Early on in Jurassic World, you see Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) informing both a group of investors and Owen (Chris Pratt), separately (great, not once, but twice, so that we don’t miss the point), “We need to keep upgrading, giving people something bigger/better, so that they don’t get bored, and keep coming.” And just in case you didn’t get that, a bit later, during crisis time, Dr Wu (the scientist, B D Wong) tells Masrani (the owner of the park, Irrfan Khan), “Why did we invent Indominus Rex? Because you wanted something cooler.”
Great, we get it; the new Jurassic Park movie, a sequel to the first movie (from 1992) is a reload for the generation that was born after 1992 and is thus aiming to be bigger, better, badder, cooler for them. So, now, we can begin checking off.
More dinos (mososaurus, the ginormous whale-meets-croc one; the baby ones – in the petting zoo; pteranodon – the flying ones; more raptors – four; and of course, the motherlode, I-Rex).
More sophisticate: holographs of dinos in the museum; gyrospheres instead of the electric-powered cars; and whew, both terrestrial and submersible viewability of Gino Dino.
Cooler setpieces: the much-memed and already-cult sequence of Owen saving an apprentice, and himself, from his nurtured raptors; the flee, flight, and fury of the pteranodons; Gino whooshing up for its meal of a… Great White shark.
Tributes to many of Steven Spielberg’s cult movies, especially beginning with J: Jaws (Gino speeding to the surface a la the Great White); the Indiana Jones franchise (Pratt killing the terrain on a mean hog and alongside his raptors); and of course, J Park itself (I-Rex scaring the kid first with just his eye).
Standard forebodings about not caging, controlling, and messing with animals and their DNA – the best part about the movie to animal-freedom-advocate me.
And the final check-off. The movie’s achieved what it set out to do: appeal to a younger generation, earn gino amounts of money, and pave the way for sequels and triquels.
And then, you really check something: the eyes. First, the eyes of the kids. You notice them looking somewhere other than where they’re supposed to on the green screen. (Ah, maybe they are just kids and thus novices. Still, a bit unforgiveable in a movie of this monetary magnitude.) And then, you notice the eyes of the grown-ups too – Claire, Owen, Masrani: they all look empty, like they are just acting out and mouthing up what’s on the pages rather than feeling it. Yes, even the normally solid Irrfan Khan; at times, he even resorts to adding unnecessary, trite gestures to his dialogues to make up for the lack of feeling in the lines. And you slowly notice this all around: the baddie Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio); the support cast; the filler cast; heck, even the dinos – all going through the rigours of the screenplay without any feel and only because they got fat paychecks for such a movie. (Dinos not emoting? Lack of feel among the behind-the-scenes animation folk.)
It’s then you realize – a bit late, as you’re already lured in by then – that Jurassic Park Redux is just a monster movie (a movie with monsters, rather than a movie about monsters), and at best, a serviceable one. (In comparison, last year’s Godzilla was truly god-like.) As if bearing testimony to this, toward the end, there’s even a monster pile-up: raptors vs I-Rex; raptors with I-Rex; T-Rex vs I-Rex (yes, how could T-Rex not be reloaded?); T-Rex and raptor vs I-Rex; and finally, hold your breath, G-Rex (good ole Gino) coming up and gobbling up I-Rex. (Really, Gino needs his own movie to showcase all his skills.)
The new J Park movie sorely lacks the soul of Steven Spielberg. The soul of Spielberg, to folk born after 1992, is the opening sequence of Jaws, where you get the feeling that something terrifying is going to happen, and it does, only in a more terrifying way than you imagined, and you didn’t even see anything. It is the spine-scaring T-Rex coming close to the adolescent girl in the 4×4, and you’re shouting at the stupid girl to shut off the flashlight, but who’s too terrified to think or listen to you. It’s the claustrophobic and scarier-than-any-horror-flick sequence in the original J Park, where the raptors and the kids go hammer-and-tongs at each other, both psychologically and physically, in the place with hammer and tongs, the kitchen.
In the middle of the movie, the younger kid Cray (Ty Simpkins) asks Owen near his raptor unit, after Owen has finished telling him the four raptors’ names, “So, who’s the alpha male?” Owen, uber-cool: “You’re looking at him.” Unfortunately, in this movie, you’re not looking at the alpha-male version of Spielberg, but just his holograph. The director-writer duo of Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly go, pitifully, full fanboy and hole soul. And as pitifully, exec producer Spielberg lets them. Now, we’ll just have to wait for Bridge of Spies (Spielberg’s next directorial offering) to rekindle what the master is like. And until then, watch Jaws and Jurassic Park all over again.