“Dyno-Might!!” – “Jurassic World” Consumes The Box-Office & Recaptures The Spirit of Two Decades Ago! [Double-Team A!]
Steven Spielberg had a a banner year. In the Summer, he reinvented the summer tentpole he created with Jaws in 1975, by releasing Jurassic Park. This post-modern monster thriller fully made CGI a regular part of a filmmaker’s tool kit. Simultaneously brand new and old-school, this giant crowd -pleaser would go on to earn over $357M in the US, and spawn two sequels which would earn another $400M collectively.
Then, in December, he’d release his artistic masterwork, an art film about a legendary chapter of the Holocaust story, Schindler’s List. Winning seven out of twelve Oscars in 1994, Spielberg returned to his throne as the world’s entertainer and as a filmmaker of colossal artistic importance.
Now, back to the future – 2015.
The major films of the summer so far are a comic book sequel (Avengers: Age of Ultron, $1.3B worldwide), a teen-focused musical comedy sequel (Pitch Perfect 2, $256M worldwide), the latest sequel in a film series missing onscreen since 1985 (Mad Max: Fury Road, $320M worldwide), and an original disaster film – not an ironic post-modern one, but a straight up old school Irwin Allen clone, starring The Rock (San Andreas, $300M worldwide).
Into these waters sails a Mosasaur of a different color – Jurassic World is indeed the fourth film in the series. Resetting the record for a domestic opening weekend – over $204M – it may well out-earn Spielberg’s original by this summer’s end. And – just as importantly – on an artistic level, it is the first of the JP sequels to deserve to be favorably compared to the progentior. And remember that Spielberg himself directed the second one – JP: The Lost World.
I wont give you a beat-for-beat rundown of the plot – Cadillac Jack does that much better than me. What I’ll tell you is that for the third time this summer, including Fury Road and San Andreas, a summer popcorn movie has surprised me with its skilled execution, its uncommon ambition and its sheer entertainment value.
While this is not nearly as suspenseful as the 1993 original, Jurassic World is as much a popcorn masterpiece as our first trip to Isla Nublar.
Using the very “DNA” of the original, this bigger, faster, more dangerous version of the dinosaur-themed theme park follows many of the guidelines Spielberg, novelist Michael Crichton and screenwriter David Koepp established 23 years ago. Simultaneously, filling this park with all the digital conveniences and contrivances of the 21st Century doesn’t give the humans any kind of new edge over the timeless creatures who had dominion over pre-history.
But the biggest surprise here – even bigger than the Indominus Rex, the man-made genetic stew of a super-dinosaur who terrorizes our cast – is that all this wonder and spectacle is provided by a screenwriting and directing team, Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow (respectively), whose only prior produced motion picture is Safety Not Guaranteed. This semi-mumble-core tale of a possibly crazy guy looking for help with a time-travel experiment earned all of $4M at the box office in 2012. But somebody, somewhere decided they were the guys to make this movie.
Someone was pretty darn smart.
Nick Robinson & Ty Simpkins (the kid who stole Iron Man 3 from RDJ) do a fine job as our two kids in peril. Irrfan Khan (Life Of Pi), Bollywood mainstay, is very good as Simon Masrani, the billionaire who now owns InGen and Jurassic World. He starts out idealistic and rather sympathetic – though he’s no John Hammond – but his financial pragmatism and hands-off managerial style takes him down a less popular and darker path.
Vincent D’Onofrio – recently so magnificent in Netflix/Marvel’s Daredevil – plays Hoskins, the InGen project manager tasked with making Velociraptors into … something useful, as a version of his legendary Full Metal Jacket character “Gomer Pyle”, if he’d not gone nuts and become a homicidal maniac. He effectively morphs into the human every JP film needs us to hate, with that wonderful character flaw of always believing he’s right… until someone (something?) lets him know he’s not. Which leaves us with our leading players….
Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help, The Village, 50/50, Mrs. Seth Gabel and daughter of legend Ron Howard) plays Claire Dearing, the tightly-wound, type-A modern working woman who runs the Jurassic World park for Simon Masrani. First, I like the actress, and I like the character a lot. There is, to me, a very clear attempt to create a classic kind of combative chemistry between Claire and cowboy dinosaur whisperer Owen Grady. Most reminiscent of the characters in Romancing The Stone, it is a pretty old-fashioned approach to a relationship. Spielberg himself has used this approach in Raiders, Temple Of Doom and JP: Lost World, and I don’t recall those being blasted as anti-women or having a non-feminist agenda. (Now, Last Crusade certainly didn’t get any gold stars for its femme fatale who seduced both Dr. Jones-es.)
In JW, because Claire is feminine, well-appointed, opinionated, not necessarily maternal in nature and bossy, it has become a big target for a big anti-feminist cannon. Because of my weakness for the third act of giant popcorn flicks, and the fact that Claire devises the solution to the movie’s big threat, I say JW is pro-Claire and pro-woman. Just because she falls for that big lunk Owen and learns to appreciate her nephews during the collapse of her other love – Jurassic World – does’t make me see her as weak. But, I’m a boy, and don’t really know much about these things. But I do know this -
I fell for Chris Pratt (current King of Hollywood) and his 21st century cowboy, Owen Grady, and am not ashamed to admit it.
His first pro credit comes in 2001, on the USA series The Huntress. His first steady gig was on The CW’s Everwood, as cute doofus Bright Abbott. But in 2009, he was cast as Andy Dwyer on Parks And Recreation, and anyone who watched that show fell for Chris Pratt. He started out as a pretty unlikable lump on a couch, was impossible to really hate, and by season two – and his next big TV weight gain – became TV’s most adorable human puppy of a boy.
Now, in his second starring film role as a hunky hero, Pratt is less silly, an everyman hero in the Harrison Ford mold – though clearly missing a few of Ford’s IQ points – and an even better romantic lead than in last summer’s Guardians Of The Galaxy. And, most importantly, he’s at least 35% responsible for that record-breaking $200M+ / $500M worldwide box-office. I mean, CGI dinos still get 65% credit.
He and Howard are so wonderfully, chemically combative, that, if Pratt is going to be Indiana Jones 2.0, look no further than Ms. Howard as ingenue Marian Ravenwood.
I don’t have to convince you that Jurassic World is more than worth your money and your time. And, if Chris Pratt’s recent comment that he’s signed to “38 more” sequels is true, the thrill-ride reboot is just beginning.
Comments are closed.