Concerns for “Jurassic World”: Nostalgic and Manipulative?

Guys (and gals), I think Jurassic World might really suck.

This isn’t so much a reaction to a new trailer or piece of movie news as it is a general opinion on the upcoming entry into the Jurassic Park franchise, Jurassic World. I would guess that most people have seen at least one trailer for the film (hell, we got a TV spot during the Superbowl!), and have a general understanding of the plot, but I will provide a basic summary regardless. Jurassic World is set on the same island as the original movie, but the park has been running without incident for the last 20 years or so. Chris Pratt plays a velociraptor trainer who respects and hunts with the dinosaurs (the reason why is unclear), and he is tasked with inspecting the paddock of a new dinosaur attraction at the park, to make sure the paddock is capable of holding the new creature.  See, Jurassic World (the park) has been losing money, so the executive board has insisted on genetically engineering a new dinosaur. Of course, it is very smart and destructive, it escapes, and very bad things happen.

I expect this movie to do well at the box office and fully live up to its blockbuster status (it really doesn’t have any serious competitors for its June 12th release date), but there are indications in the material that I have seen which lead me to believe that it will be an absolute nightmare. First, from the perspective of a reasonable plot, this film seems to fail completely. I am expected to believe that a fully-functioning Jurassic World theme park is under-performing financially? People flock to Sea World, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and zoos all over the world to see extant animals, and this movie wants me to believe that tickets to a park with actual live dinosaurs are not sold out for years in advance? Maybe everyone who visited the park in the 2000s posted shaky, vertical youtube videos from their first-generation iPhones, so everyone can get their dinosaur fix right on the internet. Regardless, this premise is used to excuse the generation of a mutated T-Rex / Raptor hybrid dinosaur (called the Indominus Rex) which of course backfires. Somehow this giant dinosaur is nigh invincible. Armed guards, helicopters, and men with actual rocket launchers stand no chance, according to some character-turned narrator, and the only hope is to sic a motorcycling Starlord and his raptor buddies after the mutant dino.

Put all of the plot elements aside for a moment, though, and we get to the most troubling aspect of what I have seen so far: this film spares no expense in an effort to capitalize on the nostalgia of the original Jurassic Park. The official trailer opens on two teenage boys, who will apparently be the lens through which we experience much of the terror, a la Hammond’s grandchildren in the original. They roll past a brachiosaur in a gyrosphere, which actually looks very cool. If you pay attention to the composition and camera movement of this shot, you’ll notice that it essentially repeats the very first view of live dinosaurs from the original. The camera begins low and behind the dinosaur, making it even more grandiose and breathtaking, and it moves across the dinosaur and up, giving us a full view of not only this creature, but many others, as well. This what Dr. Grant’s first view of the dinosaurs looked like, and I begin to feel as though the film is relying on nostalgia to manipulate me into feeling that same awe. This continues with another emotion inspired by the original:  fear. The scene of the T-Rex escaping its paddock and destroying the cars is absolutely iconic, and we can see Jurassic World taking advantage of that as well: we see (or hear) ground tremors, the Indominus Rex destroys a vehicle with our kids inside, and even the very same flashlight-in-dinosaur-eye trick occurs from before. These kinds of “homages”, if they can be called that, do not stop at just these egregious borrowings, but continue throughout almost every scene of the trailers, if you look hard enough. The dinosaurs start communicating (borrowed from Jurassic Park 3), some raptors (I think) chase our teenage boys through various rooms (still the best sequences from the original), and our lone female character screams, “RUN!” at someone (Laura Dern, from the original). This list is not exhaustive, unfortunately; see how many you can spot!

I don’t want to be a sequel curmudgeon here, and I am most certainly going to see this film in theaters if only for the experience of the expansive panoramic settings and dinosaurs. But, I am afraid that I will spend the entire movie scoffing at the sub-par characters, dialogue, and plot elements as the film panders to my sense of nostalgia. It is folly to expect this film to best the original, as Jurassic Park is a seminal film. It captured a generation of movie-goers, inspiring wonder and terror indiscriminately. But, we can expect a sequel to contribute to the franchise somehow, to further develop ideas introduced in earlier films, or allow us to see the world from a new perspective.  I am aware that I only have the promotional materials at my disposal at this point in time, but everything I have seen pegs this film as derivative and manipulative.  Does Jurassic World have anything interesting to add to the franchise, or will it be content with simply reminding us of how great the original was? I hope this new installment surprises me, but for now I am very concerned.

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