Seen it yet? Go buy tickets and eat insane amount of popcorn. Everybody on the planet is required to do so.
I’ll wait. Don’t want to spoil the ending for you.
Actually, I want to improve the ending. And the beginning. Maybe the middle, too.
Not that this is a bad movie. It’s summer popcorn fun and will make bazillions of dollars. Chris the Pratt is a great actor, our generation’s Harrison Ford, an action star who makes you laugh.
HOWEVER: there are four easy ways to radically improve JURASSIC WORLD, especially compared to the last two Chris Pratt movies, which were structurally sound.
This is more important than you think. A solid story is the difference between “Yeah, that was fun” and “Even though we just saw it, I’d happily pay another $15, keep this dorky glasses on and see this in 3D again right now.”
Despite my dislike for Tom Cruise, an amazing story structure is why I paid cash money to see THE EDGE OF TOMORROW in theaters three times and bought the Blu-Ray to see it twice more.
Want the easy way to see if a movie has story problems? Count the number of writers. One is great. Two might work if they collaborate a lot, or if they’re the Coen brothers. Three means trouble.
If you see four or more writers when the credits roll, that says “People gave us $389 million dollars for a film about transforming robots, lightsabers or mutant dinosaurs, so we spent about half a percent of the budget on script rewrites until we had a story that would thrill the high tastes and standards of 9-year-old boys sitting in theater seats as they drink 72 ounces of Mountain Dew.”
On to four easy ways to improve JURASSIC WORLD:
Number 4) Villains can’t die randomly
JAWS, JURASSIC PARK, JURASSIC WORLD, ALIEN and FATAL ATTRACTION are all the same story: Monster in the House.
Cavemen started telling this story 200,000 years ago at night around the bonfire while they roasted woolly mammoths: there’s a monster in our cave, and either we kill it—or it will definitely kill us. And they didn’t get paid options or anything.
Simplest story in the world.
Steven Spielberg got this right with JAWS, five bazillion years ago in the ’70s, when CGI was only a glimmer in Steve Job’s eye.
The hero got on a tiny boat and battled the great white shark, and he’s definitely the one who killed it.
How about this for a twist on the Monster in the House story: there’s a monster in the house, and it’s killing everybody. Our hero chases it across the mountains and the deserts. He swims through rivers and sneaks through jungles, knowing the whole time if the monster spots him, he’s a snack. After two weeks, our hero gets closer and closer at the great beast sleeps, and as he prepares to strike with his dagger, a boulder crashes down from the mountain and lands on the monster’s head.
Yeah, you’d throw things at the screen. Terrible story.
Because the hero has to be the one to kill the monster.
JURASSIC PARK and JURASSIC WORLD both screw up the ending this way. In the original Spielberg classic, velicoraptors are running wild and about to kill our favorite on-screen humans. All is lost. We expect the humans to do something clever. Nope. T-Rex shows up, eats the raptors and roars, despite the fact that T-Rex was the big bad guy for most of this movie.
In JURASSIC WORLD, a T-Rex also randomly comes out of retirement to battle the new mutant dinosaur, but not even T-Rex gets to kill the villain, who dies when Dino-Crododile-Shark eats her.
So yeah, Chris the Pratt is there, and has front-row seats for the monster’s demise, but so do you. Both of you watch as somebody else slays the monster.
Number 3) Who’s the hero?
This part is sort of important.
Typically, the hero is (a) the POV character, (b) the person who changes the most or (c) the character who makes the key decision or sacrifice in the climax.
So in THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and THE LEGO MOVIE, Chris Pratt is all three. He’s the main POV, the person who changes the most during the story and the one who risks it all in the climax, repeatedly, to save his friends and everybody else. In both of those movies, Pratt suffers, sacrifices and grows as a human, or as a block of plastic who hangs out with Lego Batman.
In STARLORD VS MUTANT DINOSAURLAND, Pratt’s character is super cool and heroic the second you meet him and … he’s super cool and heroic the whole time. Gets a little dirty and sweaty, but I don’t think he gets seriously stabbed, clawed or scratched once. Maybe he’s nursing a hangnail while the credits roll.
In this movie, Pratt doesn’t really suffer and grow. The female lead changes more, going from tightly controlled and wussy in the field to, “Sure, I’ll grab this shotgun and shoot a flying dinosaur before it eats you.”
So is Pratt the POV character? Sort of. The movie begins with two boys and their divorcing parents and ends with the boys being reunited with the parents. There are huge stretches without any Chris Prattness at all.
And is he the one who risks all to kill the villain? Well, no. The villain dinosaur gets eaten by Dino-Crocodile-Shark with an assist from T-Rex and a raptor.
Which leads us to:
Number 2) Who’s the villain?
Sure, the new mutant dinosaur is scary.
Yet it’s an animal, created by humans, and if they hadn’t raised it in isolation and let it have play-dates with other mutant dinosaurs and such, maybe it wouldn’t have grown up to be such a sociopath.
The real villain should be the idiot who created this dinosaur.
That role goes to two characters, both underdeveloped. Mr. Law & Order (Vincent D’Onofrio) is a military baddie who wants to use dinosaurs as soldiers. He’s working with the mad scientist who cooked up the new mutant dinosaur with genes from cuttlefish, tropical frogs, Big Bird and Po from the Teletubbies (the red one, who has the most power—do not anger the Teletubbies).
Bottom line, the hero has the kill the villain, and the villain has to be the person who CAUSED the whole mess. Which isn’t the mutant dinosaur. She’s just hanging out, okay? Nobody asked her to hatch from an egg. She’s innocent.
The real villain(s) should die at the very, very end, at the hands of the hero. It’d be perfectly fine to feed the villain(s) to the mutant dinosaur, then have Chris Pratt drive a dump truck into the belly of the beast to knock it off a cliff as Pratt leaps from the truck at the last minute or whatever. That would work, as long as the mutant dinosaur was still chewing on Vincent D’Onofrio.
Number 1) Less is more
If one T-Rex is scary in JURASSIC PARK a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, then 3,293 flying dinosaurs, velicorapters and Dino-Crocodile-Sharks has to be 3,293-times scarier, right?
With a Monster in the House story, less is more.
JAWS, ALIEN and JURASSIC PARK scared us silly by barely showing the monster at all.
If you have a ton of monsters (or zombies) and everybody dies in the end except the monsters, what you really have is a horror movie, which is a different beast than Monster in the House.
The original JURASSIC PARK did this a bit better. T-Rex and raptors were plenty scary. They didn’t need to throw in a zillion flying dinosaurs plus a Dino-Crocodile-Shark that could eat blue whales as a snack.
Verdict: Chris the Pratt is one of my favorite actors and I saw this movie on opening night. But would I pay to see it again? No. And that’s not for lack of acting chops or CGI, because the acting and effects are just fine. They simply needed to work on the script a little more, and throwing more writers at the problem isn’t always the answer.