Jurassic World ★★★★★

JURASSIC WORLD is to the Hollywood blockbuster what FUNNY GAMES was to the horror/thriller film.

While Trevorrow's film is a novel idea, it's certainly not wholly unprecedented--Zack Snyder and Marc Forster attempted similar experiments with SUCKER PUNCH and QUANTUM OF SOLACE, both movies beloved by me but that failed to connect with audiences, as their Distancing Effect proved too great a burden for audiences to bear (in the latter example particularly, Forster's formal radicalism was mistaken for ineptitude). Trevorrow overcomes their errors, making a film that's so deliciously 'well-crafted' on the surface level that its insurgency against the Hollywood status quo has reached even the most casual viewer.

The critic Sam Adams for indiewire called JURASSIC WORLD a "bad movie about why movies are so bad," basically calling out its first act "lampshading" as a cynical device to cover up its own shortcomings. I understand this view--really, I do!--but it seems to give depressingly short thrift to what Trevorrow is actually doing with the text.

I mean, let's get the obvious out of the way: JURASSIC WORLD is the story of a (theme park) director who kills his (theme park) audience. We have seen this before--that's also the story of Quentin Tarantino's INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. And JURASSIC WORLD's introduction--where we learn that market research and focus groups revealed that audiences want dinosaurs that are "bigger and cooler", with simpler names and a healthy dose of nostalgia...yes, this is hitting the nail right on the head. If this were all JURASSIC WORLD did, I'd be inclined to agree with the critics. But Trevorrow goes much further than this.

Take this jaw-dropping moment that I've yet to see a single critic discuss: Late in the film, Claire rounds up her two nephews into the back of a truck. She turns on a few television monitors in the front seat, which are tracking the progress of Owen and the other dinosaur hunters who are chasing the Indominus Rex. Suddenly, from the back, the two children slide open a *screen* so they can watch the dinosaur action. Of course, the hunt goes badly, and several men get violently chomped into pieces by the dinosaur. Claire then freaks out, and closes the screen--"You're not old enough to be seeing this!"

...Yes, you got that right. The movie's token "responsible adult" prevents her teenage children from watching a screen showing horrific acts of violence because they're too young...***in a PG-13 movie***. Has any movie ever better expressed the disingenousness of Hollywood marketing their brutally violent (but PG-13!) movies to kids than Trevorrow has done right here? I saw it in a packed theater in the suburbs, and there was a kid no older than the younger brother in the movie, and I saw him on multiple occasions cover his eyes during the scary scenes (his parents were oblivious to his discomfort, or the movie's skewering of their real-life theater experience.)

And speaking of violence, we can get to the *other* exceptionally wicked sequence in the movie: The protracted death of Claire's assistant (picked up and thrown in the air by one flying dinosaur after another, dragged underwater in a scene meant to evoke images of waterboarding in our minds, before finally getting swallowed in full by the giant water-dwelling dinosaur.) It's a scene that goes on WAY too long--it's really uncomfortable to watch. But one of the main reasons it's so uncomfortable is because it breaks the rules. FUNNY GAMES broke the unspoken horror movie rule when the killers murdered the kid and the dog (“you can’t kill children or pets, that’s too far!”). JURASSIC WORLD violates the unspoken Hollywood blockbuster rule by killing the *innocent*--and then really hammers home this contravention by dragging her death out long past the point of excess.

People can die ignobly in blockbusters, of course. But they must have done something *wrong* to deserve that. (EG, Wayne Knight accepted a bribe in the original Jurassic Park). But the assistant hasn't done anything wrong--all we know about her is that she's British and was excited to go to a bachelorette party. It would have been really simple to make audiences believe she "deserved" her death (say, add a scene where she loses the two brothers because she's making out with her boyfriend or smoking marijuana or something). To just kill her so outrageously, for so little purpose--there's no way audiences could have found her death 'entertaining'--is, to me, hammering home its "anti-blockbuster" message.

(I think this also ties in to one of the more confusing parts of the movie--the "divorce" scene, where the younger brother tearfully reveals that he's learned his parents are getting divorced. While it can be easy to take this as just a nod to Spielberg's filmography, I think there's a better way: that it is a further attack on the generation's culture of excess and passive acceptance. Specifically--the older one attempts to comfort his younger brother by saying "Look, it's not so bad, now you'll get to have two of everything--two Christmases, two birthdays," to which the younger one says "I don't *want* two of everything"--an argument against sequels in a sequel!) But even just the sheer oddness of the scene itself--the awkwardly timed reveal--is an effective reading of it, breaking up the narrative flow at a time when we're just expecting more action.)

There are other bits too--shamelessly subverting its overt product placement (Samsung sponsors the Innovation center!) by having none of the cell phones work on the island; the opening shot, where the camera angle and ominous music make us *think* we're seeing a dinosaur only for the shot to pull back and reveal its just a bird landing on the ground; or, perhaps more subtly, the way Owen finally defeats the Indominus Rex is by freeing the velociraptors *and destroying their cameras*) that this was not just the cynical "lampshading" its detractors are claiming.

I've gone back and forth on this, but after a second viewing I've decided this is indeed the hill I want to die on. Colin Trevorrow has made a masterpiece, a crucial deconstruction of all that has plagued the summer tent-pole movie in the post-ARMAGEDDON era--the "safe," corporate, focus-grouped blend of sameness that has been forced upon audiences for decades. And the fact that he has done this within the guise of a crowd-pleasing blockbuster' is further proof of its genius.

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