This has been a while coming. For some time it was going to be a very left-field Dirty Dozen type movie with mutant soldier dinosaurs on a mission to the old island to save someone or another. Fortunately, everyone saw sense and realised that was too much of a leap from the core story and what people really wanted was just more of the same.
Web nerds were absolutely livid about this film before it even came out: “the cg is rubbish,” they cried, “there is too much of that cg and the whole film is not going to be as good as Stephen Spielberg’s original.”
Well… duh people of the internet. Are we not living in the modern world? Yes, there is a lot of cg but most of it is very good, and at worst it is solid and a bit too clean occasionally. I would have liked a bit more puppet work involved but then I say that about pretty much everything in life. Plus, as my work chums will tell you, vfx in trailers are almost certainly never anywhere near what the final shots will look like. A big shot like the giant fish dinosaur (yeah, I don’t know its name, go fuck yourself research) jumping out of the water will probably take the best part of a year to get right. The trailer version usually has a couple of months at most and is often knocked up at the last minute in a few late nights of coffee and cheap biscuits. Of course its going to look a bit ropey. The finished work is just fine.
There is indeed a lot more cg in the film, but that is the nature of modern blockbusters. All of them have what can only be described as a shit-load of vfx clogging up the screen nowadays. Even something as lauded as this year’s Mad Max: Fury Road had two thousand vfx shots and that was mostly praised for using so many practical effects. Even if Spielberg himself had directed this you can bet that there would have been a hell of a lot more cgi dinosaurs than the two minutes worth in the original.
And that brings us to Spielberg himself and his replacement Colin Trevorrow. I’m not sure what it is with this modern trend of having deeply inexperienced directors making massive budget films. What makes the producers think this is a good idea? There have been a number of weird examples like Snow White and the Huntsmen and 47 Ronin with guys who’ve never directed a film in their lives. Those two could at best be described as shallow and lifeless, and that’s probably me being kind. At least Treverrow did the quirky and delightful Safety Not Guaranteed before this. But that was an incredibly small film dealing with real(ish) characters, not massive dinosaurs smacking the shit out of each other and eating paying customers.
In fact Trevorrow rises to the occasion and does an okay job. It was never going to be easy trying to follow Spielberg’s footsteps, the film is well made and moves at a solid pace, but it lacks the deft touch that the master story teller has. The set pieces aren’t as tight as Stephen would make them and the action scenes lack that coercive sense of geography that means you know exactly where everything is at every moment. That’s not to say the action isn’t mostly very well done. The scene in the spinning transporter spheres mimics the tyrannosaurus Rex attack on the jeep in the original very nicely and the climax too feels like a good update of the first one and has enough dinosaurs thrown at it to make it pretty exciting. However, you do feel that these scenes are not the work of a cinematic genius but that of a very smart committee. The worst example of this is the Pterodactyl attack on the main park which is mostly just a load of stuff that happens for a few minutes. It does have one great moment though when one random visitor legs it from some winged beasts, still holding the margaritas he’s just ordered – that man has his priorities sorted!
Maybe I’m being too harsh on Trevorrow, maybe he did have complete creative control over the whole production and if he did then good for him, it is a mostly well shot, handsomely photographed and satisfying couple of hours at the cinema. Its nothing special but then were most of the other sequels? Its probably as good as them, which is fine as liked them both.
What isn’t quite up to scratch is the script. Most of the characters feel quite underwritten, Chris Pratt is cool and all, but that seems to more because he’s Chris Pratt and is on a Triumph Scrambler rather than anything the seven (!) screen writers have managed to come up with. Bryce Dallas Howard is the standard successful business woman with no time for her family character and there are a number of other actors who are given fairly one dimensional roles. The only one who does come out of it well is Jake Johnson from New Girl (and Trevorrow’s last, sorry, only other film). His character is some kind of operations nerd and he gets all the best lines. Or at least he makes the lines he has funny with his spot on comedy timing and interesting moustache.
If Jurassic Park was the Jaws of the nineties what this most reminds me of is Jaws 3D. Its the same set up with a big fully operating adventure park over run by the big baddie. Hell, it’s even in 3D. Although at no point does a monster actually reach out and try and bite the audience which I feel kind of misses a trick. At least Texas Chainsaw 3D had the sense to throw a chainsaw out of the screen so we all ducked. Couldn’t we have had a raptor try and bite our heads off? The most that can be said about the 3D is that it is unobtrusive and cleanly done so that you don’t notice it after a while, so it is basically pointless. Oh, apart from some of the very wide shots of the park, sorry world, where the 3D makes everything look like funny little miniature models, surely defeating the point of wide shots in the first place.
So there you go, 65 million years in the making plus another 14 since the last one, and its a decent enough monster pic with enough heads bitten off, bodies swallowed and teeth ripped out and left in walls to keep most people happy. But to all those people who have been hating this thing for the last year or so, you’ll be pleased to hear – it ain’t no Jurassic Park.