Monday, August 3, 2015

Jurassic World: Reactions, Spoilers, and the like

About the time it first opened, I saw a trailer for Jurassic World that kept making me think, "Like the third movie" and I sort of wondered if it was an attempt to overwrite that mess.

"It's bigger than T-Rex" Oh, like the third movie.
"The flying ones are escaping" Like the third movie.
"It's swimming after us" Like the third movie.
"They're communicating" Like the third movie.

The answer is, no, it isn't an attempt to make the third movie that doesn't suck (and I have no idea what from the trailer made me think there would be a water chase because ... no.)

It has a problem that I keep on seeing in movies and keep on thinking, "I should write a post on that," but never get around to it.

The most recent Godzilla, Thor II, Captian America: The Winter Soldier, Stuff, Things, Things and stuff.  The list goes on.

There used to be a common problem where people tried to stretch too little plot into too much time.  If you want a really good, and really old, example watch an old Flash Gordon serial.  Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe is three hours and forty minutes when, honestly, there's about enough plot for an hour of TV.  Maybe.  (And that's assuming TV with commercials.)

The pendulum has swung, kept going, and bashed through the far wall.  Now people take too much plot, try to cram it into a single movie, and end up giving creedence to the "Jack of all trades master of none" saying.

So, Jurassic World.

Before I even get into the story and how they tried to do too many things, did anyone think there were too many female roles in Jurassic Park?  Anyone other than the producers of this new movie, I mean.

So we have the same set up with the two kids who will give us the kids' eye view of things, but in a shocking twist instead of a boy and a girl we have a boy and boy.  The dino experts are now two men, but one of them is a black guy so he's mostly ignored, and we get the one female character (as opposed to plot device) in the movie as a new role of the person who isn't in a relationship and doesn't want kids so she'll have to have tragedy kill a bunch of people to show her the light because OH MY FUCKING GOD WHAT IS THIS THING?

And I liked the movie.  It was fun.  When you weren't cringing.

That over, movies.


The first story that it tries to tell is one of two brothers bonding while at a completely amazing amusement park that one is completely enamored with from the start and the other has to be taken in by over time.  There's also the dynamic between them because the younger one is pretty clearly not neurotypical while the older one is neurotypical but largely detached from things around him and possibly showing signs of slight depression of the "I don't feel up or down, I feel nothing, I am nothing," variety.

At first the only thing that seems to be able to make him feel anything (though it isn't entirely clear what that is) is looking at girls he finds pretty.  Just ... looking.  It would be simple to say, teenage boy looking at girls == lust, but that doesn't seem to be what he's getting out of the experience.  In fact, if his interaction with his girlfriend at the start is any indication, he's got a distinct lack of libido.

So we've got these two characters, the younger brother who sees everything and notices it all (except when someone wants silence instead of being talked at) and doesn't appear neurotypical, and the older brother who seems emotionally muted, or even deadened, and just wants to to be left alone and to look at girls his age who don't mind being looked at.

The younger one needs to learn about boundaries and the necessity of giving certain people quiet time.  The older one needs to find a way to make a decent connection with anything or anyone and start to feel.  Both need to learn to appreciate each other.  And, further, the older one needs to learn that the one sided relationship he's in with his girlfriend (she feels at him, he doesn't feel) isn't a good thing, either he needs to work to make it reciprocal of he needs to break it off.

And the movie starts to tell that story and does it ... passably.

Just as the story starts to make progress, though, their lives are put in danger and, with the exception of occasionally remembering that younger brother isn't neurotypical, they will be stripped of all characterization beyond: running for their lives.

That's movie one, and, while "character" pieces are not my preference as I'm much more of a running, jumping climbing trees, putting on make-up while you're up there stuff goes boom kind of movie goer, I see the potential for a completely different kind of Jurassic Park movie that someone, somewhere, apparently saw in this.

Instead of showing a park that wasn't working as in the first movie, or showing dinosaurs with no humans watching over them, as in the next two movies, Jurassic World shows a park that's running well.

It is a setting of wonder and overly long lines, and it's like Disney World but cooler.  It's an attempted melding of a character piece about two people coming together and a milieu piece about this fantastic land of wonder where dreams are made real.

By having the plot not be about the dinosaurs, you allow the dinosaurs to be shown in a non, "They're gonna kill us, they're gonna kill us, they're gonna kill us," way.  Dinosaurs on a Space Ship wasn't about the dinosaurs on a space ship which allowed the dinosaurs to just be there, being amazing.

It's sort of like how a movie, whatever its genre or plot, can feel like a love letter to the city it's set in without the plot being, "The city has gone wild and is trying to eat us."

An interesting direction, and it would have been an interesting movie.  But it's abandoned fairly quickly.


Another movie in there is about the difficulty of managing the park, especially financially, and the push and pull between those who want it to be the best park it can be (are the people happy?  are the animals happy?) and the people who see it only in terms of the bottom line.

This is set up very strongly at the start, but then it has even less pay off than the bonding brothers.

It's downright bizarre how much effort was put into setting up this story when, after the set up, there was never even an attempt to tell the story.


Movie three, the one that really had me interested in the movie, is about raising and training raptors.  Arguably this is the one that was allowed to be realized most in the finished product, especially since it appeared in the beginning, middle, and end.

The trailer showed someone riding a motorcycle in formation with raptors.  Turns out to be raptors he'd raised from birth.  Only way that idea could be improved upon is if we had a movie about someone running/riding with raptors who had raised zir.

Unfortunately, while the movie keeps coming back to it, it's never allowed to be expounded on or developed much.

We see the raptor training at the beginning.  Then raptor-guy is called away to consult on another thing, which is what goes to hell, and it's only in the very late middle that he's reunited with the raptors.  We get that cool scene of him riding his motorcycle to "run" with them out on a hunt, but as soon as that scene is over, so is the trained raptor story.  The pure concentrated awesome that was so briefly touched is lost.

It turns out that the genetically modified dinosaur they're hunting (we'll get to that) is part raptor and thus well versed in the raptor language (language does not work like that) and is able to instantly able to turn the raptors against the humans (because this weirdo they just met who smells like 60 different species is totally someone to be loyal to over the person who raised you and who feeds you.)

It would honestly make more sense if they'd just added some techno-babel about it being given some sort of limited mind control over similar species or some such shit.  It would shatter all credulity, but it would make more sense than something that was raised in isolation with no contact with anything being such a brilliant orator in a language it had never spoken nor heard that it could instantly turn these smart-smart-[in Jurassic Park the characterization of raptor is limited to SMART and predator]-smart beings against the head of their family.

So you get the one scene of training at the beginning, the scene they showed in the trailer of the raptor trainer riding with the raptors, and then BOOM the whole trained raptor thing is overruled by giant-fricking-plot-hole (do not underestimate the power of the plot hole) and we're back to raptors hunting people which we've seen for three movies before this and is honestly becoming pretty ho-hum at this point.

We do get an inkling that the raptor's loyalty will be tested when, after killing everyone else without hesitation, one of the raptors stops and has a stare down with the raptor trainer.  Trouble is that then the raptor is shot with a rocket launcher.  That is the only time anyone in the movie managed to hit ANYTHING with a rocket launcher.  Or much of anything else for that matter.  And recall that the thing they're supposed to be aiming at is the size of a bus (or larger, I was never quite sure.)

When our intrepid heroes --the boys from above, raptor trainer who is creepy and DO NOT WANT in personal relationships, and the woman who will learn that she's completely wrong on the way she chooses to balance relationships and work because What The Figurative Fuck, movie?-- are eventually cornered by the three raptors left alive it will again turn out that the raptors are totally sold on Kill All Humans as long as there's an "Except the one who raised us" attached and they'll switch sides again (damn flip-floppers) and defend the humans.  Thus the Raptor training comes back in the end.

The only one to survive will look to the trainer for permission when it wants to go off with another dinosaur it's found itself to be complementary to.

So that's the raptor training story.  One session shown at the beginning, one scene of them actually operating as a pack with the human, two moments of hesitation (the first followed by "BOOM dead dinosaur" the second followed by switch sides back to the original side) a fight scene that the raptors from the original movie would have partaken, and more or less did partake, in without being trained, and the survivor getting the ok to go feral.

The part that's really, honestly, truly about trained raptors as opposed to "Who you gonna listen to, the one who raised you or the big one with scary teeth?" is all of two (disconnected) scenes long.

Which sucks because it would have been a fucking kick ass movie.


What are we at now, three movies worth of plot?

Yeah, I think that's it.

The next plot that's introduced is quite familiar to people like me who watch bad movies on the sci-fi channel.  Well, I did.  I haven't had TV for ages.

There is nature.  You are not supposed to improve on it.  "But what about Corn?" (maize for non-Americans) that's the product of fucking with nature for thousands of years?  What about dogs, and cats, and all domesticated animals?  What about agriculture?

No.  You are not allowed to improve upon nature because if you do that is playing god and you will be smacked the fuck down.

I was going to post a list of quotes and responses ("I have stared into the face of God! – and guess what? He blinked…." The baboons kill you) but there's really no point.

The dinosaurs were created by nature; they were "improved upon"; she rebelled; and she has a plan (kill everyone and everything.)

Creating a custom dinosaur was a mistake.  It's playing god and that will get you killed.

It's a very simple low budget movie plot.  We created something that has never been seen before (or recreated something that was better left dead, which Jurassic Park can be said to be about) and now it has escaped and intends to kill us.

If they were hell bent on this being the story they told, and it does have all the trappings, they should have just stuck to that and done it right.  Instead they have a plot that can be described in two simple sentences ("We went too far in creating this.  Now we need to survive it.") and somehow managed to water it down too much to tell the story well.

It's almost unbelievable that this is possible.  Battlestar Galactica (new version) did it at the beginning of every episode in a matter of seconds ("The Cylons were created by man. [...] They rebelled.") and yet somehow this movie manages to, by throwing in the kitchen sink, not manage to tell that story right.  It's a story that almost can't go wrong.  Believe me, I've seen people trying to make it go wrong.  They failed.

We created giant komodo dragons.  Um, why?  That movie threw in a random casino robbery (or was it a bank?) and still managed to pull off the "messed with nature too much" thing.  It did it so well that they recycled more or less the same idea in Komodo vs. Cobra and the first half of AI Assault was was basically a scene for scene rip off.

We took slime from a meteor, extracted DNA and then ...

I totally thought that recreating a dragon in our revive extinct creatures lab would be a good idea.

What do you mean I shouldn't splice this snake DNA?

We're combining a shark and an octopus, what could go wrong?


Movie five worth of plot is a detective story.  The initial response of the people in charge of the park to death incarnate being loosed is to completely underestimate the threat because all is not as it should be.

It starts with a few things out of place.  Something isn't the same color as it is supposed to be.  Something that shouldn't even be "need to know" is being kept secret from people who are firmly in the "need to know" camp.

Information is missing, things are happening in ways they shouldn't.

Someone, somewhere has been doing something very bad under cover of creating a new exhibit and someone at the bottom and someone at the top are both racing to learn the truth in time to ... wait, they lost interest and this won't be picked up again until no one gives a shit anymore at which point our heroes will randomly wander into a secret lab where the bad guy randomly gives a full confession, then they forget the whole thing as soon as they're out of the room.


Six, or six and seven if you prefer, is about the line between keeping you integrity and staying funded and also about people with more power than you trying to warp your vision.

We see this on two fronts.  One is "Indominus Rex" itself.  The idea was a made to order dinosaur which would look and feel cooler.  Someone somewhere floated the idea of using their genetic engineering savvy (remember that they've been splicing in genes from other species to fill gaps since the beginning) to make a new dinosaur.  Instead of reviving one and seeing how it works out, they're going to make one to their own specifications.

This is perverted, twisted into making a killing machine because that's what the big bucks want.

I wouldn't count this one.  Hence the "or seven" above.  Telling it as a separate story completely cuts out the mystery story they were setting up in the point above.  If they know, ahead of time, that the work is being twisted then there's no mystery to figure out.

Instead where it really comes out is in the raptor training.  Trained raptors being put into the field for the first time to fight horrible thing and save lives is a story worth being the entire focus of a work, but Jurassic World doesn't just try to tell that story about the raptors.

It also tries to tell the story of people with good intentions (who are doing good work) seeing powers above their pay grade trying to take that work from them and twist it into something terrible.

Instead of testing raptor intelligence, which is what the raptor training was supposed to be about, or developing a cross-species bond with these other intelligent beings (which raptor trainer seemed to be interested in) it came out that the plan was to have them be used as weapons.  Because that's always the plan.  That's the plan even more often than take off and nuke the site from orbit.

And, honestly, it makes a hell of a lot more sense than it did when Weyland-Yutani wanted xenomorphs because the raptors actually show an ability to take commands and not kill everything on the planet.

Raptors being used to augment troops in the field makes a certain amount of sense, they're smarter than dogs, great at close quarters combat, can navigate complex areas, and (as of this movie) can take commands from a human handler.

Also, apparently extinct species have no protections under the law in the Jurassic World world.  You'd think they'd all be protected endangered species as soon as they were created, but legally they're apparently non-entities.  No pesky animal rights things standing in the way of your new all-around weapon that can serve every role from cannon fodder to super solider.

The "Indominus Rex" was a step in that project too.  They added camouflage, temperature regulation enough to fool thermal sensors, and god knows what else.  The ideal thing for the project was going to be smaller (presumably roughly man-sized) but they were doing this under the cover of an attraction that the honest non-evil people thought was an experiment in bigger and cooler.

But that's the mystery/conspiracy to be uncovered story.

The Ethics vs. Funding and "my peaceful vision" vs. "your war application vision" story is seen in the training of the bog standard raptors.

That story is told for maybe two half scenes.  One near the start, one in the late middle.

That's not nearly enough to tell the story, but you probably could have guessed that even if I hadn't told you how much this story is shown.  They didn't touch on any of their stories in sufficient depth.


For a definite seven we have evacuating the fucking park.

None of the previous movies had to deal with this problem because Jurassic Park was destroyed before it opened while the other two took place on largely abandoned islands.

They have twenty thousand people that need to be gotten to safety.  If you haven't seen this movie, you've heard of it.  There's a hurricane, a flood, a swarm of tornadoes, a volcano, meteors falling to earth in one area because hand-wave, a tidal wave, a ... it really, truly, doesn't fucking matter what it is.

There is a disaster.  People need to be gotten to safety be that "away" or be it shelter.

Dinosaurs is one hell of a disaster movie, and one that hasn't really been tried before.

Unfortunately, it still hasn't.

You've got the scenes setting it up, but once again there's no pay off.  Though this time it does happen, it's just done off screen by invisible staff members because the normal ones were relieved of duty and the new ones were treating it as a field test for weaponized dinosaurs.  Even so, someone managed to get everyone to some safe place where they waited, for ages, for a boat to come and evacuate them.


The whole "Who are the raptors loyal to?" bullshit has been done in tons of movies, but they mostly involve dogs.  We have good owner.  We have bad owner.  Good owner gives love and respect.  Bad owner uses intimidation (it's got giant fucking teeth.)  These two motivators push and pull the poor animal (or child, sometimes it's done with children) until at the end, at the climax, the dog runs to good owner raptor kicks ass for the trainer.


There were other movies in there that didn't interest me that much.  Someone discovering that all work and no human emotional attachment is a bad balance by having her nephews dumped in her lap (because their parents are planning on divorcing and want to force some family connections before they separate the family.)

The shenanigans of being forced to do babysitting at the same time as making a big pitch on your company's first major venture in new ground since it was founded.

All of the worst aspects of romantic comedy and none of the good ones.  (Normally I don't even acknowledge that good ones exist, but today I will just to point out that this movie lacked them.)

On that last point, the kid who seems to (at first) be emotionally deadened except when he's looking at girls he considers pretty?  He only seems to get ...whatever payoff it is he gets from looking at girls who are aware of his attention and don't mind it.  That, those four words at the end, makes him the least creepy of all the male characters in the movie who are shown to have any kind of attraction to anybody.  This movie is bad on the whole attraction front.  Non-straight attraction isn't shown to my knowledge (if it is, it must be very missable.)

There's more, but hopefully you can see what the point is.

This movie had to try to have brothers bonding over a shared sense of wonder at the (recreated) natural world, the trials of managing a theme park that costs a metric fuckton to operate because you're dealing with animals no one on earth knows that much about and each one is from a different era, training and working alongside raptors, playing god will get you eaten, uncovering a mystery/conspiracy, trying to maintain your integrity when your superiors at your job want to twist your work into bad-thing, a disaster movie in which 20 thousand people need to be evacuated in a hurry, questions of loyalty, rekindling a romance via adrenaline, and so forth.

The result was a muddle.

I've been seeing this a lot.  Too much plot for one movie results in a movie that accomplishes none of the plot.

It still manages to be a fun movie, but it doesn't know what it is, and thus doesn't know how to be it, and it suffers as a result.

And that's plot.  Visually and it breaks down somewhat differently.

The first part of the movie shows the park running as it is supposed to while stories play out throughout it.  We see a bit of behind the scenes, but a lot of what the public is meant to see.

The second part is those with power dealing with the problem as it arises.  Yes, we follow some people in individual places, but we're taking a very high view and taking in the whole park, but now from behind the scenes.  The limited investigation is done here, when the response team is killed off we see them taken from the point of view of Ripley in the APC (the scene borrowed heavily from Aliens) and generally we see things with the eyes of the control room.

Something is happening to the island as a whole in the control room, we show what effect that has upon a given part of the park, and go back to the high level.  Attractions are shut down to create a buffer zone, we go to one attraction to see the announcement and people's reaction, then we're back to controls.

The third part starts when female lead realizes that her nephews are still out in the park.  She leaves the control room, picks up raptor trainer, and goes after them.  We switch from seeing action on the whole of the island to following two groups of two people each.  (Those two and the two nephews.)

That follows through basically to the end of the movie, though occasionally we do get, "Meanwhile, back at the ranch," views of some other people in another place.


  1. There are some things that even the bravest filmmakers don't go against. Everybody wants to be in a monogamous relationship. It's not a "real" relationship unless it's producing children. And so on.

    The impression I got - I haven't seen it - is that the early stuff was the Obligatory Foreshadowing, not to mention The Tease: yeah, says the film, we know you're here for the blood and guts and carnage, but wait just a little longer.

    In fact this seems to be a film that has a lot of contempt for its audience - all that stuff about the punters always wanting bigger thrills, not being satisfied with the same old amazing thing? That is addressed to you, dear viewer.

    "Pheromonal mind control." There, plot spackle™, don't leave the first reel without it.

    The "don't try to improve things" meme is probably the truest to Crichton's way of thinking. I've rarely come across someone with such blatant contempt for scientists, engineers, and technical people in general who is still prepared to have anything to do with them.

  2. I found a fanfic about raising raptors, which seems like a cool alternative to the movie, but then I noticed it was -psychic- bonding training... which is not quite what I was hoping for.