Jurassic World & Morally Responsible Filmmaking

Jurassic World is not so much a bad movie as it is a lazy one. The performances are clocked it an just above barely competent, with Bryce Dallas Howard giving one of the most forced excuses for acting in the decade so far and Chris Pratt trying his best but being forced to prance around with a plastic pea-shooter of a prop gun for the majority of the running time. The direction is lazy and uninspired, essentially ripping off all of Spielberg’s best scenes from Jurassic Park except doing the exact opposite of what the box-office wonder did to make his magical dino-marvel movie work. The editing is choppy and doesn’t allow for us to process any of what we are seeing, which is mostly sub-par special effects anyways. Compare the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park to those of Jurassic World – where the former were majestic (it probably helped the actors having something to react to other than a green screen), the latter are nothing impressive and lack any conviction in their movement. Sure, they look fine on the surface but there’s no inspiration behind them. Disney studies animals to an endless extent just to make their animation seem convincing, but none of that dedication is to be found in the lacklustre mechanical nature of Jurassic World’s “wonders.”

But none of the shoddy craftsmanship holds a candle to the pathetic waste of paper that is the script. From the complete lack of structure, to the making-it-up-as-we-go plot contrivances, to the complete black hole of character development, to the deus ex machina climax and forced resolution, Jurassic World is a world devoid of coherence, logic, and emotion. The characters are all stupid and the internal consistency of the story changes depending on whatever makes sense for the moment. This isn’t just a bad amateur in film school script that doesn’t know how to balance its big ideas with pragmatics, this is just a bad all around script that doesn’t know anything.

And yet, none of my complaints are as relevant as the moral bankruptcy on display by the filmmakers. Jurassic World is the embodiment of millennial entitlement. Just by virtue of having made a film, the filmmakers seem to feel, they deserve accolades and praise. Don’t get me wrong, the fact of existence of any film is a wonder and most audiences are oblivious (fairly so) to just how much work goes into making any dream a reality. Still, there’s been a certain trend in modern blockbusters that disturbs me more and more, especially among younger filmmakers (look at Mad Max: Fury Road for the opposite example, this is a movie made by a veteran filmmaker that has more to say as well as more energy and vital enthusiasm than any summer movie I’ve seen in years, but that’s another topic) where ethics and moral responsibility go out the window in favour of computer generated faux-effects. It’s time we start talking about this.

A quick caveat on the subpar expertise in Jurassic World. Is it really too much to expect movies to be good? I know, I know, it’s supposed to be enjoyable, but enjoyment is not synonymous with “anything goes.” I paid fifteen bucks for two hours of my life I’ll never get back. I would never dream of shelling out money for a bed that doesn’t support my weight, or a bookcase that crumbles at the weight of my ever-increasing book collection, but somehow it’s supposed to be completely justifiable to spend my hard-earned cash on something that amounts to nothing more than a waste of my precious time? That doesn’t sit well with me and I feel sorry for audiences who have been suckered into believing that this lack of a standard Hollywood has put forward is the best they can get and they better just accept it and be complacent to be gifted with the little entertainment value they can get. Let’s have at least a little pride. It wasn’t always like this, after all. Yes, there have always been subpar movies and many of them are not necessarily the fault of anyone in particular but are rather failed experiments, but at least they usually aspired to something. Especially for a franchise reboot, or continuation, or whatever Jurassic World is supposed to be exactly, some adherence to the expectations laid down by previous movies should be met.

Enough on that topic however, since it is a sad reality these days but a reality that may be simply unavoidable due to economic trends and factors beyond anyone’s control. What really disturbs me about Jurassic World is its complete lack of social conscientiousness. In a world systematically troubled by social issues, with progress slow and far in between in the realm of women’s rights, minority representation and animal treatment, Jurassic World does nothing but set us backward. Not only is Bryce Dallas Howard a glorified damsel in distress (she’s even worse than that as she spends a good portion of the third act… hiding in a truck) but her pathetic character is every rich white boy’s fantasy, as proved by the forced “romance” where Chris Pratt gets to save and kiss his white heroine without her even having so much as a single moment of characterization. Yeah, she fires a gun at one point, which, by the way, comes out of nowhere since we haven’t seen any suggestion that she’s even capable of holding a pen properly without having a full blown panic attack. Poor Bryce, even though her performance is absolutely appalling, I still feel bad for the demands placed on her to do nothing but scream and look desperate for the whole movie.

There’s even a scene where Jake Johnson does the noble thing and stays behind to manage the heroes and dinosaurs while everyone else evacuates the failed Jurassic World park, and he makes a move on his female colleague. She pulls back, saying she has a boyfriend. Fair enough, but why is this even in the movie? If the writers really thought this was an odd move for a man to make on his coworker who, by the way, has no real relationship with him beyond sitting beside him looking perky, then they wouldn’t have included this throwaway sexist gag at all. It’s not that it’s there that troubles me, it’s that we’re supposed to laugh at the awkwardness and feel sorry for him for not getting the kiss. It suggests a lack of social awareness on behalf of the writers, not that it’s really surprising at this point.

Finally, there’s the appalling treatment of the dinosaurs. While Jurassic Park was about men in power trying to hijack biology for their own power – definitely a legitimate plot angle given the real world concern about cloning and technological advances in the face of biological extinction – Jurassic World seems to care less about dinosaurs than oil companies do about climate change. Not only are the animals treated like commodities but this treatment is used for comedy again and again. I actually felt dirty watching the movie, like I wanted to tell my parents I loved them and maybe apologize to all the people I’d hurt just to try and reconcile myself with my moral standards. I can’t imagine how animal rights activists would feel watching this.

It’s unfortunate at the best that Jurassic World, this summer’s biggest tentpole release, is so completely mediocre and uncaring. In today’s media saturated world, a larger than ever responsibility falls to filmmakers, writers, journalists, and all other members of the media to uphold a standard of human decency, to be socially aware enough to make constructive comments on society, and to help us aspire to something greater than what we are currently. Movies have a magical hold over us, as all storytelling has throughout human history, to mould our consciousness, to shape our ethics, and to guide us into the future. It’s time filmmakers started recognizing that instead of churning out moment-by-moment gratuitous indulgences designed to elicit nothing more than a momentary visceral response. I hate to bring it up again in an unrelated essay, but Mad Max: Fury Road still inspires me a month after I saw it to be a better person and to treat others as my equals, to look up to my friends, to respect my elders, to prioritize the women in my life who have made me what I am today, and to ultimately fight for justice and what is right. Jurassic World taught me that women are weak, that animals are pathetic, and that children are stupid. Wow, what a game changer…

 

 

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