Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Jurassic World - Same Story, same Dinosaurs, same Old... (a few minor SPOILERS)

Ah, to be young again.

After viewing this bloated, overlong mish-mash depicting animal neglect and abuse in various forms, bookended by scenes of our beloved Jeff Goldblum testifying before some Sub-Committee on the dangers of Man's Arrogance in creating the imminent threat these resurrected Dinosaurs represent to our own existence, that was my main reaction to this movie.

Did that introductory sentence seem too clunky and wordy...? Yeah, that's just like the feeling you get watching this movie.

Ah, to be young and innocent! If I were a naive yet hopeful youth, I might actually be capable of enjoying this political indictment against greed and animal cruelty framed as an adventure movie with Dinosaurs.

If only I were 8-10 years old, I probably wouldn't recognize some of the less overt messages bludgeoning the audience throughout the movie - and I wouldn't care about the heavy-handed shit, either! The doomsday scenario of "what could go wrong does go wrong" repeats over and over to the point where it's not only predictable, it's tiresome. It's a long movie. And in between the smattering of "new bits", it shows us a lot of stuff we've already seen before, only with more focus on cruelty and human indifference to consequences. Greed rules the plot, along with some self-indulgent guilt as the Main Characters argue over who is more responsible for allowing these Bad Guys to get away with their nefarious deeds.

Short answer: No one, really. Except maybe the writers of this screenplay.

For this movie anyway, the Good Guys were all lied to by the Bad Guys, and genuinely thought they were acting in the best interests of Science and Humanity. The intention was to preserve life, or so they were told. But of course, best intentions can only accomplish so much once manipulated by mean rich Bad Guys with secret goals of profit via exploitation.

All the other hackneyed devices are in play in this script, so why are the Good Guys suddenly wallowing in guilt over their situation...? Just one of many questions prompted by awkward or incongruous moments throughout this slapdash story. Although it's nice, I suppose, to see our Good Guys willing to shoulder the burden of blame, these are the moments in the story where right and wrong gets defined, drawing a clear line for our moral compass to follow. Instead, everybody is made guilty of one thing or another - unless they're a supporting character, then they just need to hit their mark and say their line like good little PC drones.

Along with the Dinosaurs and the Audience, pretty much everybody is abused, exploited, manipulated and occasionally killed during this movie.

Because of the insistence on keeping the movie rated "PG",  however, most of the "adult situations" driving the story happen off screen, or are merely hinted at so as not to be too shocking for kids. It's an odd sensation, witnessing a moment and recognizing that the Filmmakers must have had several conversations about what was acceptable to portray and what wasn't: Animals killing each other is fine, for example - even a Dinosaur killing a Bad Guy is kinda okay - but all the murders happen off screen. People killing people is a no-no, despite all the mayhem and death elsewhere.

To be clear, there is no real happy ending in this movie, as even the climactic "Escape of the Dinosaurs" is framed with the cautionary warning of unforeseen consequences for our future - some of which will be revealed in the inevitable next sequel, to be sure.

The entire Jurassic Franchise is based on one concept: resurrecting extinct animals for no other purpose than exploitation. It started with a theme park, then it became about selling them for "research", which evolved into genetically engineering a "Super Dinosaur" and selling that to the highest bidder. None of these ambitions ever go as planned, and the living, breathing creatures these characters resurrect are stuck in a world of man-made violence, abuse, captivity and death. The next installment inevitably is going to feature hunting these escaped Dinosaurs using various unique and entertaining methods through various unique and inviting tourist destinations in spectacular blockbuster fashion - a regular Dino Safari down Main Street.

None of it is pleasant once real thought is put to the overall message of these movies, mainly:

Humans should leave Nature alone, get out of genetic engineering, and let Dinosaurs stay dead because Humans are insensitive to the consequences of their own ambitions and incapable of maintaining a healthy ecosystem without proper incentive. Nope. Humans are too petty, greedy, selfish and cruel to be capable of sustaining life if there is no profit in it.

That's a pretty shitty message to keep hammering home to your audience. I saw this with a Friend primarily for the theatrical experience, but after this latest installment, I might be hard pressed to pay for another chapter in this franchise.

For this movie, we are once again sold on the marvel of our own scientific ability, the promise of seeing something fantastic to stir the imagination of what's possible. But then (again!) once in the seats, we are shown some of the worst of Humanity's greed, indifference, and arrogance, all framed in the context of a "family adventure". We watch trapped animals struggle in terror through the last moments of their lives, and, quite often, it is a direct result of one character or another's "mistake" that the animal is made to pay for - an animal, mind you, that was created solely to be exploited. It is a confusing experience, wanting to go and enjoy a fantastic spectacle, only to have it rooted so deeply in a cold-hearted, contemporary pessimism.

Jurassic World is the Franchise's culmination of this depressing, confused, and ultimately damning rebuke of Humanity's ambitions. A sort of sardonic commentary on the futility of our ideals when the forces of Greed and Mother Nature collide - Mother Nature always wins in the end.

But, hey, that's just one way to take in this summer blockbuster. Remember, if I were a young boy or girl, I might find this to be the greatest viewing experience of my life, inspiring a career in anthropology or something. I don't know if that's better or worse, but if something positive came from a younger person's viewing experience - you know, something other than the desire to pick up a rifle and slaughter animals for profit or pleasure or both - anything that stimulated a desire for knowledge, greater compassion, and/or the healing of our beleaguered Earth, I encourage that wholeheartedly. As an adult, I don't find that kind of encouragement in this material, but maybe they could.

Oddly enough, with all of the blatant & metaphorical political commentary peppered with indignant dialogue emphasizing how we should feel about these poor animals that have no control over their circumstances, being manipulated from one atrocity to the next before finally gaining their freedom, I am led to yet another, perhaps unintended metaphor for this filmgoing experience:

It almost feels as if we, the Audience, are the Dinosaurs of Jurassic World. Here we are, a sub-demographic of a species of film viewer, brought back for another sequel, penned up in a darkened room and subjected to scenes of callous indifference, sacrifice and murder. None of it makes sense! Yet, here we are, trapped for hours, beaten with bad dialogue and repetitive violence, until at last, before this stink bomb of a sequel suffocates us all, the credits roll, the lights come up, and we can return to the light of day.

Weird, huh?

And yet, we keep coming back for more. And they keep making this shit because we pay for it by the millions. I don't think I've ever walked away from a movie feeling so conflicted about my relationship with the World of Cinema as I had since seeing the Star Wars prequels in the theater - I know I'm going to be confronted with disturbing, confusing, even disappointing material, and yet I still go. Why? Why does my curiosity overtake my common sense and urge me into the darkened theater where I know the Bad Movies are waiting? Why continue to pay to watch a movie or series of movies that turn out to be even worse than I feared?

"Who is the more foolish? The Fool, or the Fools who follow Him?"

The Fools who follow Him, Obi-Wan. One look at my bank account confirms that much. And the Fools who produce this Franchise know it too, the Bastards.

Jurassic World. I can't say I recommend it, but I wouldn't try to stop you from making the same mistake I did, either. Who knows? Maybe you'll like it and we'll have something more to talk about.

I guess that's the best part of going to shitty movies - the Friends you go with to see them. And believe me, after watching this movie, you'll want to have some Friends around you. Better to feel the Fool with Friends and make light of the whole mess that took your precious time and money, rather than spend another minute dwelling on the message of this movie, which is some really depressing shit to think about at any age.

Selah.

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