A Movie Entry – Hole in My Soul: Jurassic World

Yeah, I know this came out in 2015, but I’ve been busy. So, full disclaimer first – when I was a kid, like most kids I thought it would be totally cool to be a paleontologist when I grew up and discover awesome, previously undiscovered dinosaurs. Eventually I figured out most of what I would be doing as a paleontologist would be sweating my butt off doing hard, dirty digging and hauling in the summer in the Badlands working for a pittance of grant money. I decided that wasn’t me, but my love for all things prehistoric (about up to the Pleistocene anyway) stuck with me.

This obsession with dinosaurs was indeed so strong that not only did I see Jurassic Park in the theaters, my long-suffering parental units actually took me to see it the Saturday afternoon of opening weekend. This, as far as I can recall, is the only time in my parents ever did that. Typically I got to see movies at the second-run dollar theater if at all. So anyway, that’s how psyched I was for Jurassic Park. And it was (with a few exceptions) everything I hoped it would be so much so I could ignore those few special effects that didn’t quite work. It was amazing, and nigh on twenty years later, the movie still holds up very well, denim blouses and special effects and all.

I didn’t see the sequels in the theater, however, because I recognized they were just cheap cash-grabs although at least there was some effort involved. Jurassic Park 3, too, was kind of a slap to the face of the fans what with Alan and Ellie not being together for no reason and that weird dream sequence and of course attempting to de-throne the T. rex as the queen of carnivores. At least the third movie seemed cognizant that it was a cheap cash-grab.

Well, since movie studios went all Dr. Frankenstein, there is no movie, no franchise, so dead and gone it can’t at least be attempted to be resurrected, no matter how bad an idea that may be. Still, better Jurassic Park than Independence Day, right? Honestly, I wasn’t excited for this reboot revival. I was afraid it would just be a CGI-laden cash-grab with no consideration given to the original, you know, like the Total Recall remake.

For coherency’s sake, I’ll break this up to categories similar to “storytelling failures” (and it is a storytelling failure) to try to explain why this movie put a hole in my soul.

Plot –
I will forgive this movie for taking liberties with science. It’s been proven since the original movie that many dinosaurs (mostly therapods so far) including velociraptors had feathers. Pterosaurs cannot possibly pick people up (the largest had a wingspan of ~40 feet but only weighed 200 kg) but that may have been a continuity issue from the third movie. And of course all that cloning stuff is ridiculous. My inner paleo-nerd isn’t going to harp on that. Heck, maybe the frog DNA interfered with the production of feathers.

So as far as the reboot revival goes, it seems like it acknowledges the events of the first movie on Isla Nublar did happen, but I didn’t catch any definite references at all to the other two movies which took place on Isla Sorna. I don’t know if that means they aren’t considered in continuity or it just wasn’t worthwhile enough to mention Isla Sorna since the story was focused on the first island. Of course, this brings up a lot of unanswered questions since the first movie seemed to pretty much shutdown the idea of a park full of dangerous creatures which is why the sequels were moved to an entirely different island. But I guess those legal and insurance issues got worked out in about 10 years (unlikely in real life) and a park the size and scope of Disney world got up and running in record time (also unlikely) to have Jurassic World have been open for approximately 10 years.

I think the efforts at continuity are part of why I really didn’t like this movie. To recap the events of the original – the park was in beta mode with a skeleton crew when the experts were brought in to do a safety assessment after the death of a worker. A typhoon hit the island, among other disasters, leading to everything that could fail, failing, and the characters the audience cared about barely made it out alive. Five people total died. And yet, in this reboot revival:

1) The park managers bred carnivores, again. Granted, the T. rex and raptors were contained in much upgraded paddocks, which indicates some lessons from the original fiasco had been learned. That said…

2) The park managers still had no reliable disaster plan. Given that freely roaming carnivorous dinosaurs was the problem with the first park, I would think that would be part of the disaster plan. Based on what I saw, I’m not sure the staff could have handled an ordinary weather emergency either.

a) The gyrospheres (and possible other rides) had no override/recall protocol.
b) The staff had clearly not been drilled on possible disaster scenarios.
c) While one can’t expect the visitors to know what to do, it is clear that the lackluster public announcements were insufficient to protect them. Why weren’t there people on the ground? Why wasn’t there an audible alarm? Okay, the park didn’t have to go “dinosaur on the loose” but they could have just said it was a drill or made up some other excuse. They weren’t even prepared enough for a disaster to lie to the public.
d) Why didn’t all the dinosaurs have shock collars/trackers? If they did, why weren’t they used?
e) Why wasn’t anyone able to monitor I. rex‘s internal tracker from her paddock?
f) When the disaster team was sent out to capture I. rex, despite them not knowing about her camouflage abilities, they were clearly ridiculously unprepared to take down a giant carnivore, which, and I cannot stress this enough, was a huge problem in the first movie.
g) There was no way to get off the island except the one ferry that showed up in the morning. Didn’t we learn a lesson about an adequate number of lifeboats from the Titanic? Again, no disaster plan.
h) Based on the two kids in the gyrosphere, the notification for visitors who were not in the main part area was nearly non-existent.

3) The park managers just abandoned the existing facilities? Why would they do that? Claire was lamenting to the owner they needed more money. Maybe not mothballing what are obviously perfectly good facilities would have been a prudent financial move.

4) John Hammond didn’t want his dream to go belly up because of what he perceived as a preventable accident. However, by the time five people died, he realized he couldn’t contain what he had created. And yet, after a person died, and there are now potentially 20,000 people’s lives in danger, the new park managers value profit over people. Did they not learn?

5) Why are they still employing InGen? If that’s a callback to the sequels I initially missed, that really doesn’t make sense because InGen were the bad guys.

A lot of what went wrong in the first movie could be attributed to the fact the park wasn’t open and there were still bugs to work out. The main characters were there in fact to prove the bugs could be worked out safely. Trying to be in continuity and still failing to take the common-sense precautions the first movie didn’t, and without the excuse of being in a beta test, takes plot holes from fridge logic to chomper logic, and that pulls me right out of a movie.

The plot itself was a convoluted mess. I think what was going on was that InGen was paying scientists in the park to create dinosaurs that could eventually be used for military purposes. The kids being in danger was nothing more than a subplot added to increase the emotional stakes and give Claire and Owen a reason to go tramping out into the dinosaur-infested jungle by themselves. It added nothing to the story, such as it was. I couldn’t figure out what was the owner’s motivation or purpose in the story, and Claire and Owen’s past dating history and forced romance was pointless. And Claire’s justification for genetically engineering new dinosaurs was just stupid. Clearly this park is now accessible enough to have a crowd of 20,000, so there must be a broad customer base and I don’t know who would ever get tired of seeing real-life dinosaurs!

Characters –
Ugh. For characters, there’s a guy and girl who are supposed to be romantically involved, the clueless owner, two children to get into danger, and a couple of bad guys and/or extras to get eaten. Also thrown in is the villainous genetics corporation InGen because why not. I didn’t like any of them, and no one was really developed enough for me to care what happened to them. I knew Claire, Owen, and the kids would get out alive, but the only person I was really rooting for was Barry and that was just so the black guy could avoid the horror-movie trope of getting killed. Claire’s corporate attitude needlessly endangered thousands, and the owner wasn’t any better. Owen’s character was limited to “smug machismo” although he did save Barry’s life, so that’s a good thing. Zach, the teenager, was obnoxious even for a teenager and outright cruel to his little brother. Gray was, well, an adorable moppet but the only one I could begin to like because a) as a child, I understood his motivation and b) he was the only person to act legitimately excited about anything.

Setting –
I should also note that I saw this movie for the first time on my roommate’s brand-new ultra high-definition flatscreen and to me, many of the special effects were just awful. I mean, “That’s so obviously a green-screen” awful. I don’t know if this was the HD playing tricks on my eyes, or if CGI just doesn’t hold up at this level of definition. This movie’s budget was insane and I was distracted by what looked to me like an obvious green-screen behind the helicopter. Whether it was my eyes or an actual issue with high-def, it certainly made it harder for me to suspend disbelief. Anyway, the dinosaurs pretty much looked terrible. Anything that was completely CGI was fine, but as soon as real people or props were in the mix, the illusion just fell apart.

Overall –
If you read the abridged version, I didn’t bother to hide my dislike. The characters are flat, mostly unlikable, the plot is convoluted and riddled with chomper logic, and the special effects are in many places laughably bad. The reboot revival isn’t an homage to the original, it’s a giant middle finger. The beats the script follows are similar to the original but there’s so little emotional investment in the characters that their survival or not is inconsequential. However, I should comment on the completely over-the-top death of Claire’s assistant Zara. She barely had any role in the movie and her death was the kind of torture-porn usually reserved for the worst of bad guys. That scene, for me, pushed this movie into the horror genre for the senseless and violent (if bloodless) death.

I think people who haven’t seen the original movie will like this movie better than fans of the original. Is the original perfect? No. There is nonsense science and some fridge logic, but the overall narrative makes up for the flaws. There’s no wonder in this reboot at all. There’s no sense that anyone is impressed by the awesome creatures around them, so why in the world should the audience be impressed either? Part of what made the original such a good movie is that it had the right mix of wonder and terror. This movie had almost no wonder and yet almost no terror because I didn’t care about the characters. The final fight scene, which is admittedly awesome, just doesn’t make up for the mean-spiritedness of the rest of the movie.

I’m glad I didn’t get time to see it in the theaters, and I’m not likely to watch it again, and I certainly won’t look forward to any sequels.

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S. J. Drew is an aspiring writer who finally entered the blogosphere to shamelessly promote that writing (as evidenced by the title of the blog). Whether or not this works remains to be seen, but S. J. hopes you are at least entertained. And if you're actually reading this, that's probably a good sign.

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