Here’s something interesting: everything that Bryce Dallas Howard’s character says near the beginning of Jurassic World about not being able to impress people with dinosaurs anymore also applies to digital effects in movies. That whole spiel about learning more in the past decade from genetics than the previous century of digging up bones is symbolically about visuals in motion pictures. When Jurassic Park came out, the sight of lifelike dinosaurs on the screen was something close to magic. Now, we take that sort of thing for granted.
The solution that the corporate higher-ups of Jurassic World devise to solve their dinosaur saturation problem is to make a new dinosaur — a bigger, more ruthless one. The solution that the filmmakers of Jurassic World came up with to solve their CGI saturation problem is the character Gray. Gray is a primary school-aged child who loves dinosaurs and whose default expression is breathless wonder. His structural role in the film is as a “wonder surrogate,” a character who will marvel at the movie’s visuals from inside of it, in place of the audience. I suppose the idea is that some of his excitement will rub off on the people watching the movie. It does not.
In practice, Jurassic World fails completely at overcoming our growing complacency about CGI. It feels exactly the same as every other overcooked blockbuster of recent years. But, by giving Howard’s character a monologue about that exact phenomenon, Jurassic World becomes something far stranger — a movie that is implicitly about the fact that its audiences will inevitably be underwhelmed.
And that isn’t the only time the movie apologizes for itself. Jurassic World is full of conspicuous product placement. That in itself doesn’t bother me, and never does. But there’s a lengthy exchange between Howard’s character and Jake Johnson’s — a caricatured hipster of the sort that hasn’t existed in real life since about 2012 — about the slippery slope of corporate meddling in Jurassic World’s research. Why not just call the dinosaurs “Pepsisaur” and “Tostitodon,” asks Johnson.
Jurassic World’s indenturement to corporate interests is reflected in the fact that Jurassic World constantly bombards its audience with logos, from Starbucks to Jimmy Buffet’s Margeritaville. By introducing a subplot about Jurassic World courting investments from Verizon, the film once again makes an explicit pronouncement about something it perceives to be wrong with itself.
Jurassic World is a terrible movie. A solid 3/10. It’s terrible for a whole bunch of reasons. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard both give completely uncharismatic performances. Vincent D’Onofrio’s villain is distinctly of the moustache-twirling variety, and is entirely unnecessary in the face of a threat with much larger teeth. Even the most supposedly competent characters make terrible decisions constantly.
The best thing about the movie is probably Michael Giacchino’s clever reappropriation of John Williams’ famous orchestral theme as a creepy solo piano line — and even that was put to better use in the trailer than in the final film.
But if, as I’ve hinted at above, the movie’s goal is to live up to its own pronouncements of how bad it is, mark it down as an unqualified success.
TL;DR: Fuck dinosaurs.