Monday 22 June 2015

Jurassic World | review by Douglas J. Ogurek

Record-breaking, bone-crunching, message-bearing MONSTER of a film.

“No one’s impressed by dinosaurs anymore.” So says marketing executive Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) of Jurassic World, a theme park dedicated to giving its visitors the ultimate dinosaur experience. Here visitors navigate glass-enclosed gyrospheres amid brontosauri and triceratops, or get splashed by a gigantic sea creature that eats a shark carcass as if it were a Skittle.

Claire’s statement reverberates powerfully in a society whose members are constantly hankering for the newest gadget, the biggest thrill, or, dare I say, the latest blockbuster film. How many of those who helped Jurassic World, directed by Colin Trevorrow, claw and tear its way past The Avengers (2012) to achieve the highest-grossing opening weekend ($208.8 million U.S.) of all time were lured by the preview featuring that aquatic colossus?

Sure, tons of advertising and the strength of three previous films propelled Jurassic World’s box office blitzkrieg, but that doesn’t discount the film for what it is: an action-packed adventure and, to the more perceptive, a cautionary tale regarding mankind’s unceasing craving to control nature. Jurassic World comments on the potential catastrophic results of our collective quest to get the biggest and the best. By the way, try to see it in IMAX and 3-D.

The Rex Big Thrill
Though the Jurassic World theme park has achieved a ninety-plus percent satisfaction rate, market research reveals its visitors are still looking for the next big thrill. Thus, the scientists in this sprawling, corporation-owned campus cook up a genetically modified badass of a dinosaur and give it a name wrought with fear (and marketability): Indominus rex! It’s bigger and badder than the T-rex. And just imagine that name stretched across a 64-ounce cup of soda!

Of course, Indominus rex escapes.

The rest of the film unfolds entertainingly, if unsurprisingly. When the creature escapes, Claire’s nephews get stuck in the park. So she runs to Navy vet Owen (Chris Pratt), a kind of dinosaur trainer stationed on the Jurassic World grounds. Together, the prudish Claire (she never takes off her heels) and the gruff, yet sensitive and sagely Owen—think Patrick Swayze—set out to save the nephews and thwart the beast. The special bond that Owen has developed with four velociraptors (the roving thugs of previous Jurassic Park films) will come into play. Make no mistake: these things are still capable of tearing off Owen’s or anyone else’s face.

Jurassic World’s taut story and jaw-dropping special effects make it a pleasure to watch. However, between the roars, the screams, and the crunching of bones, the film does whisper an important message.

It’s About Control
There is a scene about two-thirds into the film—I’m not giving anything major away here—in which a group of commandos approach the island via helicopter. One of them sees a pterodactyl flying peacefully alongside the chopper, blows it away, and then smirks. It’s a jarring scene, and it begs further exploration.

Perhaps the bearded gunman is best viewed in light of an earlier, more touching scene in which Claire and Owen comfort a dying brontosaurus. Owen, surveying a landscape littered with dinosaur corpses, makes a conclusion about the escaped Indominus rex: “She’s killing for sport.” Thus, this destructive creature, made by man, has adapted a very human trait. We need only to look to the barbarian in the helicopter to see it played out.

The theme of Jurassic World is best summarized by the word “control”, which comes up often. The scientists exercise a fallible control as they Frankenstein the ultimate dinosaur, while Claire controls her perception of the beast as a means to strengthen the bottom line.

However, nobody lives up to the control label more than the chief bad guy Hoskins, played by the ever-cocksure Vincent D’Onofrio. Hoskins, eager to prove his theory that dinosaurs can be the ultimate war machines, repeatedly butts heads with Owen. After the chaos is unleashed, Hoskins stands on a platform overlooking the park and gleefully observes the dinosaur mutiny. What better way to test Hoskins’s theory than with Owen’s foursome of velociraptors?

Knuckleheaded Love
The romantic tension between Claire and Owen—their one date didn’t work out—will appeal to the inevitable knucklehead who needs a side order of love with his or her blockbuster. Claire is the uptight, childless professional. Dressed in a pristine, almost virginal white blouse, skirt, and heels, Claire is the statistic-spouting moneymaker whose soul has been sucked out by the corporation. What better match than the motorcycle-riding Navy vet with a Tarzan-like connection with the beasts? A great pairing on the silver screen. A catastrophe in real life.

Dr. Henry Wu, Jurassic World’s unscrupulous lead scientist, says, “To a mouse, a cat is a monster. We’re just used to being the cats.” Perhaps this statement best explains Jurassic World’s strongest lure: MONSTERS!

The film exploits this fascination from the opening scene, which not only starts with the antagonist (typically a no-no), but also replaces the anticipated cute creature emerging from an egg with a menacing-looking black claw. With apocalyptic fiction all the rage, Jurassic World hatches at just the right time, perpetuating the man vs. nature mythos.

No one’s interested in dinosaurs? Au contraire. Jurassic World’s opening weekend has 208.8 million reasons to prove that we most certainly are. – Douglas J. Ogurek *****

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