How to you revive a franchise that has been dead for 14 years? According to the team behind "Jurassic World," you make your new venture bigger, scarier and give it more teeth. I'm not speculating: The movie's characters tell us this, drolly lecturing the audience on how people aren't impressed by the same old dinosaurs anymore. So it was time to science up some new ones for a park that is meant to be more spectacular, sparing no expense. But, of course, they hit those same old troubles of the attractions getting loose and terrorizing the tourists.
You've seen their new bad beastie teased in trailers and commercials; she's made up of a mishmash of genetic code, and the movie that contains her is her perfect analog. Just like the ludicrously named Indominus Rex, "Jurassic World" is a Frankenstein's monster of movies. Mix 3 parts "Jurassic Park" with 1 part "Jaws." Add a dash of "Romancing The Stone," and a pinch of "Deep Blue Sea." The end result is a monster, but not in a good way.
Maybe it's unfair to compare "Jurassic World" to its classic inspiration. I honestly didn't want to, but this sloppy sequel repeatedly shoves "Jurassic Park" memories in the faces of its audience to the point where it's impossible not to. A desperate ploy to invoke nostalgia, it's like a lazy stand-up comic who yells out to the crowd, "Hey, remember the Gin Blossoms?" to achieve a cheap excitement from the crowd. "Yeah!" I remember that time the brontosaurus sneezed on Lex, the time a frosty demeanor melted when put face to face with an ailing dino, the time Ellie wore her button down blouse knotted at the bottom. But what does that have to do with this movie? It's all misdirection, designed to keep the audience from realizing that "Jurassic World" has little else going for it.
I realize it might sound like I'm talking about Easter eggs, and yes, "Jurassic World" is chock-full of those, few subtle enough to make the audience feel observant or clever. But what I'm bothered by is how much "Jurassic World" flat-out repeats beats of action and drama from the first film, the most frustrating of which happens in the finale. It was a repeat so blatant, I actually groaned.
"Jurassic World" leans so hard on "Jurassic Park" nostalgia that it can only feel like an imitation instead of an adventure in its own right. But for good summer popcorn fodder measure, it loops in some elements from the "Jaws" franchise, from a great white shark being reduced to a snack for the park's gargantuan sea creature, to iconography out of "Jaws 3" and a ludicrous animal-vengeance plot partially formed in "Jaws 4: The Revenge."
From the 1984 action-comedy "Romancing The Stone," you get the archetypes of uptight career woman (who favors white office wear and heels) and roguish adventurer that Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt are wedged into. The pair share zero chemistry, but that doesn't stop the film from forcing an awkward romantic subplot into a movie overflowing with them.
Then come some odd similarities from the creature-feature "Deep Blue Sea." You know, the one about hyper-intelligent sharks that manipulate their human jailers into destroying their cages? A red-haired, female control-freak leading a team who created these unique beasts is just the beginning of their similarities.
I'm sorry. Really.
I suspect a lot of you were really looking forward to this movie. Maybe planning on taking your kids? Or making a day of it as you may have when the first one came out? Yeah. Me too. I really take no pleasure in being the killjoy here. But "Jurassic World" won't let you forget "Jurassic Park" even for a second to its own detriment. It's ultimately a costly commercial for the franchise and all the new toys they can merchandize with their new dinos. Otherwise, it profoundly misses what made the first movie such a phenomenon. It wasn't the dinosaurs; it was the adventure.
"Jurassic Park" gave us characters we could relate to and admire. They were flawed, but fully developed and often richly funny. "Jurassic World" gives us scads of characters, but little character development. Then it tosses in Jake Johnson from "New Girl" as a control room tech to be goofy and break up scenes of harrowing horror. "Jurassic Park" showed the dinosaurs with restraint, teasing out their appearances so each time felt like magic. "Jurassic World" dishes out shots of them left and right. And the more you look at them, the less wondrous they become.
More disturbing, "Jurassic World" buys into the gritty reboot trend by not only upping the body count on dino-caused carnage, but also making death scenes more sadistic than ever before. Which is to say, you might want to reconsider taking your kids, because this is basically a slasher movie with Indominous Rex as Jason Voorhees.
I will say this: The action scenes are often exhilarating. But without characters worth caring about, they carry little to no emotional weight. It's a shame. "Jurassic World" makes clear that director Colin Trevorrow is a big Steven Spielberg fan, through the ardent appreciation (however misguided its expression) in the film. But Spielberg knew how to world build to not only ground his heroes, but also grab the audience hook, line and sinker. So finales of a shark blowing up or a T-Rex coming to the aid some trembling tourists may not make sense--but who cares!? Not us. We were on board and giddy about it.
Trevorrow has not hit this level of showmanship. And so when a swollen villain declares predatory dinosaurs would make great soldiers, this critic guffawed instead of going with it. And it just gets worse from there. In the end, it feels like a movie made not to tell a story but to take advantage of fans. It's soulless and a wasted opportunity. And I really hate to be the one to tell you that.