have a sneaking suspicion that no one who worked on that scene was involved with this movie at any point.
Let’s be brutally honest here, no one goes to these films for the story. You can read the book by Chrichton if you want that but the reality is that these films are spectacle films. The original is a great film that really was all about those visual moments. The story is simple, park of dinosaurs get’s some humans, humans get eaten, sexy Jeff Goldblum, escape, roll credits. It was all about those moments when you saw the dinosaurs, you believed they were really there… because they were. The original was using a genius blending of animatronics and (At the time) revolutionary CGI that made the illusion work. Jurassic World, on the other hand, uses standard CGI and that’s about it. I will be shocked if an animatronic ever stepped onto the set and you can tell.
Visually this film looks nice up to a point, that point being “Any time a dinosaur is well lit and moves more than 8 inches” because then everything goes to hell. There are shots of the T-Rex that can only be described with the phrase “Dinosaurs do not work that way”, there are moments when it’s clear that the actors are looking at ping pong balls. The shots that work best are the ones that are subtle, a flash of light revealing a silhouette or the few extreme close-ups during a surgery, moments where you can tell they either had to physically put something on camera or they hid it so creatively that it was effective. The ones that don’t work are the strange shots of well-lit cages holding nothing but a computer-generated creature that’s less believable than Roger Rabbit.
The script is… well, let’s just say that it doesn’t shock me that the guy who wrote this also had his hands on The Book Of Henry because the two of them share a striking resemblance in terms of structure. Poor exposition, a plot based on smart people behaving stupidly and coincidence after coincidence. There is a plot twist in this movie that reveals something about one of the new characters and it is just shockingly pointless, almost like it’s there because someone thought it’d be a cool twist but decided to do nothing of use with it. The way this film handles the details of the story isn’t good, which is a shame because the actual story itself is an interesting idea. Having the story be about people trying to rescue the dinosaurs that are on Isla Nublar, the setting of the last movie, and try to bring them to a safe place without an active exploding volcano is a really good idea. The twist at the halfway point is well done, the concept is good. There is a solid framework for a story here, but it’s let down by the details that are being hung off that framework.
Where this film really does excel is the characters, all of whom are very engaging. Chris Pratt is his usual charming self and manages to really pull you in. Bryce Dallas Howard is really great in this film, even though the camera is determined to repeatedly show you her boots as if they were trying to scream “See, we didn’t put her in heels while she’s running from a Velociraptor this time!”. New castmembers Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda really work well with the two leads and create some fun characters who you genuinely fall for. Personal favourite would easily be B.D. Wong who might not get much screentime but god damn does he use the time he gets. He makes sure every second he’s on camera that you are completely focused on him, they use him wonderfully… Jeff Goldblum they use poorly, he’s in 2 scenes that he probably filmed on a lunch break and I’m sorry, if you have Goldblum in your movie then you better use him properly. Give him a good bit of dialogue, something meaty he can sink his teeth into… then again, this film thinks “What a nasty woman” is a good piece of dialogue, so maybe he was let off easily.
While all these characters are engaging and fun, they’re also displaying the worst trope of them all… “Smart people acting stupidly”. I hate it so much when someone who, we are told, is a doctor or a veterinarian or someone who is well trained in something decides to just do the dumb thing. Stopping climbing a ladder just to cheer which results in a dinosaur nearly catching you, not getting into an escape vehicle in order to stop and look at the scenery for a second, not covering your face while escaping. Little things that make these people, who we are assured are insanely smart, act like idiots who have no idea what they’re doing. There is one moment right at the end that I will not spoil, but the only real reaction to it is “Wow, you’re an idiot” because it’s the dumbest of moves that only happened because they require setup for the sequel (Coming 2021) and a quick rewrite would allow these characters to still make smart decisions but have the events happen anyway. The best moments happen when the characters are smart and use their knowledge of the dinosaurs to their advantage, that’s when there’s some real tension or just a generally fun scene… “Oops, I made a mistake” is never a good way to tell an engaging story.
This is a film that exists. It exists because the last one made bank and we’re living in a 90’s nostalgia vacuum that just will not end. It’s not like this film is particularly bad, there’s nothing upsetting about what it’s doing, it’s serviceable. The problem is that this is a sequel to a film that was one of the greatest of all time, we know this series can do better but it seems like no one bothered to make sure that they were willing to TRY and do better. There’s nothing new here, the filmmakers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.