“…scary only in the sum of instincts and talent for movie-making that have been lost.”
David Thompson, New Republic
“…best-looking stupid movie I’ve seen all year. It’s sumptuously photographed, and often inane.”
Sean Burns, Philadelphia Weekly
“…wasn’t giving my brain much of a workout, but my eyes got a nice buzz….straight-up gorgeous.”
Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic.com
OKLAHOMA CITY – My friend Cary asked: “Why try to make a good film when The Amazing Spider-Man grosses $700,000,000 worldwide?” Why indeed? Who cares how good a film is if it makes no money? Movies are made to make money! That’s why Michael Bay is still in business – he’s figured out how to make that dollar, y’all. Given that movies are made to make money, perhaps aspiring executives ought to examine record-breaking Jurassic World to get an idea of what people want for their money. Having just caught a screening with Jorge, Katie and Andrea, I feel prepared to share some insights as to what I saw that I believe makes a movie make money.
First, it has to have a really bad script (although a mediocre one will work in a pinch). Folks are not paying to see a Shakespearean play, and they don’t want to think too hard. Just give them something that appeals to the lowest common denominator and watch your bank account swell. You might be wondering, ‘So what makes a script terrible enough to earn a half-a-billion dollars?’ If Jurassic World is any indication, a script needs the following ingredients: exposition (“They jumped!”), inconsistent characters (the older brother and Mr. Masrani), lame humor (“If something chases you, ruuuun.”) and generally poor writing (“She clawed it out! How would she know to do that? She remembered where they put it in!”). All four components are consistently showcased throughout the film, so they must be things for which people will pay.
A fifth script element to which I especially want to draw attention is the liberal application of awkwardness. Awkwardness is all the rage these days, and it has been for quite awhile. I’m not sure exactly when it became chic; perhaps we have Joss Whedon to thank. At any rate, according to Jurassic World’s success, awkward, cutesy dialogue and characters are must-haves in the bad script of any modern blockbuster. My favorite awkward moment was when the nerdy guy tried to kiss the girl and she said she has a boyfriend. That was notably delightful and worth the price of admission. Also, I love irony.
Second, the terrible script must be augmented with an ad-hoc plot. Jurassic World does a great job of this. Certainly, some may argue that the plot and script are one and the same. However, though a terrible script and awful plot are usually conjoined, that makes them no more identical than are the always-conjoined concepts of trilaterality and triangularity. After all, a script has to do with the content of the movie arising from the spoken words whereas a plot has to do with what actually happens. So, for a movie to make it rain, its plot must contain unrealistic devices (a hybrid, camouflaging, body-heat-controlling dinosaur and trained Velociraptors), a confusing setting (Wait, T-Rex is within running distance of the main shopping area of the park?? I thought she was much farther into the park…), impossibilities (Chris Pratt just outran an Indominus Rex?? Also, how did those boys get that 22+ year old Jeep running with just a torque wrench?? Would there really be oil in the motor? Also, I know they got a different battery, but wouldn’t ALL the batteries be out of juice? Also, if the older brother failed the driving test, how is he able to exhibit perfect command of a vehicle over rough terrain while driving a stick shift?? If he couldn’t pass the driving test in an automatic [undoubtedly] on city streets, he has no hope with that manual on an island off the coast of Costa Rica!! Also, did she just outrun a T-Rex in heels? Finally, also, did the Velociraptor just display the beginnings of self-awareness?????) and gaping holes (Okay, so In-Gen are the bad guys [even though they are there to stop the Indominus Rex from eating everyone, so I guess that makes them bad guys because everyone knows humans are expendable but not animals?? BTW – why do movies say “No animals were harmed in the making of this film”? Aren’t humans technically mammals? If a human gets hurt, doesn’t that count as an animal getting harmed??], and Chris Pratt’s African buddy somehow knows to spy on them coming to the deserted side of the island [there’s a deserted side of the island?? They wouldn’t have security EVERYWHERE???]. But in the end, it didn’t matter that the African buddy saw them since they just came in and dominated everything anyway? Also, does Chris Pratt live in the park??? I’m sorry, I meant in the “world”?? Ugh, I don’t know if that’s even a plot hole as much as just really duuuuumb). If you see a movie and it instantiates all those characteristics, it is probably about to set some box-office records.
The third thing for which people evidently are clamoring is needless references. This can also be classified as part of a bad script or an ad-hoc plot, but it is so prevalent today that I want to honor it by giving it its own number. Jurassic World has some marvelously egregious references to earlier Jurassic films. For the sake of not “spoiling” the movie (LOL Grant, like this movie can be spoiled #smh #dinonomnom), I will refrain from revealing anything. I’ll simply say – when it comes to a series of films, people want to be reminded of earlier moments in the series. Why? Three reasons: references make people feel better by reminding them of an older time. Further, they make people think things like “Aww, I remember that” instead of “Geez, this is atrocious.” Lastly,they give viewers a sense of belonging.
References also help directors by acting as filler for an ad-hoc plot (something people want). People will freely empty their bank accounts for references, making them something an aspiring movie-maker would do well to remember. Btw – do you know what the ultimate reference is? Star Trek: Into Darkness. It is basically an entire reference of Star Trek: Wrath of Khan. And when I say reference, I mean remake. Ugh, people shelled out nearly half-a-billion for that junk. Money in the bank, y’all.
The fourth thing a money-maker needs is spectacular visuals. Now, when I use the word spectacular, I am aware that it has two meanings. In the vernacular, it means “great” or “sublime.” But, in the actual sense, it is an adjective that basically means “of or relating to a spectacle.” Jurassic World actually has visuals of both sort. It certainly has beautiful cinematography (my favorite element of the movie); the vistas and forests make for a gorgeous backdrop, and though many of the aerial shots seem to be poor outtakes from Jurassic Park, the look of the island is still this franchise’s greatest strength. But that’s not all. JW also has spectacular visuals in that much of the CGI is a spectacle. And I mean spectacle in the most pejorative sense possible. I’m not sure how the dinosaurs in Jurassic World manage to look worse than those in JP, but they do. And you know what? People are shelling out money at a record clip, so obviously that’s what people want! Make it rain!
Finally, the fifth thing people want is a likeable actor or two. Jurassic World has shooting star Chris Pratt. It also has Bryce Dallas Howard. I swanny, those two have no chemistry. So apparently there is a sixth thing people want, and that is a complete lack of chemistry between leads. Oh, and I almost forgot the seventh: a movie needs to jump in and out of genres. Is it a comedy? Is it an adventure? Is it a horror flick? Does anyone know? That type of thing seems to really gets viewers in droves.
In summary, most of the elements of Jurassic World are artistically bad. Then again, movies aren’t made to be artistically good – they’re made to make money. Since Jurassic World is making a boatload of dough, it would behoove future filmmakers to look at what makes JW work and follow suit. With a bad script, ad-hoc plot, needless reference, spectacular visuals, likeable actors a lack of chemistry between the leads and no semblance of genre consistency, no movie can fail.
NOTE: If it isn’t obvious, I don’t like this movie. It is really bad; not the kind of thing for which I want exchange my money. But, again, people aren’t necessarily looking for something good; more likely than not, people are just looking for an escape. If that’s what you want, I think this is a fine escape from reality. Unfortunately, it reminds me very much of Prometheus, and that is a terrible thing, for Prometheus is a movie out of which I walked – while watching it at Brazle’s house! I actually started feeling ill it was so bad, so I got up and left. In the same way, Jurassic World made me begin to feel ill. So, in tribute to that comparison, I placed other reviewers’ quotes from their reviews of Prometheus at the head of this review. It is startling how easily the comments transfer from that film to this.
NOTE 2: I almost forgot – the T-Rex in this doesn’t sound as good as the T-Rex in JP1.
NOTE 3: I love Giacchino, but I miss Johnny.
Grant Stevens remembers seeing the original Jurassic Park in the theater. Sadly, he also remembers seeing the latest Jurassic Park err World in theaters. He likes writing reviews on account of, they keep winning him Pulitzers. When not winning prizes, he acts as the El Rey of the Keep English Alive Coalition and as the Naat’áanii of the Use Ironic Correctly Society. He has also released an album of music. Check it out on Amazon.com.