The final shot sums it up. With triumphant orchestral music, a T-Rex stomps onto the top of a control center, looks out at the amusement park that once contained him, and roars. He (and other dinosaurs like him) are free from and victorious over the corporate and capitalist powers that sought control and exploitation. At least, until a potential sequel comes about.
Initially, I felt that Jurassic World was telling me something about big budget blockbuster reboots, remakes and franchises, all the while being one. Something counter intuitive, perhaps. That no matter how we try to dress a story up, it’ll never beat the original. Perhaps I was looking for another Lego Movie event, where tools of oppression backfire and are used to express something deep and true.
Perhaps I was wrong. But, perhaps I was close.
A Racing Mind
Months after release and more money made than I could ever hope to see before my eyes, we all should know the premise. Following the original Jurassic Park and ignoring Lost World and 3, Jurassic World has successfully created and caged dinosaurs in an amusement park setting upon the runs of the old location, and opened for the general public to visit. Patrons (and moviegoers) are surrounded by references and references to the original concept, and just how magical and grand it all was, while soaking in the consumable attractions of the present day.
In the great Escape from Tomorrow, the atmosphere of Disney Land / World is felt as being something seedy, depressing and uncomfortable. Sure, it’s not presented like that directly, but there is something nauseating about company propaganda and convenient luxuries (at a price) hitting you over the head and lowering your inhibitions. Why can’t it just be about the cartoons? The optimism? The wonder?
Coming from a monetary driven perspective, the management at the new park craft a new dinosaur, one “bigger”, “better” and “cooler”. Indominus Rex it is labeled. Similar to Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, it lives in captivity, never having any contact with anything living outside the walls around it. The priorities of the park aren’t really to express and share the splendor of previously extinct animals, but to get us to open our wallets faster and faster. Remember the “coupon day” gag?
Jurassic World is a movie stuck in an existential crisis. As the owner of the park asked about Indominus, “The animal is contemplating its own existence?” So is the film. Beyond the amazing visuals are reference points to the original story, but all too familiar. Beyond the greed earns comeuppance creed, it also romanticizes consuming excess. It’s complicated, not complex.
Being without fully formed commentary on the ideas it plays around with, it more or less can be perceived as nothing more than a popcorn movie. And that isn’t necessarily bad, just disappointing. However, I think its thoughtfulness is clever in its own right, and its introverted self questioning nature gives me, honestly, goosebumps. Blockbusters don’t always ask much of others or of themselves, they just exist to be watched. Jurassic World knows it needs to be more than that, it just struggles to find the right way to articulate.
The Frankenstein’s Monster like Indominus Rex is the movie in its purest form. A confused killing machine, created for the sole purpose of making money, that breaks free for a presumed attempt at self exploration. What did it find, if anything? That its too big to live? That it’ll be replicated? That the old standards are critical of it? I think it found more questions than answers.
Rating — ***1/2
Beneath the surface is insecurity, but above ground level is lots of cathartic fun. It’s very much a product, and one of its time and place. Thoughts run around, but do they ever finish for it? Does it make a difference if they do?