‘Jurassic World’ Roundtable Review

JURASSIC WORLD – Directed by Colin Trevorrow, Written by Rick JaffaAmanda SilverColin Trevorrow, and Derek Connolly. Starring Chris PrattBryce Dallas HowardVincent D’OnofrioTy SimpkinsNick RobinsonIrrfan KhanJake JohnsonOmar SyBD WongJudy Greer; rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril”; in wide release June 12, 2015; running time: 124 minutes.

It’s pretty safe to say that everyone who fell in love with the first “Jurassic Park” over 20 years ago has been dying to see a movie that at least somewhat lives up to the original’s greatness. We were burned before with both “The Lost World” and “Jurassic Park III”, so this somewhat fresh new take to the series along with the star power that Chris Pratt was bringing got us all excited.

Sure enough, this fourth outing is arguably a step above the others, and while it isn’t a perfect sequel by any means, there is enough great stuff here to warrant a viewing.

“Jurassic World” picks up 20 years after the fall of “Jurassic Park.” The theme park / zoo is a bustling and profitable business that people around the world have fallen in love with. Not content with the success they have had, the park is always innovating and their newest attraction — a genetically engineered monstrosity named Indominus Rex — shows the promise to be their greatest triumph ever. Except of course when it breaks loose and begins to wreak havoc among the employees and guests who are literally trapped and waiting for rescue.

Of course, a movie of this magnitude couldn’t be reviewed by just one of the robots, so we decided to have Adam McDonald, Citizen-Bot and Swankmotron chime in and review it together.

Hold on to your butts!

Adam: Let me preface this by saying that I liked the movie a lot. In fact, I can’t wait for the general release so I can get back in line and see it again. I have some issues, but the good vastly overshadows the bad. “Jurassic World” delivers on its promise of watching dinosaurs fight each other and eat people, and at its most basic, that’s what people are looking for in these types of movies. When it’s running smoothly, this is spectacle at its finest and is easily worth the price of admission. Chris Pratt is wonderful as the “Muldoon” character here, and Bryce Dallas Howard as the head of the park has a nice character arc from a suit looking to make a profit to someone doing her best to keep innocent people alive. Their banter is fun and quite reminiscent of “Romancing the Stone”, but I really wish the rest of the cast could have been given as much to work with. The two brothers who replace Hammond’s grandkids from the first movie are boring at best and forgettable at worst, and Vincent D’Onofrio as baddie Hoskins is a complete waste.

Swank-mo-tron: Yeah, you obviously enjoyed it a lot more than I did. And “Muldoon” is the wrong character to base a movie around. I had fun enough when there were dinosaurs on the screen, but it was all just versions of what we’d seen before on genetically enhanced steroids. I didn’t just love the first movie for its action and suspense, I loved it for its story and for its characters and the filmmaking. None of those things is on display with any level of competence here. The barely coherent story was idiotic, the characters were paper thin, and it didn’t actually say anything we hadn’t already heard in the first film. Or “Aliens.” It was just groan worthy all the way through. “Romancing the Stone” might be a good comparison in that it’s a third-rate Indiana Jones knock-off …

Adam: Blasphemy!

Swank-mo-tron: . . . and that’s all Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady was. And the scene where he first meets Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire here tries so hard to feel like the scene with Marian and Indy in the bar in Nepal but it falls so flat that I couldn’t stand it.

It was as though they were three drafts away from having a great script and then realized they didn’t care.

Citizen-bot: Yeah, they didn’t care. They didn’t need to. You know who else won’t care? Most audiences. In a lot of ways, this film is its own commentary: people are bored with just seeing dinosaurs, as spectacular as that is (the first three films). And so they go out and create something new that shouldn’t exist and then it gets loose and they can’t control it. That’s the perfect metaphor for this script. And you know what? End of the day? I didn’t care. I saw awesomeness. I saw Chris Pratt being as Chris Pratt as I wanted him to be. And those kids? As forgettable as they were, I crown them the least annoying kids in the history of the franchise. Let them be forgettable. It’s better than annoying.

Adam: As always, the dinosaurs steal the show and Indominus is the diva here, and she fulfills her role wonderfully. She oozes terror and makes easy prey of all who fight against her no matter the approach they try. I believe the term I used last night was “People McNuggets.” As we’ve seen from the trailers, the raptors play a huge part, and even the less popular herbivores make their presence known. Hell, the most emotionally impacting scene in the movie involves a brachiosaurus. Some great jump-scares and truly suspenseful moments round it all out to make this a lot of fun and the epitome of a fun, popcorn movie. Just be willing to turn parts of your brain off in order to fully suspend your disbelief.

Swank-mo-tron: The older I get, the more I think movies owe us more than the need to turn our brain off. Especially in this franchise. We shouldn’t have to turn our brains off to enjoy a movie, it should be smart. This film is split 50-50 between fun and stupidity. The further I get from the movie, the more I seem to actively dislike it. When I left the theatre, I thought I was in 6 or 7 out of 10 territory, but now that I’ve had time to chew on it, I really think it’s more of a 5 and I might have enjoyed Jurassic Park III more.

Citizen-bot: I understand that impulse. And I don’t think you need to turn your brain off to enjoy this, but I do think you need to meet this movie on its own terms. This isn’t another story of “you shouldn’t have meddled with nature” that was the basis for the first film and the animus of Dr. Ian Malcolm, the conscience of the first two films. In fact, my review for this film is perfectly summed up in something he says in “The Lost World”: “Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and um, screaming.” There’s no character as interesting or articulate as Malcolm, or even Muldoon, or even Ray Arnold. The script is nowhere near as fun, quotable, or balanced as the first film. That being said, this is the most fun I’ve had with this franchise in 20 years, because we get awesome dinosaurs that we haven’t seen before, thrills, chases, fights. That’s all this movie is– spectacle and fear. And I can appreciate it for that without having to turn my brain off. What I do have to do is repeat to myself, “Buy the premise, buy the bit.” If I’m already bought into the ridiculousness of a world where there is a theme park of dinosaurs, I’m also buying the other elements of this. I enjoyed myself a great deal, and it was better than other summer spectacles like San Andreas. Go see this in a theater with a big screen and a good sound system. I will say one thing: there is no reason to see this in 3D. Save your money.

Adam: And we also get that it’s a sequel. It was really cute and cool the first time “World” recreated a scene nearly shot-by-shot from the first movie, but not so much the 30th time around.

Swank-mo-tron: The problem is that this movie didn’t have to be as bad as it was. Just a little more care could have been taken and it could have been something special. Now, it’s largely disposable.

Citizen-bot: Agreed. But “The Lost World” and “Jurassic Park III” are hardly classics, either.

Swank-mo-tron: At least Jurassic Park III embraced the fact that it was nothing but a monster movie. William H. Macy and Tea Leoni at least had character moments worth watching. And Sam Neill’s business is just fun to watch and there’s a story that isn’t just a rehash of the original.

Adam: In the end, that’s what most people are going to get from all the Jurassic films is that they are monster movies. Ask anyone what “Jurassic Park” was really about, and I can guarantee that 99% of them aren’t going to understand that it’s a thesis on Chaos Theory. As far as they are concerned, the only time Chaos Theory was involved was when Malcolm kept dripping water on Sattler’s hand. And for them that’s fine, because that’s not what the movie represented. For those of us who wanted to look deeper, there was a whole other layer that was fun to explore and dive into. I wish “Jurassic World” had that deeper layer, but that’s not going to matter to most people.

Citizen-bot: I think we had almost this exact same argument over Godzilla last summer

Swank-mo-tron: Well, this was definitely better than Godzilla. And the further away I got from Godzilla, the less I liked that, too.

Citizen-bot: They’re really similar movies in a lot of ways, especially the final climax of the film. And in both, I think the film’s potential exceeded the filmmakers’ grasps. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome to behold on a giant screen while sharing a large tub of buttery corn with some friends and family.

Swank-mo-tron: But why should these movies be disposable? I want to be able to revisit it with friends and family a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now and find new nuances and shades of gray to it. There’s a reason the original will get re-released all the time. Or “Jaws.” Or “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Or “Gone With the Wind.” Or even “Terminator,” “Aliens,” or whatever. These films transcend something. The only thing “Jurassic World” is going to transcend is the money out of your wallet to see the spectacle on the big screen once.

Citizen-bot: You’re right about that, but I think you’re being overly demanding– you’re talking about like the top .1% of all films ever. It’s exceedingly more difficult to capture lightning in a bottle the way these did– most of those films you mentioned are in franchises that never lived up to their potential again. I know we want them to all be better, but I think the Hollywood system is rigged to value profit over art, and giving several more passes over a script means more time, means more money– and, hey, we’ve got a release date and toys that are hitting shelves, so. . .

Swank-mo-tron: We SHOULD demand more of our movies. And these movies should strive to join those .1%. This movie clearly didn’t even try, which is why it draws so much ire from me. Your point about the machine is exactly why we SHOULDN’T be giving these movies a pass. We need to review the hell out of them so people know why they’re terrible and why they should expect more

Adam: Here’s the deal though, not all movies should strive to be that kind of film that everyone is going to look back on years from now and think they were a masterpiece. Some just have to be fun and give a level of excitement and escape that is needed at that time. Furious 7 is, overall, a crappy movie, but I had a ton of fun with it, and so did the rest of the damn world, it would seem. I’m not going to look back in 20 years and think “what a masterful movie”, but I did think back over the last few months, and giggle to myself because I saw cars skydiving

Swank-mo-tron: Doing both is not impossible. It’s not even that hard. They just don’t try because we give reviews like, “Just turn your brain off.”

I don’t want to turn my brain off. I want to watch a fucking awesome, thrilling movie that makes me think and makes me giggle with how good the filmmaking is. Every time. Every. Single. Time.

Adam: And I do agree with Bryan here; I would love for every movie to give me that experience, but that’s not going to happen, especially when the average person who goes to the movies isn’t interested in those kinds of films. That’s not a damnation of the average public because most people go to the movies for an escape and not to be challenged or made to brood over the plot, cinematography or directing of the movie — that’s our job! “Jurassic World” has issues, but the overall amount of fun to be had left me with a smile on my face and a desire to go see it again, which is something that a lot of other recent movies haven’t been able to do. 7/10

Citizen-bot: *Gives Bryan a hug* Awwww, buddy. You’re right. But, I also come back to my basic philosophy on reviewing films (largely based on my training in statistics and social science) that, like most things, movies fit into a “normal distribution” or “Bell curve” shape. Basically? Don’t wake me up for anything more than two standard deviations from the mean (anything that not’s in the top 5%) — because, statistically speaking, those things are not remarkable. And by definition, only the top .3% and bottom .3% of any “normal distribution” count as our outliers– those are you classic movies like “Star Wars” and “Raiders” and “Alien.” So when I’m giving this a 7.5/10, that’s  barely even a single standard deviation from the average. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, or even mediocre, but it’s just not truly remarkable in the way “Jaws” or the first “Jurassic Park” were. Very few films are. But, I had almost as much fun watching this as I did the first time I saw “Jurassic Park” at a drive-in many years ago, and far more than I did watching “The Lost World” or “Jurassic Park III.”

Swank-mo-tron: For me, I’ll go with a 5/10 for this film. It should have been so much better than the mediocrity we were given.