Jurassic World: A Criticism

SPOILERS AHEAD READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!

It’s been about a month since I watched Jurassic World back in Budapest with Hungarian subtitles and stayed up until 2am with Charlotte discussing all of our complicated emotions we felt towards the film.

In that month, I rewatched the first three movies for the first time in years (Jurassic Park is still the best, to no one’s surprise) and tried not once, not twice, but three times to sit down and put words to my feelings.

As a disclaimer, you should know that I tend to be overly critical of films, especially those as hyped as Jurassic World. However, I take great care to separate my objective criticisms from my gut like/dislike reaction.

In other words, I can watch a movie that I find fault in without letting those faults ruin my enjoyment of it / prevent me from actually liking it. Example: Ted (the first one anyway, haven’t seen the sequel yet).

I really, really hoped Jurassic World would be one of those cases. I knew nothing could compare to the original first film, and I was expecting some cheesy dialogue here and there but overall, I was prepared to fully enjoy it for whatever it was.

Now I have had a lot of time to reflect and think back on the movie. While my main criticism lies in its treatment of women and the overt misogyny, even when I set those factors aside, I found the film disappointingly hollow with a weak plot and an even weaker screenplay that not even Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, for all their talent, could save.

First, let’s look at Dr. Ellie Sattler, the badass female protagonist of Jurassic Park played brilliantly by Laura Dern. She is the definition of a well-developed, strong female character. Not only is she as physically and intellectually capable as her male counterparts, but her strengths are never diminished either in comparison to or by her romantic partner, Dr. Alan Grant. Throughout the film, their low-key relationship is portrayed as one based on mutual respect and passion for the same interests. And there’s no trace of unhealthy possessive jealousy, despite Dr. Ian Malcolm’s heavy-handed flirting. And perhaps best of all, Ellie’s ambition never eclipses her interest in having children. Jurassic Park created a brave and brilliant female character, steering away from sexualization and focusing on her professional strengths without diminishing her maternal instinct. And this movie came out in 1993! Bravo!

Now let’s take Claire, a driven and ambitious executive who works at the massive Jurassic World park. Her exact job and position is never really clear (director? operations manager?), which is right in line with the thinly drawn character sketches that stall the film. In comparison to Dr. Sattler, Claire is the exact opposite of a well-developed female character. And the sad part is that she actually has so much potential. I can only assume the movie was going for a “Boss Bitch” type of character but failed so miserably it’s hard to even give them credit for trying. The thing with having a “Boss Bitch” character is that you actually have to show her being a boss bitch. Instead, Claire is never shown to be particularly good at her job. Despite her position alluding to some modicum of professional success, Jurassic World just shows Claire being ordered around, even disrespected, by man after man, from Owen to Masrani the park owner to Hoskins the security chief.

So not only is she routinely portrayed as incompetent, but her few moments of glory are eclipsed by sexist commentary or worse, depicting her assertiveness as some sort of patronizing joke. And perhaps worst of all, her entire character arc seems to revolve around her learning (or better yet, being taught) the importance of motherhood. Because God forbid, a woman chooses a career over children. What’s the difference here between her and Dr. Sattler? Well, Dr. Sattler’s desire in having children was just part of her character not her entire arc. Had Claire been a fully-fleshed character, she could have served as an interesting comparison to Dr. Sattler, showing two woman equally successful with differing maternal instincts. And that’s the difference between a well-developed character and a thin one-dimensional sketch.

Unfortunately, Claire is not the only woman failed by Jurassic World. There is not a single well-written — hell even halfway decent — female character in the film. Starting with Zach’s girlfriend being portrayed as stupidly clingy (simply for asking him to text her while he’s away) to Claire’s poor assistant Zara, who arguably received the most brutally drawn-out death (for literally no reason whatsoever seriously what was her crime?!) in the entire franchise, Jurassic World‘s portrayal of women is so blatantly misogynistic it’s hard to believe it came out 22 years after the overtly feminist Jurassic Park.

If these issues were the only problems Jurassic World faced, I might be able to objectively overlook them and still enjoy the movie. Unfortunately, the treatment of women, while hugely problematic, was only one of the many disappointments.

For example, how is it possible that there is not a single Latino / Hispanic character when the movie literally takes place in Costa Rica?! Even The Lost World and Jurassic Park III featured the token Spanish-speaking locals. It’s incredible to me that not even the most minor part, say the kid who falls into the velociraptor enclosure and gets memorably rescued by Owen, could be given to a minority actor (because seriously what’s a white American teenager doing working a part-time job on an island off of Costa Rica?!)

The closer you look at it, the more the screenplay falls apart. The film’s biggest downfall undoubtedly lies in the writing. It’s not just the cheesy, at times cringe-worthy dialogue or the wooden one-dimensional static characters. The plot itself is weak and riddled with holes and goes from its climax to a rushed conclusion in no time at all, so the viewer is left with a sense of frustrated anticipation. Even more so, if you’re like me and didn’t particularly like the movie, when you realize the ending is perfectly set up for a couple sequels.

It’s interesting to note that the whole plot point of Jurassic World was to demonstrate how desensitized we are to the once-terrifying dinosaurs, which leads the park runners to take extreme (and failed) measures to boost the fading excitement with genetically engineered creatures. It’s a fitting metaphor for a movie that tries to reboot a once successfully terrifying franchise by making an over-the-top addition that for all its impressive CGI and undoubtedly exciting action scenes still falls disappointingly short.

Much like the Indominus Rex failed to bring anything new to the park except probably a shit ton of legal and PR nightmares, Jurassic World unfortunately failed to deliver a sequel anywhere close to the level of brilliance of the original.

Unlike the Indominus Rex, at least Jurassic World won’t escape its enclosure and wreak havoc on your world.

Well, unless you’re a woman.

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