Sunday, December 20, 2015

Jurassic World

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Now, read on.

It's been 22 years since the original incident at Jurassic Park. This distinction is important, because Jurassic World  is a sequel to Jurassic Park, and not a continuation of the other two sequels. No references are made to Isla Sorna, the Los Angeles incident, or a Spinosaur. Thank goodness. Jurassic World builds upon the same idea of Jurassic Park, but with the assumption that John Hammond, founder of the original park, didn't dream big enough. The problem is, no matter how impossibly fascinating the re-existent dinosaurs are, the public always needs something new to keep their interest going. No matter how wonderful the spectacle, eventually people will yawn and say "oh, more monsters."

Jurassic World has introduced all the classic dinosaurs that we know from the first movie, including a few others, but the sponsors and owner want something even bigger and more terrifying than anything we've seen before. Thanks to ambitious scientists and genetic splicing, the Indominus Rex is created. Can anyone else hear Ian Malcom's warnings right about now?

     "The lack of humility before nature that's being displayed here, staggers me... Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet's ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that's found his dad's gun...Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should!"

And for this lack of humility and responsibility, Jurassic World is about to pay dearly.

In the absence of Dr. Ian Malcolm's cocky but sound wisdom insisting that "life will not be contained, life breaks free...It expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously", Jurassic World has Owen Grady-- a less eloquent but equally reverent voice of reason amidst the dreamers and executives. Owen respectfully treats the dinosaurs as animals capable of attachment, bonding, training, and harmonious coexistence, while Claire repeatedly refers to them as "assets." Owen's careful attitude has made him the alpha male among a pack of velociraptors, but at no point does Owen forget that these raptors are still highly intelligent, and cunningly lethal. When Owen is introduced to the Indominus Rex, an animal created and matured in absolute isolation and composed of multiple creature DNA's, he is immediately opposed and fearful. He cares about the animals, and somewhat alludes to the injustice of making wonders of nature a mere feature of an exotic zoo, yet his priorities are in order: people come first.

Claire, on the other hand, is not so very unlike Jurassic Park's original founder John Hammond. She is convinced that they retain sovereign power over the dinosaurs, and is unfazed by the idea of future consequences. The main difference however, is that while Hammond was enraptured by his creations, Claire is cold, unimpressed, and driven by the bottom line. While the new owner, Mr. Masrani, stands in awe of the Indominus Rex, Claire sees the beast as nothing more than a thrilling asset, with no regard for its self-awareness and intelligence. She mentions, with veiled hints of disdain, how workers threatened to quit if she couldn't guarantee their safety, further revealing her detached nature. That is not to indicate that she's downright sour, just rigid. Eventually of course, Owen is right and Claire has to loosen up (but never without her high heels) if she wants to save her nephews.

The main conflict for Jurassic World must naturally be that the Indominus Rex escapes containment, posing a threat to hundreds of guests and workers, and most especially to Zach and Gray. But just as the laws of movies dictate that dangerous creatures must escape confinement, the laws also dictate that any minors in danger of said beast must be above-average intelligence, as such beasts spare smart children. Stupid adults are a different matter. But back to the point, Zach and Gray might make a few foolish choices to drive the plot, but are otherwise resourceful, quick-thinkers, and remarkably calm in most situations.

For the most part, the villains of Jurassic World are the Indominus Rex, the insatiable hunger for scientific breakthrough, and the illusion of power. Elsewhere however are a few minor conflicts that I will call "sequel bait." The sequel bait features Dr. Henry Wu getting into some shady business with ultra-lame bad guy Hoskins (think Nedry from Jurassic Park), who just hangs out waiting for an opportunity to seize power and run away with Jurassic World's lab results to make dinosaurs into weapons. Without giving too much away, enough happens in Jurassic World that at least part of this scheme may be underway, though it's uncertain. Hence, sequel bait.

SPOILER WARNING: This paragraph only.
I'd like to take a moment to talk about the Indominus Rex. In case you missed the warning, this paragraph does contain moderate spoilers. The Indominus is a genetically spliced creation made up in parts of T-Rex, raptor, cuttlefish, and snake. Jurassic Park portrayed the T-Rex as territorial and instinctual, and the raptors as more cunning and vicious. This movie's T-Rex and raptors retain these features, but with the added bonus that the raptors are capable of a mild degree of training and bonding. It's important to make this distinction because the Indominus is the ultimate incarnate of all these traits, in the worst ways. While the formerly terrifying T-Rex and raptors have been reduced to park attractions to be gawked at in their habitats, the Indominus is alive with an evil, dominant bloodlust. Even Owen Grady, who is otherwise respectful of animal rights, immediately recognizes the creature's violent nature, and advocates for the Indominus' termination, saying "that's no dinosaur." Throughout the movie, the Indominus delivers one surprise after another, using its considerable skills (sometimes with the assistance of other wildlife) to reign supreme over Isla Nublar.

Jurassic World, while not directed by Spielberg, is the perfect summer movie with a whole lot of Spielberg touches: kids in peril, a roguish hero, larger than life adventures, beautiful music, and a cast of quirky supporting characters who keep the comedy going. Cinematically, Jurassic World capitalizes on all the best features of Jurassic Park without going too crazy on special effects. The dinosaurs are blended seamlessly into the world, so that even the audience feels just as at ease with the animals as the onscreen tourists do.

This world feels familiar but new, and beautiful but dangerous. Jurassic World proves again that life will not be contained, and that power is only an illusion. The mighty T-Rex has been reduced to a gory feature of a theme park, the terror of the deep mosasaurus is an overblown sort of Shamu show, and even the terrifying raptors have been conditioned and molded for man's purposes. Eventually, the Indominus Rex is not the only creature to crash through the barriers and remind the people of how very volatile and limited their power is. Where the franchise goes from here is anyone's guess, but it is clear that man has a few more lessons to learn about respecting nature before the park is closed for good. And that's just fine with me if they continue to uphold this level of quality. This return to my favorite childhood movie was worthy, reverent, and a whole lot of fun.