I don’t usually go to films in the theater due to how difficult it is to work out the logistics involved in my outing. But I planned for weeks to attend one of the few must-see films of the year, Jurassic World (2015). A direct sequel to one of the most popular films of all time, Jurassic Park (1993), returning to Isla Nublar was just as thrilling as the original visit was.
The showings on opening day were sold out hours in advance and the audience was evenly split between men and women, with entire families making the trek to the cinema to revisit the dinosaurs that captured their imagination 22 years ago. While the original film leaned heavily on its nineties cultural roots, Jurassic World brings a mixture of modern technology mixed with the direct nostalgia for its predecessor. We aren’t presented with subtle allusions as much as we’re bludgeoned over the head with tangible and bumblingly obvious references to the original film.
The references begin in earnest near the start of the film where we’re treated to “character development” of the vastly unlikable Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) berating Lowery Cruthers (Jake Johnson) for wearing a vintage Jurassic Park shirt purchased off of eBay. Dearing is portrayed as a bitchy, oblivious, micromanaging career woman. Such a one-dimensional treatment of a woman tends to have to come across as being heavy-handed on purpose. As a result, Dearing and her immaculately coiffed hair comes across as vastly unlikable. It’s also rather sexist – especially when she decides to go after her own nephews (that entire scene where she “readies” herself is just cringe-worthy). Running in the jungle in high heels is also vastly unrealistic. More to the point, why would she even be wearing high heels at Jurassic World?
At a bare minimum, the sexism doesn’t end there. Claire Dearing also has her own “personal assistant”, another vapid, overwhelmed woman going by Zara (Katie McGrath). Zara is overworked, planning her own wedding, and suffers the ingominy of the most violent, pointless, over-the-top death in the entire “Jurassic” franchise. The upside is Zara’s death highlights and provides the true “circle of life” gravitas the director (Colin Trevorrow) wanted to bring to the film when the dinosaurs got loose. Of course the dinosaurs got loose.
And when the dinosaurs got loose, of course the control room begins to semi-panic. But there wasn’t any malice on the part of the control room staffers. Merely ineptitude on the part of Claire Dearing, furthering her “character development” as an inept overachiever that can’t actually handle a real-world situation. Jake Johnson on the other hand brought life to Jurassic World‘s version of “the good Dennis Nedry”. I felt that despite his limited role, Johnson almost stole the show with how well he portrayed the Lowery character. Despite Lowery’s success, the chauvinism extends even to him as well. The most fully-formed female character in this film is a character that seems to be an afterthought – Vivian, played by Lauren Lapkus. And what makes her the best female character despite being a minor supporting actress? Simple, she’s portrayed as a professional woman (and not a caricature of one as Claire Dearing is).
In any case, I thought it apropos to finally show what my cinema experience looks like. This is a normal movie theater, and as I’m deaf (as has been noted elsewhere on this blog), I need subtitles or captions of some form, assuming I didn’t already have the movie memorized, such as The Wizard of Oz (1939). Subtitles are “burnt onto” the screen, so that they’re visible to everybody. For some reason, a number of people don’t like this practice. Not all movie theaters are equipped with captioning systems, and some only make the system available for one or a few of their screens. This movie theater was equipped with the Doremi Captiview system which is a fantastic system based on Wi-Fi, since you don’t have to worry about landing a seat within the 8 or so seats that work with the Rearview system (a mirror-based system). And of course, Jurassic World is one of those rare movies where *I* actually want the sound system in the theater to enhance my experience. I still remember the epic and legendary “cup of water rumbling” scene from Jurassic Park that announced the arrival of 1993’s greatest villain. Without further ado, here’s the title card from Jurassic World as seen from my vantage point:
So as you’re able to see, I essentially have to manipulate the captioning device to be within my field of vision at the same time as the screen is. Normally, this isn’t much of an issue and is just a minor trade-off (I usually see the entire screen too as well) in order to get access to captioning, which isn’t just for dialogue, but also sound effects as well. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to understand the entire movie:
Those images aren’t meant to display the quality of the movie or the movie’s print, but rather to illustrate my viewing conditions at a theater, which differ from the norm (and do help inform the reader about my own bias). And if a deaf guy is telling you that the acoustics for Jurassic World is incredible, you better take notice. There’s a wealth of bass sound effects that only serve to enhance your theme park experience.
Criticism aside, Jurassic World delivers on its promise: the biggest, baddest, and funnest summer blockbuster popcorn movie of 2015. I don’t think there’s another family-oriented film that could come anywhere close to this film’s wide demographics. The original film was beloved by many, and kids that saw the original are now adults. I saw plenty of families out together to share the experience again, along with adults introducing their children to the franchise they loved as a child.
Back to the film itself. Audiences love it, critics mainly feel it’s lukewarm (a combination of various issues, some of which I’ve touched upon at the start of this essay). Here’s the catch – this movie isn’t trying to be a serious film, its aim is to entertain and it succeeds. The original film had some “depth” to it, due to the iconic novel and elements of suspense interwoven throughout the entire film. Jurassic World throws suspense out the window and whacks you in the noggin with relentless action.
Borrowing slightly from Jurassic Park III (2001)’s playbook, of course a divorced/divorcing couple is involved somehow. Throw in some next-gen special effects and the return of BD Wong as Dr. Wu, and plenty of nostalgia, and you’ve got a smash sequel that appeals to both new and old fans alike. You don’t really need a capsule review – it’s a movie with dinosaurs. You either like dinosaurs and you will see this film, or you don’t like dinosaurs, and you will still see this film.
What was truly surprising was how good the movie plays, despite its many flaws and shortcomings. That’s just part of its appeal.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Studio: Universal Pictures