“We’re safe in here, right?”
Jurassic World beat me into fucking submission. It really did. Colin Trevorrow‘s dino feature is relentless and fits so many different concepts, themes, visual effects and characters in it’s unbelievably tight two-hour timeframe, you almost feel like you’re gonna go insane once the movie ends. It’s almost unfair how often this long-awaited sequel beats you down emotionally, but it also makes sense. A lot of people grew up with Jurassic Park and the expectations we all had for this film are almost unfair. So while we might not have gotten the “perfect sequel” that we all had hoped for, Trevorrow gives us enough to harken back to our grand memories of the original while also guiding us into uncharted territory, for better or worse. If anything, he proves that you don’t have to be (or imitate) Steven Spielberg to make a Jurassic Park film, something many people were worrying when he was first hired.
Now, opting to not even try copying Spielberg’s style was a smart decision, but Trevorrow’s vision as a director isn’t really “there”. He’s clearly a man of many ideas (a lot of which are great), but there isn’t any shots that stood out and he never guides the camera through the action to give me that sense of “awe” that I should be feeling with a film about dinosaurs. For example, entering “Jurassic World” was done with an awkward low angle side shot at the front doors – not a particularly grand entrance in any sense. However, this also in a way works with the film’s narrative (at least for the first half of the film).
See, this is a time where people have almost become bored of these dinosaurs. This might not be super obvious, due to all the people still at the park throughout the film, but there’s a scene where one of the young boys we follow in the film has a typical conversation with his mom while in the background, the terrifying T-Rex from the original film is stomping around, roaring and eating an animal. While this may be heartbreaking to some viewers (it certainly was to me; I hated that dipshit kid the rest of the film), it’s a clever idea to play around with. Now, I’m not suggesting that Trevorrow’s almost amateurish framing and overall direction is solely because of this concept he’s working with, but it could be. But maybe I’m being easier on him than I should be. Again, this only works as an argument for the first half and while there’s still more money-shots later on in the film, his lack of distinct vision isn’t present.
And it’s not just behind the camera where his style isn’t very clear. The concept, like I said earlier, is a fantastic concept. It might seem a little too early for some to have a concept like this because this our first time seeing the park functioning. But, we need to keep in mind this is, in reality, the third sequel we’ve gotten to Jurassic Park. It was a concept that was necessary, especially today when general audiences seems to be a lot tougher to please in terms of entertainment. And with this, it takes its concept and turns it on its consumers; Jurassic World, both as a film and as the park, try to give their audiences something bigger, meaner, and more dangerous to keep everyone interested. And, in an extremely fascinating way, both end up failing in this respect.
Again, this obviously meta jab at large cooperations (“Verizon Wireless presents, the Indominus Rex!”, jokes a scientist played perfectly by Jake Johnson after hearing that the company wants to sponsor their next project) is playful and really clever, especially considering how mainstream this franchise is *and* when you consider it isn’t Spielberg making the film. Very ambitious to do, especially when this is only your second feature film and your first time breaking out in Hollywood. But, it starts to fall under the weight of its own ambitions when the “bigger means better” mentality starts oozing into the film’s actual plot progression.
The film eventually turns into a massive free-for-all and, because of this, many different characters are thrust into separate plot points, creating a messy narrative. The thing about the first film is that there really isn’t much to it. There isn’t a lot of action and you don’t really see too much of the dinosaurs. It was ultimately the idea that drove the film. Less is sometimes better than more, and that’s why other films that have been inspired by the film have failed to recapture the magic of it. This film is big, bombastic, and explosive, trying to outdo the original, and ultimately, making the film at-odds with what it’s trying to say. Then, the film awkwardly tries to force the idea of “don’t mess with the original” into its fun, but destructive climax, leaving me to wonder why Trevorrow even made this sequel if his two major themes afterwards were that and “bigger doesn’t always mean better”.
But, enough with the negatives, because the film isn’t a giant shitstorm. In a way, it’s way smarter than most blockbusters are and its ambitions and personality are certainly much stronger than other similar films as well. And while the narrative as a whole is all over the place, there are some great ideas at play, most of which I already covered. The film also manages to make the plot point revolving the raptors utterly ridiculous, but at the same time make it work perfectly in the confines of the film.
Also, it was such a relief to find out that Bryce Dallas Howard‘s character was actually the lead of the film. Usually, you won’t find me trying to pick apart or praise films because of their “agenda” in terms of gender importance (for example, I don’t see Fury Road as a feminist film, but simply as a film). But here, it worked. I might have been thrown off simply because Chris Pratt was marketed much more than she was, but it left me surprised, which not many blockbusters, or films in general for that matter, can do. Misleading marketing for the win. It also helped that I throughly enjoyed all of the performances in the film (well, almost all of them).
While I really hated the older kid and his creepy perverted ways (as well as the fact that he was a total prick), the sense of adventure that he and his brother find even through all this mess is something that we actually haven’t seen since the original film. And this is why Jurassic World, to me, is best sequel in the franchise so far. Even though he visually has a hard time capturing the “wow” factor that Spielberg did and the script is a mess, Trevorrow gets his characters right, mainly the young and innocent ones. Again, it might be because this is the first time since ’93 we’ve been to some sort of “park”, but seeing the two brothers looking through the cracks of the park (literally) to find enjoyment and fun out of the moment is what sold the deal for me. He might not have the vision that Spielberg had, but his heart is just as big. It’s just more self-aware.
Jurassic World is the thing it trashes and makes fun of, but the film is full of so many great ideas, concepts, and fun performances you can’t help but appreciate the wackiness of it all. It’s overstuffed and as a cohesive plot, it doesn’t entirely work, but there are moments scattered throughout that Trevorrow absolutely nails. Like, he really nails some scenes in the film, some of which include a hologram gag and another in which an action set-piece is shot and played out like a horror film. His heart is in the right place and he dares to do things with this franchise only few would dare to do, and for that, you have to congratulate the man.
It was announced that Trevorrow would not be returning to the inevitable sequel, and you can see why. He put everything he had into this film, and I don’t think he has anything else left to say in regards to the franchise. And while, yes, it might be a mess, it’s a personal, insane, and most importantly, a heartfelt one.