Tuesday, June 16, 2015

5 Ways “Jurassic World” Dropped the Ball

“Jurassic World.” A review two blog posts in the making. See what I did there? Sure you do. Anyway, there was a lot of positivity yesterday as we talked about my overall thoughts on the dino sequel as well as five ways that it managed to exceed my expectations and be really awesome
                Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t all ice cream cones and cat videos. There were a few pretty glaring warts that need to be addressed. Some parts were less-than great, others were downright pretty bad or just dumb in a way that I couldn’t accept or live with. This list is made up of those parts. Here are the 5 Ways “Jurassic World” Dropped the Ball.

(Editor’s note: For what it’s worth, even though I ultimately liked this movie, I found it 100x easier to put together this list than the other one. Maybe that makes me a pessimist. Maybe it’s because it felt wrong to just write “It had dinosaurs in it” five times in the last one and call it a post. Anyway, on to today’s list. Also, spoiler alert.)

5. All the Raptors Looked the Same. Pratt’s trained team of raptors all have names. This is awesome. There’s Blue and Charlie and Delta and one other one that I forget. Trouble is, they all look exactly the flipping same so there’s no need to bother with names. I have no idea which one is the first to betray him, which one shows up at the end to help the T-Rex fight the Indominus Rex, which ones die when. It’s weird because the movie seems like it expects us to know and care which one is which. Characters make it a point to refer to Delta by name over and over. “This is Delta,” Have you met Delta?” “Oh look, there’s Blue.” Take a page from the “Gremlins” playbook. Give your creatures interesting characteristics and then names based on said characteristics, a la Stripe who has a white stripe on his head.

4. Parents Just Don’t Understand. Nor do I them. The parents of the tween and tweener in this movie make no sense. Why don’t they go to the park with them? Why is the mom so horrified and emotionally distraught over her young son spending a day alone with his big brother? Keep in mind, all of the park’s dinosaurs are where they’re supposed to be at that point. Still, the instant she finds out they are in a theme park alone she starts maniacally bawling like she found out her baby had been left alone with Hitler for the afternoon. Is the older one not your son? I mean, he is kind of a dick, but the way she reacted made it seem like the older one was guaranteed 100% going to kill and eat the younger one if they were left alone together for even one second. Also, it’s mentioned that the mom and dad are probably going to get divorced, which I guess is supposed to explain why the mom is a mess and bring the kids closer together but none of it really matters. The mom is essentially in a different movie, the dad does nothing and the kids don't need more to do that look at dinosaurs. As much as I love seeing David Wallace from “The Office” and Kitty from “Arrested Development,” the movie is too long, cut them. 

3. No Good Cameos. Stick your Jimmy Fallon cameo in your ear. I want Malcolm, Grant, Ellie, that Latino guy from the beginning of the first one who was super excited about amber. Give me something. I know you’re building a new world with this one, but c’mon. How about the kids visit an exhibit which is just a hologram of Malcolm telling them 10,000 reasons math says they’re doomed? Give those of us who own the turd sandwich that is “Jurassic Park 3” on DVD a little love. 

2. The Tech is Great … Except When it’s Not or We Ignore it. “Jurassic World” has a few logic problems. I know it’s a movie about prehistoric animals brought back to life and put in a zoo and that it’s probably best not to get too caught up fact-checking it, but for the love of god. First off, all of the animals’ habitats are equipped with heat sensors so handlers know where said animals are at all times. The animals are also implanted with a tracking device for double protection. Smart. Except, when the Indominus Rex doesn’t show up on the heat sensors in its pen, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) immediately sends a bunch of people in to investigate. What, did she forget about the tracking device? She didn’t feel like giving Nick from “New Girl” a call back at HQ to see if the heat sensors had maybe shorted out or something? Nope, it’s just right into the dino pit where they are immediately attacked by the Indominus Rex which can adjust its own body heat to avoid heat sensors. Brilliant. Another issue. The kids are riding around in big fancy motorized hamster balls called gyrospheres in a field of nice dinos. When things turn south at the park, all of the gyrospheres are asked politely to come back to base. Naturally, because they’re kids, they don’t listen and keep driving their gyrosphere around and then out through a mysterious hole in the fence which they feel the need to investigate. Are you telling me that there is no emergency over ride on these things? We can bring dinosaurs back from the dead and put people in motorized hamster balls but there is no way on Earth to take control over those gyrospheres in the event that something bad happens? "I don't know what else to do, sir. I tried 'Pretty please' and everything."

1. Chris Pratt: Bland Action Hero. Perhaps the most unforgivable sin of "Jurassic World" is hiring Chris Pratt and then making him so bland. Pratt isn't playing lovable goofball Andy Dwyer from "Parks and Rec" and he's not playing swaggering, Capt. Jack-esque Starlord from "Guardians of the Galaxy." Instead he's playing generic tanned, grizzled action hero. Outside of the occasional stray one-liner, there's nothing in the part of Owen Grady that requires a talent on the level of Chris Pratt. Any tan guy in reasonable shape with the appropriate level of facial hair could play this role. Instead, all Pratt seems to be doing in the movie is keeping audiences and critics from taking a giant dump on it. Chris Pratt is a likable guy. Maybe the most likable guy. People are going to be a lot kinder to him riding on a motorcycle through the jungle leading a team of raptors into battle than they would be to most people in a similar spot. Hell, I put that on my list of things that made the movie really awesome. Swap out Pratt though for someone less popular and less likable, say Nick Cage, and what happens? The movie gets laughed out of theaters by critics and Average Joes alike and the internet memes start before the midnight shows let out. With Pratt, we're willing to let how dumb it is slide - or even embrace it - because we like him. The actor. Not the character. The character is pretty much a nothing. It's brilliant casting but it's still a disappointment. You could have done so much with Pratt in that role beyond just "plot hole and lazy writing concealer." Also, that kiss he plants on Claire? Hang on ...

1b. That kiss. It's later parodied in a funny scene with Nick from "New Girl," but that second scene doesn't make Pratt's kiss any less dumb. He went out with Claire once and she didn't like him. Then he randomly grabs her and kisses her and she's all "Oh, my hero!" The movie's problematic handling of the sexes seems more obvious in a post "Mad Max: Fury Road" landscape. Consider Claire. First half of the movie, she's a buttoned-up, career-oriented business woman with a sophisticated taste in guys and who doesn't like kids. By the end of the movie she's basically a giant pair of boobs in a tiny shirt who just wants to play mother hen to the kids in the movie and be manhandled by handsome guys. And this is seemingly presented as an improvement? The wardrobe thing was supposed to show how she's tough and ready to trek through the jungle to find the kids, but she kept her heels on because obviously. So, the suddenly skimpy outfit, the warming to the kids and Pratt, any one of those things would probably be fine on its own but together? No bueno. Get me Ellie Sattler, please and thank you.  

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