By Bill Arceneaux
The wonder and grand splendor of the first Jurassic Park has not entirely disappeared from modern day film and filmmaking – it’s just harder to find (especially within its own franchise). For as sprawling and awe-inspiring as the musical score can get, for as richly textured as the visuals can be, and for as charismatic as the stars can act, the magic of Park and similar blockbusters has, most certainly, not rubbed off as much on the movies that followed. Of course, a learning curve is to be expected, and of course, don’t expect directors and studios to be as forthcoming about the tricks of their trade.
With big budget spectacles having ramped up in recent years, it’s only to be expected that a majority would help dilute the pool, coming off as mediocre or forced. We just aren’t as easily impressed with special effects as we used to be. Scratch that. We just aren’t as easily impressed with CG special effects as we used to be. Anytime a movie does capture our attention and earn our awe, another production is looking to incorporate the same.
Bigger. Better. Cooler. It’s a race to the top, with risk of a massive fall.
Months ago, I described Jurassic World as being a “cathartic” experience. To witness such dinosaur on dinosaur brawling was, quite frankly, spectacular. In 3D, even.
My 4/5 * rating felt appropriate given my gushing. However, in the last month, just prior to its recent VOD release, I’ve reconsidered some of its qualities and themes. Was I blinded by the action? Did I rely too much on the fighting and not so much on the presentation as a whole?
“You think the animal is contemplating its own existence?”
The above quote was, indeed, spoken in a scene. A scene where characters tasked with protecting a theme park from danger are discussing options. It was baffling when I first watched it, feeling completely out of place as a piece of unnecessary philosophical jargon. Little did I realize, at that time, that this single line was a big clue into the inner workings of the film. Jurassic World is either a clever commentary on franchise assembly-line filmmaking, a victim of such a machine, or both. It’s more than possible that, in a movie where innocent characters suffer horrifically gratuitous deaths and everything hinges on “DINOSAURS!” that I may be reading too much into it all.
I don’t think so.
When you think of the film as a Frankenstein’s Monster-like story about a Frankenstein’s Monster-like creation, you start to connect some dots. The corporate higher-ups demanding more. The all-consuming and ever expendable audience. The diehard geeks working behind the scenes. The references upon references to the original. Saving people vs. saving the business. To me, it all adds up to Lego Movie level awareness.
However, it may just be that it knows what it is and why it is, but not what it wants to do. If there is a comment being made by the movie, it’s that, in the end, good and original movies will find a way. This is what happens when you make connections with images and references – you discover possibly unintentional messages. One thing leads to another, then another, and then you leave Earth for another planet. Does it matter if a message was made on purpose or not? Is creator intent all that counts? Down the rabbit hole, things get murky.
Did Jurassic World suffer a heavy fall, or make it to the top? It’s entertaining as all hell, made by fans of the source material. It could also have a smarter head on its shoulders than most people are willing to acknowledge. Do we care? As long as T-Rex chomps on something, I’m happy. They’re happy. We’re all happy.
Supply and demand. Capitalism. Factory level filmmaking. THAT’S what Jurassic World is about.