Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

10 July 2015

Things I Liked about Jurassic World

So Jurassic World is apparently making money hand over fist and people are flocking to the theatre. I am not really sure I can pinpoint why. My friend Walter and I have gone around and around about this, and I keep coming back to But man, there's dinosaurs! Walter (accurately) reminds me that The Lost World and Jurassic Park III did not do nearly this well and they, too, were about dinosaurs. It is truly a puzzle because this is an awful movie for many, many reasons. Its misogyny, which is its most marked characteristic, is chief among these, of course. (The men in Jurassic World, while not in the least nuanced, are at least different from one another – even in terms of nationality and color! But every woman in the movie is basically identical to every other woman in the movie – white, teary-eyed, vaguely shrill.)

To be honest, though, I didn't hate the movie. I found it sort of fun: a kind of pleasure for which I felt extremely guilty. And so on that note, I will bypass all of the bad things about the movie and try to be positive about this terrible film that I didn't hate. Some things I enjoyed about Jurassic World:

1. Irrfan Khan. I love seeing him onscreen whenever he's in anything, and although he is terribly underused in this movie, and although the director completely undercuts his coolest scene (in the helicopter) by spoiling the reveal, he is still cool in the movie. And his character is the mouthpiece for whatever dumb philosophy the movie contains (about the smallness of mankind, the ethics of genetic testing, a critique of Bryce Dallas Howard's tendency to work too much and refuse to have any fun). And in a world where the costume designers basically have no idea what they're doing, his costume (an obviously expensive suit) was nearly the only one that made any sense.

2. Nick Robinson! I love this young actor. He was amazing in The Kings of Summer, which I've talked about at length on here. So I am glad he is getting bigtime work. He is solid in this too. It would have been easy, for example, for him to overplay the negative side of his character at the beginning of the movie, but he opts instead for a nuanced characterization that sees the role as making a minor shift rather than a big clunky emotional shift from terrible brother to great brother. Instead he's slightly disaffected and shifts into caretaker mode without getting too sappy.

3. The new dino. I felt like I didn't see nearly enough of the new Misogynist Rex or whatever it was called, but it was so cool! It can regulate its body temperature? It can camouflage itself? It can run super fast and it kills for sport? I love this thing! It was very sad to me that (like the latest Godzilla flick), director Colin Trevorrow never really let the camera linger on the giant evil dinosaur, but she was still really, really neat. This is a PG-13 thing, too, I expect. I mean, I guess we're not really allowed to watch a giant lizard rip through the flesh of another giant lizard, but it would have been cool.

4. The Mososaurus. Apparently the movie-version actually looks nothing like what the historical Mososaurus probably looked like, but this animal is the coolest thing in the whole picture. Also – and I am not sure if this is intentional – but Jurassic World borrows one of its sequences wholesale from Disney's 1940 film Fantasia. The quality is terrible because this video is obviously illegal, but skip ahead to 3:15 and then consider the following:

This is copied directly in the sequence where the Pteranodons pick up the boys' nanny and play with her only to have both predator and prey get eaten by the Mososaurus. This was a particularly egregious sequence of misogyny, by the way, but I did get some pleasure out of watching the Fantasia tribute/cribbing.

5. Hmm. I think that's it actually. Everything else is standard fare, except that it's really stupid on top of being really standard. Queer villains. Corrupt military figure. Vague environmentalism. Half-baked love plot. Anti-intellectualism. Terrible direction. Terrible editing. Really bad acting. Abysmally bad script. It's a good thing there were dinosaurs.

[Edit: 6. Ashley reminded me that Bryce Dallas Howard ran around the entirety of that island in heels. She didn't do hardly anything that was badass, but all of that running in heels definitely qualifies.]