Bright Lights Film Journal

Notes on a Stupid Dinosaur Movie: <em>Jurassic World</em> and the Hollywood Blockbuster

Once a film gives up on originality, it immediately descends into nihilism. Whatever sensory pleasures such a film may offer, the underlying assumption is that the entire experience is empty and meaningless.

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Hollywood has a neat little racket going these days: making mega-budget tent-pole action movies that so saturate the public consciousness with advertisements and brand recognition that they’re treated like major cultural events, but which are also so deliberately immaterial that anyone who criticizes them looks like an uptight buzzkill. This used to be the exception rather than the rule, with films like the Indiana Jones and Star Wars sequels in the 1980s, but now it’s inescapable. Not a month goes by without another superhero sequel coming our way as the Next Biggest Movie Ever, or another installment in a never-ending fantasy franchise, or a remake of some silly thing we all thought had kicked the bucket twenty years ago. They all make a zillion dollars in a weekend, and everyone who voices ideological or aesthetic criticisms against them might as well be shooting a V-2 rocket at a rubber bounce house.

For instance, imagine the absurdity of trying to explain in a formal essay why a film like Jurassic World, the third sequel to Jurassic Park and the latest in Hollywood’s elephant parade, left me not only bored and disappointed, but furious. Is there any value to being angry at such an insubstantial film? Is there anything anyone else could gain from me expressing it? Maybe not, but the same could be said for people who loved it.

Films like Jurassic World are not interested in discourse. The experiences they seek to create are fleeting, subjective, solitary, solipsistic. Maybe these rambling, immaterial films require rambling, immaterial criticism, something as equally indulgent and disconnected from intellectual concerns. Jurassic World tried to appeal to my childish emotions and all it triggered was childish anger, so what is a fellow whose love of cinema began at age five with a certain dinosaur movie to do?

Some thoughts:

1. Jurassic Park was the defining film of my childhood. I read Michael Crichton’s original novel a dozen times in elementary school and watched the movie five times as often on a streaky VHS recorded off of NBC, complete with panned-and-scanned full-screen aspect ratio and Tylenol commercials. The documentary The Making of Jurassic Park was the first glimpse I ever got into how movies were actually made, and, as much as it seems to me now like a little boy getting caught up in marketing, it was a revelation. I repeated the whole process with the sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and, to a lesser extent, Joe Johnston’s Jurassic Park III, though I was significantly older at the time and the film was significantly worse. As an adult, I’ve wrestled with Spielberg’s hypocrisy and Pavlovian manipulations, but my soft spot has never healed, and I’ve never passed up an opportunity to see Jurassic Park in the theater, whether in glorious 35mm or embarrassing 3D.

In other words, I’m exactly the kind of mid-twenties dinosaur nerd whose nostalgia Jurassic World was banking on, but its ugliness, fan-fiction story-telling, and incessant pandering to what it thinks a guy like me wants to see had me literally covering my eyes in disbelief. Everyone else in the theater applauded when the credits rolled. Is this what people really like? Is there something wrong with me? Should I see a psychiatrist? Here I am trying to relive my childhood like a good American consumer, and everyone keeps telling me to try the fresh, new taste of Soylent Green.

2. It’s difficult to say to what extent this film is “Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World.” Trevorrow’s only other feature film, Safety Not Guaranteed, is a good dark comedy about time travel with a somewhat generic style, but Jurassic World feels like the work of a nervous understudy getting shoved out on-stage at a Broadway premiere after the star quit the night before. It hits the same beats as a Spielberg movie – especially with Michael Giacchino’s “original” score hammering away with bits of John Williams music every five minutes – but it has none of Spielberg’s patience or panache. Where Spielberg learned Hitchcock’s and Ford’s methods, filmmakers like Trevorrow (and J. J. Abrams and Gareth Edwards) only seem to have learned Spielberg’s effects.

The most obvious way this manifests in Jurassic World is that the film rarely builds up effectively to its Spielbergian emotional crescendos. There are only a handful of scenes with dinosaurs in them in the first Jurassic Park, but all of them are memorable. The sick triceratops, for instance, is one of the film’s iconic moments of childlike wonder, but Spielberg doesn’t just stick a big animatronic under your nose and expect you whimper. Up to that point in the movie, we haven’t seen many dinosaurs at all, and the characters, like us, are getting restless. Spielberg teases us with a series of false starts: you see dinosaurs for a few moments at the beginning, then they’re gone; you think you’re going to see a dilophosaurus, then you don’t; you think you’re going to see the T. rex, then you don’t. Then, some tension mounts as the characters investigate something unknown, and the camera follows them through tall grass until it emerges to reveal the triceratops, like the curtains opening on King Kong. Finally, a dinosaur! It fills the screen. The music swells and everything stops so the audience and the characters can marvel at this beautiful animal. That’s entertainment!

Jurassic World copies the basic structure and emotional notes of this scene when it has Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) discover a dying apatosaurus. Up to this point in this movie, we’ve seen dinosaurs out the wazoo, and this scene pops up in the middle of a fast-paced series of action scenes and asks us to immediately revert to the emotional state we had when we watched the triceratops scene twenty years ago. At least Spielberg would spend the first half of a movie training the audience to respond to that movie’s specific Pavlovian triggers (editing, music, etc.). Trevorrow is just using the ones Spielberg came up with and plays them like a keyboard.

It’s probably not fair to criticize Trevorrow too much, though. Trying to pull this project out of a death dive after a decade in development hell was a thankless and probably impossible task. There were so many hands on this thing tugging it in all different directions, it’s a miracle it wasn’t somehow worse (though, if it were any worse, it might just be completely ridiculous enough to be enjoyable as schlock).

There are four credited screenwriters: Trevorrow himself, Derek Connolly (who wrote Safety Not Guaranteed), and Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (who wrote the excellent Rise of the Planet of the Apes). This seems like a coherent team of professionals with a clear vision, but the film also incorporates a lot of story elements from a terrible screenplay by John Sayles without crediting him. How many other fingerprints did they try to cover up? Jurassic Park, while clearly a movie-as-theme-park-ride project in the tradition of Universal monster movies, had a handmade, auteurist quality to it. It is every inch a Spielberg film. Jurassic World is the product of a long, sad history of bad ideas, and it feels like something made by a board room full of marketing researchers and computer technicians.

3. The film has what feels like forty or fifty shots of Mercedes-Benz automobiles pulling up to the camera so that the emblem on the front of the car is prominently featured in the shot. A part of the park is called the “Samsung Innovation Center,” and, lo and behold, everyone in the film uses Samsung Galaxy phones. Claire also proudly announces that the park’s newest dinosaur will be sponsored by Verizon.

I wondered why they didn’t show any Coca-Cola commercials before the film – which are now almost as ubiquitous as trailers and overpriced popcorn at mainstream cinemas – but Owen Grady, the film’s badass, drinks a Coca-Cola from a classic glass bottle while fixing his motorcycle, with the label turned just enough to the side to not be too obvious. This is after another character cracks wise about the Verizon sponsorship by saying that they might as well let the sponsors name the dinosaurs, such as a “Pepsisaurus.” Coca-Cola sure is hip and “with it” to be in on such a clever joke, and Pepsi sure has egg on their face for not giving the studio more money to get their soda pop in the movie, instead.

Wait, it seems Universal Studios and Coca-Cola are corporate partners! Universal Studios’ flagship theme park, Universal Orlando, says on its website that they “encourage our guests to Live Positively™ through our partnership with Coca-Cola’s universally loved products.” Get it? “Universally” loved? Pepsi never had a chance.

Universal Orlando is also the same park that has the Jurassic Park ride at its Islands of Adventure section, and Jurassic World itself – which in the film is the most high-tech and amazing theme park the world has ever known – bears an uncanny resemblance to Universal Orlando’s CityWalk. There’s even a Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant there, and Jimmy Buffett himself pops up in the film for a brief cameo (holding some delicious margaritas, of course, available at your nearest Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant).

4. The appeal of Jurassic Park is the dinosaurs, but the film’s central story was about gruff paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill) learning how to act like a dad (below). At first, he doesn’t like kids at all, then he saves the kids in the movie from getting munched on by dinosaurs a few times, learns to enjoy their company, and, by the end, has sort of taken them under his wing as his own. This character arc is not in Crichton’s novel, but Spielberg, obsessed with fractured nuclear families and always attentive to the box office value of “the human element,” wove it into the dinosaur action with elegance.

Jurassic World copies this, too, but transfers it to its stuck-up, joyless heroine, Claire, who, despite Bryce Dallas Howard’s talents as an actress, mainly functions in the film as a visual element, always dressed in crisp white with a bright red bob-cut. The kids in this movie are her nephews, sent to Jurassic World so she, the executive who runs the park, can show them a good time away from their parents (who are, naturally, getting divorced, like all parents in Jurassic Park movies).

Her attitude towards the kids never really changes, though. We’re meant to think she’s a heartless hag when she sends her assistant to show them around the park and can’t remember how old they are, but, damn, the woman is busy. She’s got a park to run. She loves the kids at the beginning and loves them at the end; all that changes is how concerned she is with their safety, which increases as the dinosaurs start escaping and killing people and decreases as she learns to trust Owen Grady’s heroism.

Essentially, Claire learns to be a mom by accepting that she needs a burly, sexually aggressive man by her side to protect the kids for her. The women in the first two films were fully capable of taking care of themselves and Spielberg never condescended to them, but Claire is yet another uptight woman-in-the-workplace who doesn’t know how to have fun and needs to be loosened up by danger and masculinity. She never even takes off her high heels. Trevorrow claims in an interview that that was Howard’s decision and that he tried to talk her into changing into a pair of boots, but I can’t say what really happened. The backward sexual politics in play here, whoever is at fault for them, is a rabbit hole I don’t care to tumble down.

5. Is it a coincidence that, mere months after rumors started circulating that Chris Pratt was being considered for a reboot of the Indiana Jones franchise, a Spielbergian franchise movie comes out where Pratt rides motorcycles, jumps on trucks, and narrowly escapes from danger through slowly closing doors?

Pratt is now one of Hollywood’s bona fide hunks, but while his character is almost as ridiculous a flawless male fantasy stand-in as Indiana Jones, Pratt is no Harrison Ford. He’s charming, yes, but he used to be a chubby comedian, and what is charming in a chubby guy can border on smugness in someone lean and muscular. Think of all the lovable assholes John Goodman and John Candy played and imagine them played by a young Brad Pitt. I’m not sure he’s even a good actor. He seems to only play Chris Pratt in every movie and TV show I’ve seen him in, whether he’s talking to Conan O’Brien on late-night TV or flying around on magic roller skates in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Pratt’s “character” in the film reads like something a preteen boy would scrawl in his notebook: a suave, funny, totally ripped ex-Navy mercenary with a sweet motorcycle and big gun who trains velociraptors and leads them into combat. One of the kids says to his aunt Claire, “Your boyfriend is a badass,” and she clearly thinks, Yes, he is a badass, and, yes, I wish he was my boyfriend. The audience thinks this, too, or, at least, is supposed to. Owen Grady’s only flaw as a character is that he never flicks a cigarette at a dead dinosaur and says “You’re extinct.”

And yet, for all the film’s posturing and Pratt’s strutting, he still doesn’t have half the sex appeal of Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcolm.

6. Vincent D’Onofrio (below), beer belly bulging against his tucked-in khaki shirt and phoning in his performance from a thousand miles away, also had more swagger and sex appeal than Pratt. His character, Vic Hoskins, is even more of a one-dimensional stereotype than Claire or Owen, a gravel-voiced mercenary Bad Guy who wants to use the trained raptors as weapons. It’s a threadbare super-soldier plotline ripped out of early nineties straight-to-video RoboCop knockoffs, and he gets eaten during a lame Bond villain monologue. One of the great lessons Spielberg learned from John Ford was how to properly utilize a compelling character actor – hell, Jurassic Park has an entire cast of character actors. D’Onofrio being wasted so badly is the film’s only true pathos.

7. Ten years ago, everyone was making jokes about how all the most popular movies were sequels and remakes. Now, they’re all sequels to sequels, and remakes of remakes, and they rely so heavily on your nostalgia for earlier films that they have nothing else to offer. These films no longer produce iconic images or catchphrases that enter the pop culture lexicon; they merely reproduce what’s already been made.

Jurassic World copies the blocking of the famous “raptors in the kitchen” scene from Jurassic Park several times, shows a dinosaur chasing a truck in the truck’s side mirror, the aforementioned triceratops scene, and countless others. Perhaps Trevorrow’s “paying homage” to the original, but I don’t think a sequel can pay homage to the film it’s a sequel of, and, in any case, “paying homage” has been the go-to excuse for plagiarists since Godard told Samuel Fuller he was merely “paying homage” to Fuller’s films when he copied them.

Before the film, they played a trailer for the upcoming Terminator Genisys, and it repeated at least three or four of the famous lines from the original Terminator film: “I’ll be back,” “Get out,” “Come with me if you want to live,” etc. If I wanted to hear those lines, why wouldn’t I watch the movie they’re from, rather than some new movie that’s repeating them?

Maybe these little callbacks and references are pleasurable to a lot of people, but I wonder how kids now are responding to it. Are today’s eight-year-old boys being inspired by regurgitated claptrap like Jurassic World? I have trouble believing that those eight-year-olds now will be watching Jurassic World when they’re my age instead of Jurassic Park, or last year’s remake of RoboCop instead of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 original.

To paraphrase what Godard said about Hitchcock, you can tell Spielberg is something of a film poet because, while you may not remember the details of the plot in Jurassic Park, you definitely remember the water rippling in the cup as the T. rex approached. Jurassic World not only fails to create such memorable images, it doesn’t even try, and once a film gives up on originality, it immediately descends into nihilism. Whatever sensory pleasures such a film may offer, the underlying assumption is that the entire experience is empty and meaningless.

This isn’t a generational preference for what I liked when I was six years old. Jurassic Park owes a lot to John Ford, King Kong, and every movie Ray Harryhausen ever worked on, but, if you’re on board with its particular sense of fun and adventure, it makes you want to watch it again. The new Hollywood blockbuster doesn’t want to make you watch it again; it wants to make you watch the next one. A film like Jurassic World (or Avengers: Age of Ultron, or Transformers: Age of Extinction), for all its financial success, is forgotten by the time its inevitable sequel arrives. It’s huge and loud and bursts into cinemas to great fanfare, then disappears, a cinematic whale fart blowing away in the wind.

8. Jurassic Park has humans fleeing from dinosaurs to survive and predatory dinosaurs hunting smaller ones for food. Jurassic World has humans hunting down dinosaurs to kill them and dinosaurs fighting each other like gladiators. There’s a fundamental difference between these two approaches that my sense of fun and ethics cannot bridge. Though they faltered at times, the first two Jurassic Park films (the two directed by Spielberg), while nominally monster movies, tried to show that dinosaurs were animals, not monsters, and I can enjoy watching people try to survive in a hostile environment where dangerous animals are just behaving according to their instincts. It’s a simplistic Man versus Nature story straight out of a children’s novel. What I can’t enjoy is people shooting animals with machine guns or animals fighting each other to the death for my amusement. Those are the pleasures of a Godzilla movie, and, while I enjoy Godzilla movies, Jurassic Park always had more integrity and class than that. Jurassic World tries to have it both ways, and I find the result a repulsive compromise.

9. I am flabbergasted that, despite the massive inferiority of the technology used at the time, the computer-generated effects in the first Jurassic Park are still more convincing than the ones in Jurassic World. One of the scenes Jurassic World copies more or less directly is the one where the herd of gallimimuses are running through the valley, and it allows a direct comparison for almost the exact same effect. The new effects are either too crisp or smooth or glossy; I can’t quite put my finger on its exact cause, but it looks fake. If you go through the original film frame-by-frame, the CGI looks quite outdated, but, at 24 frames per second, they rarely stand out from their real life environments as artificial-looking.

My only guess as to the cause is that, when making Jurassic Park, the technology was so new that they had to work with practical special effects people who were accustomed to working with physical objects under real lights. Now, CGI is so commonplace that I wonder if anyone involved with the computer effects on a film of this size has ever worked with practical effects. I don’t wish to denigrate the hard work of the film’s numerous computer animators, whose work would look spectacular as a fully computer-generated cartoon, but, without that artist’s instinct for how humans perceive shape, light, and color, the illusion completely falls apart once you place it alongside a live-action environment.

Maybe it looks better in 3D with those weird, dark glasses on. I wouldn’t know because 3D nauseates me and I refuse to pay extra for the privilege.

10. The film’s main baddie is a genetically engineered dinosaur, the Indominus rex (below), which is basically a T. rex and velociraptor hybrid with some other DNA thrown in for superpowers. Like Owen Grady the Raptor Whisperer, the Indominus is too badass. It’s the smartest dinosaur ever. It can talk to velociraptors. It’s invisible to heat detection. It can camouflage. It kills for sport. It’s impervious to bullets and explosions. It’s so overly designed to be a perfect movie monster that it’s ultimately boring, a blur of excess with no personality or pizzazz. It just looked like a big gray allosaurus with spikes on it to me. Even Jurassic Park III, for all its cheese, was more successful in creating a new iconic dino-villain with the spinosaurus, which is both visually distinct from other dinosaurs in the series and an actual real-life species.

11. In one scene, InGen’s chief geneticist, Henry Wu (B. D. Wong, another under-used character actor and the only returning role from the original film), explains to InGen’s owner (Irrfan Khan) that a lot of the dinosaurs on the island would look “quite different” if they had used the dinosaurs’ pure DNA instead of splicing it with frogs and lizards to make them look more appealing to the tourists. In plot terms, this is supposed to tie the ridiculous Indominus rex Frankenstein monster into the original’s themes of mad scientists playing God, but, pragmatically, it’s the film’s half-assed excuse for why the dinosaurs don’t have feathers.

Though it got a lot of things wrong and made up some other things completely, the original Jurassic Park succeeded where previous dinosaur monster movies failed largely because it tried to stay true to then current paleontology. General audiences, accustomed to dinosaurs sluggishly dragging their tails and eating swamp muck in children’s encyclopedia illustrations, felt like they were learning something real, which lends the film a credibility that raises it above your ordinary B-movie. It was not common knowledge in 1993 that birds evolved from dinosaurs or that some dinosaurs were intelligent, but now the velociraptor and its birdlike anatomy are staples of pop culture.

Today, we know that velociraptors had feathers, so it seems like a no-brainer to put that new knowledge in a science fiction film franchise that bent over backwards to show how birdlike they were, but, no, the velociraptors (below, with Chris Pratt) look how they did twenty years ago. Dinosaur nerds have been arguing about this for a year now – whether the scariness of featherless velociraptors outweighs the desire for scientific accuracy and so on – but the lack of feathers is only a symptom of an underlying problem: Jurassic Park asked us to celebrate dinosaurs, but Jurassic World asks us to celebrate Jurassic Park. This is also why the same theme music that Jurassic Park used when it showed us dinosaurs is what Jurassic World uses when it shows us the theme park. This nihilism closes off cinema from the real world and treats movies themselves as the only reality, the only sources of emotion, pleasure, or thought.

12. Once again, the fat guy ruins everything! When will InGen learn: fat people cannot be trusted. Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight), the porky slob in the first film, was the downfall of the original park when he shut off the electric fences and allowed the dinosaurs to escape. In Jurassic World, the Indominus escapes when an unnamed fat security guard opens the gate to the enclosure. Why did he do that? Well, he was in the enclosure with two thin and muscular dudes who were running for their lives, but he, being fat, was too slow, and he, being fat, was a coward by nature, so he opened the enclosure so he could try to sneak out the gate, allowing the Indominus to escape. Thankfully, both these characters are brutally devoured, much to the audience’s delight. Nobody wants a fat person to survive in a fun summer action movie.

13. I have some questions for the filmmakers, or anyone smarter than me who has seen the film: Why did the Indominus hatch out of its egg with its hands first instead of using its snout like all birds, reptiles, and other dinosaurs? Why doesn’t the Indominus have lips? Why did the Indominus have opposable thumbs? Why didn’t the Indominus use its opposable thumbs? Why did the Indominus only use its amazing cuttlefish camouflage superpower once? Why didn’t they figure out that the Indominus was invisible to heat detection as soon as they turned on the heat-detecting cameras? Why didn’t the Indominus enclosure have a double gate the way the velociraptor enclosure did? Why did those guys go into the Indominus enclosure at all when all they were doing was looking at the big scratch marks on the concrete? How did the Indominus remember where they put its tracking device in when they could have only put it on her when she was drugged and unconscious? Why was the tracking device a huge glass plug the size of a light bulb instead of a tiny microchip like the ones people put on dogs? How did the Indominus know those kids were inside that gyroscope ball when the super-thick high-tech glass probably would have concealed their heat signatures? How did the Indominus detect the heat signatures of the people in the park from several miles away? How did the Indominus know how to talk to velociraptors when it had spent its entire life in isolation? Why did the velociraptors immediately start listening to the Indominus instead of running away in fear when confronted by a giant, unknown animal, like all animals do?

Why do the tourists have manual control over the gyroscope balls? Why isn’t there a large wall separating the outdoor mall from the lake where the mosasaurus lives when it can clearly jump out and eat things on the land? Why does the T. rex enclosure open into the outdoor mall? Why isn’t the T. rex enclosure on the most remote part of the island to prevent disaster in the event of its escape? Why were tourists allowed to canoe around stegosauruses when The Lost World: Jurassic Park had an entire action set-piece built around how those animals are particularly violent when people intrude on their space? Why does the park have so many helipads when the only helicopter pilots on the island are the eccentric billionaire who owns the park and his flight instructor? Why are the security forces tasked with recovering escaped dinosaurs wearing baseball caps instead of helmets? Why does one of the shots of bugs in amber from which they extract dinosaur DNA show a crane fly instead of a mosquito?

What kind of training did Owen receive in the Navy that qualified him to be a velociraptor trainer? Was he in the Navy’s lion taming program? How did Owen ride a motorcycle through a jungle full of logs, rocks, and bulging tree roots? How did Claire run so fast in high heels? How did Claire outrun a T. rex when the first film makes a big deal about how the T. rex can run thirty-two miles per hour? Why did everyone stop running for their lives once they stumbled upon the secret lab full of mutant lizards and snakes? Why did Hoskins try to reason with a velociraptor? Why did the movie start out at Christmas time and then never mention that again?

Why is the mosasaurus so much larger than it was in real life? Where did they get the great white sharks to feed to the mosasaurus (below)? Why did the pteranodons and dimorphodons immediately start attacking people indiscriminately as soon as they escaped from their enclosure when those animals are believed to be piscivores and scavengers? How did the dimorphodons, which are lightly built and the size of a goose, manage to lift not only human beings up into the air, but also baby triceratopses that probably weigh over five hundred pounds? How did the velociraptor at the end jump thirty feet into the air to land on the Indominus’s face? What were the velociraptors doing to the Indominus that could hurt it when it had already been shot with machine guns and walked away unscathed? Why did the T. rex acknowledge the velociraptor like it was a fellow warrior whom it respected instead of ignoring it or trying to eat it? What would they have done if the T. rex was a male and tried to mate with the Indominus?

Why didn’t they show a glass of water rippling as the T. rex approached when the rest of the film so shamelessly exploits the iconography of the original film?

Why are there no Latinos working at a theme park in Costa Rica? Are they the only ones who learned their lesson after the events of the first movie?

14. Even if I enjoyed Jurassic World for its hopelessly cheesy action scenes, I would still be disgusted by its smug self-congratulation. The film is peppered with moments that emphasize how this film is the first worthy sequel to Jurassic Park, including everything from direct self-reflexive references to the fetishistic over-use of John Williams music, but the most obnoxious was when the T. rex, making its grand entrance at the finale, smashes through a spinosaurus skeleton on display. Only dinosaur geeks probably remember Jurassic Park III at all, but, in that film, the spinosaurus kills the T. rex in the first half hour of the movie, which upset a lot of devoted fans. This T. rex – which looks awful, by the way – destroys the skeleton with a magnificent roar as an act of metatextual revenge: Forget that other film! This one’s the real deal! Pandering to a fan base smacks of insecurity and insincerity.

15. The film has a cute conceit where the Indominus rex, bred to be the park’s next big attraction now that people are no longer impressed by ordinary dinosaurs, mirrors the Jurassic Park franchise itself, which is trying to reconnect with audiences burned out on CGI action and giant monsters in movies. It doesn’t work for several reasons.

First, the film has characters outright say this, and, once a film directly explains its intended themes to the audience, it’s insulting their intelligence. There’s even an entire character, a nerd in the control room with toy dinosaurs on his desk (Jake Johnson), whose primary role in the film is to say what skeptical fans of the original movie (like me, oh, I feel included now!) will be saying about the Indominus rex and the product placement.

Second, while the film implicitly criticizes the brainless yokels who are bored by real dinosaurs and want to see a giant mutant killing machine with “more teeth,” the entire success of the film depends on those same brainless yokels. The film tries to change gears in the final act and turn the whole thing around to be about the “real” dinosaurs again, but it’s really about the Indominus rex, even though the film assures us that only idiots obsessed with boobies and smartphones would need something as ridiculous as the Indominus rex to be entertained.

Third, this movie was not directed by Paul Verhoeven, and he’s the only director around who has managed to pull off this subtle, double-edged genre satire. He may be misanthropic, but he’s never nihilistic, and his concerns with audience responses are not with their intelligence or their attention spans but with their sense of morality.

Fourth, if you’re starting with the assumption that people are no longer impressed by realistic dinosaurs, it seems like a cynical and difficult route to take to insult the audience with this idea and try to have your cake and eat it to by turning the whole thing into an ambivalent self-reflexive commentary. It reminds me of the new Muppet movie from 2011, The Muppets, which was mainly about how nobody likes the Muppets anymore. Listen: everybody likes Muppets and everybody likes dinosaurs. If modern movies have trodden on the legacy of those classic childhood favorites from the seventies and eighties, cut the metatextual clowning around and just make a straightforward dinosaur movie that can inspire us all again. The best revenge is living well. Just look at Mad Max: Fury Road, one of the finest action films ever made and an oasis in the desert of modern genre movies. George Miller didn’t make a whole movie about how nobody wants to watch the kind of movie he used to make. He ignored all these other damn fools trotting out these cartoonish extravaganzas, hunkered down with a notebook and a camera, got a good story together, and made a masterpiece.

16. The film’s finale has the Indominus rex getting tag-teamed by the T. rex, a velociraptor, and the mosasaurus in a preposterous monster mash. It’s irredeemably stupid, but even people who loved the movie seem to agree on that point. The disagreement is whether or not it’s fun, and, with something so intentionally vapid, your sense of what is and isn’t fun is too personal and irrational to even attempt a debate on the film’s merits. It has no merits to debate, only flavors and sensations. It is, as so many people have told me, “just a movie,” one that I “shouldn’t take too seriously.”

I wonder if Universal Studios think it’s “just a movie.” Jurassic World made over half a billion dollars in two days and I hated it more than The Room.

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Note: All images are screenshots from the trailer or stills from Universal Pictures. No rights given or implied.