31 December 2015

The Worst of 2015: Jurassic World

Jurassic World. Colin Trevorrow. USA.

Following not-so-closely on the heels of two famously reviled sequels, Jurassic World certainly should have earned its place next to its unfortunate predecessors, The Lost World and Jurassic Park III, but from the rock I’m currently living under, few people seemed as vocal about their disdain for this trash as they had been for the others. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for the Alexander Payne-penned third installment which brings an embarrassed Sam Neill back as Dr. Alan Grant to one of the dinosaur-infested islands with a hilariously neurotic divorced couple, played by Téa Leoni and William H. Macy, in search of their missing son... Payne's involvement even coaxed Laura Dern to briefly return to the series, quite literally phoning in (on a white cordless phone) the bulk of her screentime to Neill from her suburban paradise. Fourteen years later, the Park has been upgraded to a World, a tourist attraction for dumb Americans who are already on the verge of losing interest. Like the two irritating kids in the original, a pair of teenage siblings—one a weepy prepubescent nerd, the other a suspiciously horny date-rape-bro-in-the-making—fly to Jurassic World to visit their shrew of an aunt (tediously played by Bryce Dallas Howard), who runs the island's prehistoric attractions with a sharp ginger bob and a sensible pair of heels that can withstand walking on grass, through the jungle, and away from hungry dinosaurs. Thankfully, when chaos erupts on the island as it has been known to do, a hammy, humorless velociraptor trainer (played stone-faced by Chris Pratt, who apparently traded his charm in for a chance to be a chiseled, boring action star) comes to save the day (I guess).

Director Colin Trevorrow manages to produce a decent action sequence or two over the course of Jurassic World, but in just his second film, he brings along almost all of the worst aspects of his terrible debut feature, Safety Not Guaranteed: a contrived centralized romance between two characters you're actively rooting against (played by two actors who fall somewhere around Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen in Star Wars on the scale of onscreen chemistry, or lack thereof); laughless comic relief from the insufferable supporting cast (Jake Johnson is slightly less irritating here than he was in Safety); groan-inducing dialogue; a disappointing and unwarranted narrative “twist;” and a cheap, but plentiful dose of queasy sentimentality. But despite all of this, I got the impression that a lot of people over the age of twelve didn't mind Jurassic World, which boggles my mind. The only aspect in which Jurassic World actually succeeds is in proving what a truly astonishing feat Steven Spielberg accomplished with the original, a near-perfect Hollywood blockbuster that remains as magical and as thrilling as it was nearly twenty-five years ago. Hollow, bloated, and joyless, Jurassic World is just a sad reminder of how seldom films like Jurassic Park actually come around.

How about this alternate ending? Instead of finding the love that melts her icy exterior to reveal a conveniently gross maternal instinct, Bryce Dallas Howard gets eaten by the T. rex down to her ankles, leaving her high-heeled feet on the doorsteps of Jurassic World (I mean, really, what kind of misogynist bullshit was at play with those fucking heels?)... as the film's swishy pair of pseudo-villains, played by Vincent D'Onofrio and BD Wong, board a helicopter that flies romantically into the sunset just as the iconic John Williams score begins to play.

With: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, Irrfan Kahn, Jake Johnson, BD Wong, Omar Sy, Judy Greer, Lauren Lapkus