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Jurassic World – A Benevolently Absurd Modern Blockbuster

Jurassic_World_posterI couldn’t stop laughing.

During the course of its two-hour-plus run time, Jurassic World dishes up something for everyone. As in, everyone in the world. All ages and all demographics are assembled, ushered into an Epcot Center-like faux theme park setting to square off against the real reason we’re in attendance- the dinosaurs. For me, the digital celluloid vacation delivered laughter, the mindless, banal laughter of a theme-park roller coaster ride. Once you’re in a theme park, you can either be hot, crowded, and miserable, or you can let go, buy an enormous turkey leg, and have some fun. Jurassic World force feeds the fun. It’s best not to resist.

Unlike the Transformers movies or even Marvel’s second Avengers outing, Jurassic World didn’t hurt my eyes, ears, or soul with its onslaught of entertainment tropes, nor did it seriously degrade my estimation of the human race. Instead, it did what what summertime trips to drive-in movies used to do. It goes for the gut, with monster movie thrills, a wide cast of shallow but just pleasant enough to tolerate characters, and the overriding tone of a serious crowd-pleaser that doesn’t take itself or anything too seriously. It’s all absurd of course, from leading man Chris Pratt’s cologne ad motorcycle fixing to Bryce Dallas-Howard’s detached executive walking cliche, but this is a movie about a dinosaur park, after all.

The humans are stand-ins, as flat as cardboard but free enough to emote and engage in a summer stock theater sort of way. Pratt’s character is a bred in a laboratory masculine uber-hero, a hybrid splicing of Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and Steve McQueen (with perhaps a dash of the original Jurassic Park‘s Sam Neill), Dallas-Howard does everything Pratt does except backwards and in heels. The kids aren’t obnoxious (a minor miracle) and the vast lineup of supporting players from around the world all hit their marks and sell their lines. Even the dinosaurs are part of the extended theater troop family, emoting and playing out their minimalist arcs with the same level of depth as the human characters. For your consideration: Blue the Raptor, a creature of inner turmoil and conflict.

Memories of two B-level ’80s movies came to mind while watching Jurassic World: Jaws 3 and When Time Ran Out. More than serving as a sequel to Steven Spielberg’s 1993 original (although an appropriate homage is given) Jurassic World sets off on a path all its own, deeply mining those resort disaster films of yore. In fact, director Colin Trevorrow takes a kitchen sink approach to his cinematic concocting, with shots evoking everything from Alien to The Searchers.

Another throwback element Jurassic World resuscitates in full force is product placement. As the cast scrambles to the Samsung Information Center™ and accelerates through the jungle in their Mercedes-Benz Premium Transportation™ vehicles, I couldn’t help but think of Christopher Reeves’ Superman hoisting Marlboro delivery trucks over his head in the streets of Metropolis. Smoke ’em if ya got ’em, kids. Everything old is new again, but at least those ubiquitous Korean smartphones don’t contain carcinogens (that we know of).

If the future of summer blockbusters is the portable theme park roadshow of Jurassic World, I’ll take it over the militarized headaches of Michael Bay’s Transformers (also a Spielberg offspring)  or the overwrought, insular Avengers: Age of Ultron. Popcorn movies aren’t rocket science, after all. They’re dinosaur genetics run amok on an island. Jurassic World gives a new jolt to the very old tradition of summertime movie spectacle. The sights and sounds are ridiculous in the truest sense of the word. Sit back, enjoy that air conditioning, and laugh.