“To a canary, the cat is the monster. We’re just used to being the cat.”
If all goes as expected, Jurassic World’s domestic box office is going to make it one of the top three highest grossing films of all time. We’re probably more in Avengers or Dark Knight territory than we are Avatar and Titanic territory but it’s still worth noting, and questioning, what it was about this film that hit so big with audiences. Jurassic World is already at number 7. By the end of this weekend it will likely become the number 5 highest grossing domestically. It should easily beat The Dark Knight at $534, then has to hit $623 to beat The Avengers. The film doesn’t seem to be slowing down, as least not any time soon. Someone on Twitter suggested it would hit $650, which would put it at number 3.
The film’s high box office could be down to several factors that make it stand out — one is the popularity of Chris Pratt, believe it or not. After Guardians of the Galaxy he became a box office draw, at least for young girls. Fans of the original movie, families, anyone wanting to see a big effects movie of the kind summers are made on. Finally, people will spend money to see something on screen they’ve never seen before. Sure, they’ve seen CGI dinos, but nothing like that image of the massive whale-like creature eating the Great White shark.
I had been avoiding the film, thinking it would be as bad as films are on this massive scale, but Jurassic World wasn’t bad. It was thoroughly entertaining and more importantly had its heart and consciousness in the right place; we’re entering an era where people are starting to slowly realize that we can’t keep treating animals the way we have been, certainly not a imprisoned performers for our entertainment. One can’t not notice the parallels between Jurassic and Sea World. It’s deliberate, down to the splash guards the spectators wear. Like the first Jurassic Park, the notion that we think ourselves special and entitled enough to keep intelligent animals in captivity for our own entertainment results in our own demise, for one. This message rings loudly and clearly in Jurassic World. We’re not too far away from the day SeaWorld will have to end its barbaric practice of keeping giant, magnificent orcas in tiny pools. If Jurassic Park makes people think of SeaWorld I hope it makes more money than Avatar, though it probably won’t. Avatar, too, had a eco-message attached. Jim Cameron and his wife Suzi Amos are working day in and day out to preserve the environment. How great it would be if the number 1 and number 2 highest grossing films of all time had an ecological message attached. Maybe then we would start to get the message.
As in the first film, the dinos can’t lose. Each time they’re on screen it’s thrilling to watch. The newly mutated dinosaur, a Frankenstein’s monster built to bring in more ticket buyers, is a far more cynical approach to the animals exploiters than the first Jurassic Park. They suggest that life will work itself out if humans would not only get out of the way but also stop breeding and testing things they don’t understand.
The best part of the film by far is Chris Pratt and his symbiotic relationship to the raptors. Even though mammals tend to be more of a bonding species that whatever dinosaurs are, birds can bond with and become attached to people, so too, then, must dinosaurs.
It’s easy to look at Jurassic World and see it as the beginning of the end. After all, this is all it takes to make shitloads of money now: branding and visual effects. We knew that already. Much has been made of the sexism inherent in the depiction of Bryce Dallas Howard’s character — and those criticisms are valid, especially when compared to how carefully the first film treated its female characters. The genius in the room was John Hammond’s granddaughter, Alexis, the young girl who figured out how to hack the computer system. In contrast, Howard’s character needs to have things mansplained to her throughout the film because she’s clearly too dumb to figure anything out for herself. Worse, she spends the whole movie running for her life in high heels. Trust me, not even Kim Kardashian would do that. The heels would be the first things to go. In the end, though, does it really matter that much? It doesn’t to me. She’s a high-powered career woman who fights to save her nephews. This isn’t an “important film” but it’s a rousing summer movie.
Finally, it’s not really necessary anymore to build suspense the way Spielberg did. For instance, this masterful scene in Jurassic Park can’t be matched by anything in Jurassic World:
Chris Pratt riding the motorcycles as alpha to the raptors comes mighty close.
The ugly, however, is that this film keeps bringing us that much closer to tent poles obliterating the kinds of films studios make that we all like to see. When films can make this kind of money why would they bother trying to make anything else. At this point, though, there may be no going back.