Destroy All Monsters: It's A JURASSIC WORLD, And Apparently I Don't Live There Any More

Contributor; Toronto, Canada (@tederick)
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Destroy All Monsters: It's A JURASSIC WORLD, And Apparently I Don't Live There Any More

It's a potent image, as others have noted: a dangling great white shark, purpose-built to remind us of Jaws, being lazily consumed by a gargantuan CGI mosasaur, leaping out of the water at Jurassic World in front of a stadium full of spectators who apparently didn't get the memo re: Sea World being awful.

(Or Isla Nublar being a human slaughterhouse, for that matter.)

The single sequence condenses down into about 40 seconds the entirety of the past 40 years of blockbuster filmmaking. (Jaws was released 40 years ago this week.) I'm nearly 39 years old, and the 40 years in question seem to have seen the rise, peak, and fall of my ability to locate a movie like Jurassic World within my sweet spot.

Rarely in my life have the tastes of the blockbuster masses and my own been so far out of step. It happens, but normally, when something is an out-of-control hit, even if I don't warm to it personally, I can see what the rest of the audience is getting out of it. (I've been doing a podcast on that subject for ten years.)

Jurassic World is an out-of-control hit. It is now the record-holder for the biggest opening weekend in history; it crossed the half-billion dollar mark in less time than any movie ever; it will now almost certainly be the highest grossing film of the summer, and quite possibly the year.

That is an amazing thing, from a moviegoing perspective. With The Force Awakens ahead and Avengers 2 and Furious 7 behind us, we were already looking likely to add three 2015 films to the all-time top ten grossing films.

Mockingjay 2 might have made a fourth, but now Jurassic World definitely makes the list as well, meaning that 2015 will break another record. This makes me glad: it means that people are still going to the movies, and going to the kind of movies that (generally speaking) are the movies I love most.

Except, Jurassic World sort of baffles the shit out of me.

It isn't terrible - it's better than Jurassic Park III - but it's pretty undercooked, even for this franchise. Jurassic Park was undercooked too, but rode the wave of its own novelty to box office gold; back in '93, I felt like I had really seen dinosaurs for the first time, a trick that can only work once.

Jurassics Park and World are united in the degree to which they're about themselves as much as they're about what they're about. Jurassic Park was about brand-first entertainment spectacle, and Jurassic World is the post-modern repeat of the same idea; it's about our nostalgia for brand-first spectacle.

(Notably, John Williams' iconic Jurassic Park theme, which in the original film accompanied the awe-inspiring reveal of the brachiosaur, here accompanies the awe-inspiring[?] reveal of the amusement park atrium. I think you can just barely make out the Starbucks.)

What a sorry state of affairs that is, by the way: in my lifetime, we've gone from falling in love with stories, to falling in love with brands (guilty, I assure you), to falling in love with falling in love with brands. Jurassic World tees that idea up with something resembling relish, and then forgets to do anything cunning with the text after the fact.

Whatever. It's unreasonable to expect a movie like this to have its subtextual cake and eat its entertainment value too. (For a movie that tipped the balance in the other direction, see last year's Godzilla.)

But is it unreasonable to be astonished that something as rote as Jurassic World nonetheless managed to suck down half a billion bucks in three days? There aren't that many people my age who lost their proverbial (or not proverbial) cherries at the movies in the summer of 1993; and call me a far-out old fogey, but I woke up Friday morning believing pretty concretely that "these kids today" couldn't give less of a fuck about CGI dinosaurs.

I'm not saying that because kids suck; I'm saying it because this generation has CGI everything. When Daenerys Targaryen can have a heart-to-heart with a fully-rendered dragon on an Irish hillside on Sunday night, who the fuck needs a mosasaur?!

Where's the value proposition in Jurassic World? What makes this movie a perfect storm of summer entertainment, and not Mad Max (more worthy), Tomorrowland (more original), or for that matter, Avengers 2 (exactly as commercial, CGI, and kid-friendly - and now apparently a runner-up)?
I've got no good answer, though my best theory is a wholly depressing one: to achieve this kind of market fortitude in 2015, your blockbuster must be exactly this less-worthy, less-original, and less-whatever-Avengers-2-isn't.

Jurassic World is a masterpiece of "good enough."

It will offend absolutely no one. Even the fracas over Bryce Dallas Howard's heels does little more than subtly reinforce Meninism values while not being as out-and-out problematic as the Red Room scene in Age of Ultron.

JW is a movie about white people going to the equivalent of a shopping mall and getting attacked by made-up monsters that can't possibly be analogized to anything troubling enough to be happening in the real world. (The big emotional crisis in the movie? Divorce. Welcome back, 1982!)

The movie is safely non-inventive. It's based on a cherished, decades-old property; it's directed competently by a guy most people have never heard of, and it stars that affable fella from that movie you liked. It does exactly as advertised and not a single thing more, because veering from the advertised script might risk delighting some people, while alienating others.

Yeah: Jurassic World is going to make a fortune, all right. For an incredible number of people, it's basically the perfect movie.


Destroy All Monsters is a weekly column on Hollywood and pop culture. Matt Brown is in Toronto and on twitter.

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Mr. CavinJune 17, 2015 11:18 AM

It's not entirely impossible that JURASSIC WORLD is just the masterpiece of being the next in line. I'd love to think that the up-trending returns this summer are an indication that, once people have turned onto going back to the movies again, they will just keep doing it, more and more often, taking friends, etc. To think that rediscovering the magic of public exhibition mitigates, at least at first, the possible lack of substance in the spectacle. I'd love to think that if all the summer movies had been released in the opposite order, we'd still see this kind of trend (though I think kicking it off with a better guarantee--an AGE OF ULTRON over animated dinosaurs--was likely better for precipitation).

I do think the sexism conversation over this movie has gotten louder than the last conversation did. And I agree with this one more in theory (I haven't seen the movie --you can tell they haven't hit the half-billion-and-ten-dollar mark yet). I even read about it on Vox last night.

FreeRobotSexJune 17, 2015 12:06 PM

Holy lol the guy who was all butthurt over the title SUICIDE SQUAD just made a really gross joke about underage girls losing their virginity while seeing Jurassic Park in the theater!

KurtJune 17, 2015 12:24 PM

I actually kind of liked this movie, both for the retrograde stupidity of its characters, as well as the often offhand meanness of the script. In particular, the death of Claire's British Assistant is shocking because in a 'normal' movie that level of arbitrary cruelty would never happen. So many children crying in horror at my screening, it warmed the cockles in the way that many other AMBLIN-styled movies (Poltergeist, Temple of Doom, etc.) did back in the 1980s.

Art VandelayJune 17, 2015 12:52 PM

I watched the film and as a Jurassic Park film, it's disappointing like the other sequels, BUT as a meta-response to reboots/sequels/remakes, it's a hoot. So here's my evaluation of the film and it made the film much more enjoyable for me.

The CEO (the film studio) gives money to the scientists (the writers) to create a new species of dinosaur after people's disinterest in the old dinosaurs (the originals) and the experiment (the script in progress) put to the test (green-light). But as it is unleashed prematurely (lack of pre-production due to rushing), the Indominus Rex (the reboot) wreaks havoc and kills many people (disastrous first test screening), so only Bryce Dallas Howard (the director who knew nothing about the script progress) in heels (representing studio constraints) and Chris Pratt (the leading man) who knew that the experiment (the script) of the Indominus Rex (the reboot) was shit but had to comply, can reclaim the product placement-filled park (the film). So Bryce Dallas Howard releases the T-Rex (representing re-shoots) and the Indominus Rex is defeated by the T-Rex and raptors (the originals) and they reclaim the park. Every other character is disposable (the kids, the military represent the studio interference) and cause more harm than good except the "dinosaur-aged fashioned" leads that are stuck in the 80's, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard.

The ending is like, we'll just see what happens when we hear what people think of this. "Let's stick together. For survival."

So the moral of the film is like what Scream 4 says best: "Don't fuck with the original."

If you see the film as I did, you might enjoy the film more OR in a different light. :D

A man with a knifeJune 17, 2015 1:24 PM

I mean, his just one of those boring self-centred, always buthurt, assholes, that white-wash their own ignorance and lack of imagination trough political-correctness that makes you sound 'important'.

Pa Kent Says MaybeJune 18, 2015 7:49 PM

I think you're over-estimating it. I guarantee, within a year --- probably by the end of the summer --- JURASSIC WORLD is gonna get back-lashed harder than Emmerich's GODZILLA. And the gobs of money? It's easily explained. Movies are always gonna be priced higher than they were last year. There will always be some new tricked-out format that the marketing departments are selling as must-experience-or-you-aren't-cool, um, experiences, and that will always add 30-40% to the numbers. Numbers, however, keep getting compared as if they always mean the same thing. Since Cameron proved to the venture capitalists it could be easily done without having to worry about all the troublesome art and smarty-pants stuff, these sorts of pop culture touchstone-y sorta things are gonna keep popping up with regularity.

And they'll vanish from memory just as quickly, with less and less significance.

WarBoychun24June 20, 2015 7:09 PM

This movie was a f-ing mess of theme/narrative/tone and I loathed every "human cartoon" (except for Nanny Assistant Zara who got a raw deal with her random torturous rag doll drowning death) that graced the screen of this terrible script. I didn't care about anybody - the Dino's themselves were some of the worst CGI to ever grace the screen, which flaws will show up big time on home formats.

There was no "awe or wonder" in JWorld, just alot of dumb from beginning to end that I was expecting a co-producer tag credit from Micheal Bay himself...as this flick was one 360 degree sunset lit camera shot of Bryce Howrad' butt from being a Bayformer flick. Un-funny comedic attempts (every Jake Johnson scene was flat and took me out of the movie as i was trying to find something like).

It's a cynical/snarky waste of "Hammond's dream" with a movie settling for the basest levels of casual 4 quadrant movie going during it's entire run time. A script at war with itself from page one until the last shot. So disappointed... as a huge JP'93 fan that wanted THAT film to be the bar be set for this sequel, not barley better than JP3 level of quality.