In typical internets fashion, there’s been invective and outrage lurking in my Facebook feed this last week. But rather than the PM’s latest gaffe, this time it was all over an action flick. Resoundingly, many whose opinion I value think Jurassic World is an awful film. Or at least mediocre.
I beg to differ.
So, I’ll begin by declaring my bias. I’m a pretty huge Michael Crichton fan, no mistake. I read Jurassic Park when I was thirteen or so and then rapidly read everything else in his catalogue. Some people think this is just one of my teenage fetishes that I never shook off, like Bryan Adams’ music (love you BA), or mock cream donuts. Having read ever published MC book, I can argue with confidence that Jurassic Park is the pinnacle of his work. This bias, however, is more likely to work against films – I’ve never been a fan of the earlier movies. The first one stripped out all the book’s thinky stuff and made it for kids, and all suffered from banal scripts and plotting, relying on the non-speaking cast to do all the heavy lifting. Even Jeff Goldblum quite frankly couldn’t make them shine. Glitter on a turd and all that.
So now we come to *episode 4*. My expectations were set by other examples of craptacular fourth movies, like Alien Resurrection, and Terminator Salvation, which nicely flushed any of my remaining enthusiasm for what began in those franchises as two fave films of all time. And so, knock me down when Jurassic World defies those expectations. Here’s why. ***a few spoilers ahead***
First, it’s funny. And not so-bad-it’s-good funny. There’s good jokes in it, and most of the characters get one, not just some comic relief guy. Let’s face it, if you have a film that’s about people getting eaten by dinosaurs, a few laughs are probably warranted to balance the tone. It gave me the same feel that Avengers did (don’t hate me, people) – it’s let’s not take this too seriously, but let’s not be stupid, either. So no, no to slapstick. Yes to self-depreciation. It avoids many lazy cliches it could have indulged, and doesn’t dwell on its potential shortcomings. Explanations are punchy, and oh hey, it’s Chris Pratt! He’s kind of a badass, and I loved GoTG … hey I can’t remember what you were saying, so let’s move on. People in the cinema were laughing. Out loud. OMG. Hell, even one of the numerous extras gets a gag, fleeing aerial death while clutching two frozen margaritas. Top marks, sir.
Second, it’s competently structured. The characters are all given some development to care about up front and that makes sense (mostly) with who they are. There’s human moments, especially from the kids (but not too many). The dialogue is pretty well written, especially by the standards of the genre. There’s some great actors in it. The kids are not annoyingly front and centre (no, no, there we have the deliciousness of Chris Pratt [yes even acknowledging this]). Everything moves with a pleasing rhythm, like going for a yacht cruise on a fine day. Despite a multiplicity of threads, no one gets mentally sea sick from a screenplay lurching all over the damn place.
Third, it’s nostalgic … and modern at the same time. Crichton novels are all about the cautionary tale (let’s face it, that’s what he did best). The park’s vision is never to be realised – John Hammond was created only to court hubris. Now, until I saw this film, I’d have said that’s the point. But Jurassic World does a fantastic job of showing the realised park (before it goes to shit). There’s some real thought in that vision. It feels plausible (honestly, if this were real, there’d be a dino petting zoo for shiz) and it’s dragged the original MC story (which let’s face it, was created when Crays were the most impressive computers) into the modern world. Not only that, but there’s some hat tips to the first movie that feel natural. Even the ending respects the heritage of the story, while adding a little twist on for good measure.
Look, it’s not the f-ing majesty that is fourth-franchise-film Mad Mad Fury Road. There’s some stupid stuff – I mean, a Triumph Scrambler keeps pace with raptors in the jungle?? (I can only assume because product placement) (but hey, love you Triumph). Bryce’s hair’s one-scene transformation from slick-bitch-bob to wavy heroine grated (I suppose frizz is fast in the jungle, but ain’t no one got an Instyler out there). Inconsistencies. Blah blah. But much of that is forgivable, even perversely enjoyable.
Jurassic Park the novel was a perfect storm – a big idea in the hands of a writer who could render it into the right scenes. Jurassic World keeps the cautionary spirit of the original book but with a fresh take. This is not a kiddie film, and it’s a long way from frachise ruining. Given the choice of watching any of them again, I choose this one.