Note: Recently I’ve been participating in Facebook release parties, where in celebration of a new publication, an author hosts a bunch of other writers to show up and expound on a topic. I decided to edit, expand, and repost them here, in case you missed the party (which is your loss, by the way. We give away mad prizes at these things).
Guys, the Jurassic World trailer terrifies me. Not in the good way. If you haven’t seen it yet, click here, and then read the rest of this post.
You’re back? Okay, good. Let’s talk problems. First, is it just me, or does the whole movie looks like the higher-budget, dinosaur version of Jaws the Revenge? The too-campy, too-self aware, way over-the-top caboose on the end of an occasionally stunning, sometimes wobbly train? I mean, making a genetic hybrid dinosaur is, to paraphrase Malcolm in The Lost World, the worst idea in the long sad history of (Jurassic Park) bad ideas. So pointlessly stupid, even worse than Deep Blue Sea‘s trumped-up shark brains.
But if I WERE going to create a hybrid dinosaur, step one is pretty frickin’ obvious. Say it with me, people: herbivore.
Also? Not for nothing, but it looks like this is making the same central mistake that JP3 did: getting rid of the T-Rex. You don’t make a Freddy Krueger movie and forget to add the Freddy Krueger. It’s the series’ damned mascot. I understand that T-Rexes just don’t seem as scary since we all realized that they’d suck at push-ups, but instead of cowering before meme culture, take the chance to show us exactly why Tyrannosaurus Rex is still terrifying.
My concern is that Jurassic World will end up being part of a laziness trend I’ve noticed lately, where filmmakers are satisfied with making a movie that’s just good enough (“We don’t have to make a cohesive story, because we’ve made a great stride forward for feminism!” – the makers of Frozen). I blame Michael Bay for a lot of this attitude – ever since Transformers 2 was literally written around its action sequences, he hasn’t just been phoning in the storytelling; he’s actually kind of proud of it. There’s a certain attitude that these huge, tentpole movies based on well-loved franchises don’t HAVE to be good, because we’re all going to see them anyway.
It also irks me that they’re so very, very right.
In America, the best way to voice our opinions, in theory anyway, is with our vote. If you don’t like something, don’t vote for it, don’t give money to it, don’t buy into it, and hopefully everyone else will do the same, and the creators will get the message. But we’ve lost the message when it comes to these big movies, and I’m part of the problem too. Although I did avoid Transformers 4, I don’t think I can keep away from Jurassic World. Whatever my reservations about the trailer, I’m going to see the movie. Probably opening night, if we’re being honest.
Why? Why am I being a hypocrite? For the same reason I care so much about this one stupid movie in a summer of big exciting movies. Let me put it this way: I read an interview with Chris Pratt a few weeks ago where he said that Jurassic Park was his Star Wars. And when I read that, something clicked. For the first time in my life, I got the people who are obsessed with Star Wars.
Don’t get me wrong – I love the Star Wars movies too. But the first time I saw Star Wars was in my grandma’s basement, on a channel with commercial breaks, and we started it at the cantina scene. And there are so many people who talk about the first experience of watching Star Wars as a milestone in their very lives. That was JP for me. I saw it at a second-run theater when I was eleven, and it blew my tiny little mind. When it came out on video, I watched it over and over. I knew the names of all the characters, and all the actors who played them. I remember a friend coming over and watching it for the first time, and she was getting really scared, so I warned her that there was a big jump coming right after Ellie says “Mr. Hammond, I think we’re back in business.”
Friend: Who’s Ellie?
Me: Laura Dern.
Me: Uh…the blonde lady?
In that moment, I realized that my interest in movies might be different from my peers, a realization that eventually led me to film school. Not just any film school, either: the one Steven Spielberg endorses. Because Jurassic Park. Spielberg wasn’t the only reason I picked USC over NYU, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a factor.
Twenty years later, it doesn’t matter to me that Spielberg’s own The Lost World has chronic plot holes (WHO KILLED THE PEOPLE ON THE BOAT?), or that the creature the novels and films identify as a velociraptor is actually a deinonychus. (To be fair, Grant intoning, “You bred deinonychuses?!” doesn’t sound nearly as ominous.) In the grand scheme of my life, Jurassic Park was a cultural game-changer, probably my first. It completely reinvented my understanding of what I could get out of a movie, which in turn completely reinvented what I wanted to do with my life. So I have to see Jurassic World, on the off chance that I’m wrong, that the trailer was just badly edited, that it’s going to be what we were promised: a thoughtful, entertaining way to reinvigorate a transcendent story. You guys, I would love to be SO wrong about this. Nothing would make me happier than writing a blog where I eat these words.
But hopes are not high.