UPDATE: Even Marvel Studios Head Kevin Feige has saluted Jurassic World’s triumph with a gracious tweet that still manages to remind everyone that New Mega Star Chris Pratt got his big action break (and got into shape for the first time) for a MARVEL movie. Well played! Art in the tweet by Ande Parks.
— Kevin Feige (@Kevfeige) June 16, 2015
Jurassic World’s ascent to the biggest box office opening of all time has everyone flustered. It’s take of $208.8 million in its first weekend beat even The Avengers which made a mere $207.4 million. (It’s still ahead adjusted for inflation but Gone With the Wind is still the biggest by that metric.) The opening shattered analysts’ projections, leading to a particularly befuddled take by Deadline:
Tracking typically wears the dunce caps in these off-kilter prediction scenarios. However, distrib chiefs sincerely swear NRG, Screen Engine and Marketcast’s systems aren’t broken, and as one forecasting insider asserts: “We’re not paid to predict box office, rather identify pockets of strength, threats and opportunities in the marketplace for the studio. … It’s a five-week journey with daily phone calls.”
Okay so you had a….threat pocket? This wonk talk is Onion worthy.
So as various execs and and analysts around Hollywood drew their own estimates, what truly happened with Jurassic World is that it became a beast unto itself. That’s when the film started over-indexing and beating everyone’s expectations. And the catalyst for the WOM heatwave can be pinned squarely to social media — which, unlike tracking, captured auds’ need-to-see vibe. Adds another Universal insider: “When you go into the weekend, you are armed with your expectations based on historical data, relying on movies released during the same time period as well as assessing different variables in the marketplace. But when the film gets a chance to be itself and grows through the weekend, you lose your historical data.”
While some are still reeling from the over-indexing, Variety had a more sensible deduction: CHRIS PRATT.
“He’s the modern action hero,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “He’s funny, he’s charming, he’s self-deprecating. I call him Jimmy Stewart in a leather vest. He just has the perfect sensibility for today’s audiences.”
Also…dinosaurs. People like dinosaurs. Bold, I know.
Jurassic World toppling the Avengers is the first blow for a world where superheroes aren’t everything, and makes the generally blah reaction to Avengers 2 look a little more serious. But Jurassic World is still a pretty bland film, as the above still suggests. I know it’s hard to act scared of a screen piece of wall, but look at the kids in that photo. I couldn’t tell if Nick Robinson as the teen heartthrob was supposed to be generally insensate to any outside stimulus, or just no one could take the time to prod him with a stick.
I pretty much agreed with everything that Beat critic Hannah Lodge said about this film. It’s got an awful script, lethargic acting, some nice dinos, and a troubling obsession with running in high heels. Like Lodge, all I could think of during the second half of the movie was whether Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire was STILL running around in high heels. It turns out Howard made a point of learning how to do it and insisted on wearing them while she was running away from dinosaurs. I knows it’s a fantasy.,.but you can’t run away from dinosaurs in high heels. And there was no internal logic. At one point Pratt’s Owen even mocks her shoes, which YOU’D THINK would set up a scene where she ditches them. I kept expecting her to find some running shoes in the old compound from Jurassic Park but no such luck. She just kept running and running. A line without a payoff…that pretty much sums up the entire Jurassic World script. The one clever thing it did was to combine the predictable roles of Feisty Girl Lead and Annoying Corporate Wonk into one role! Innovative!
Even with that, as a movie, Jurassic World, was on its own fairly low terms, a better film than Avengers 2. I hadn’t memorized the trailer for JW, so when I saw the movie at a screening, I went in thinking “This is going to be a dumb CGI fest but I’m just going to let go, let God, and give in.” I appreciated how the movie had ONE big menace, and all the action was built around a confrontation with that menace, instead of branching off to go to Wakanda to pick up some vibranium and set up three spin-offs—and perhaps audiences did as well. OTOH, if you did memorize the trailer then you pretty much saw everything cool in the movie. But that didn’t stop anyone from going to the theater. It also hit the sweet spot of millennial 90s nostalgia. All we need in the sequel when Dr. Wu pulls out his bag of Indominus Furiosa babys and sets them loose is a cameo for Dr. Ian Malcolm.
As usual the bombastic success of a film with a lackluster storyline has led to lamenting how Hollywood’s hands are tied when it comes to making anything good as Matt Patches writes for Esquire:
This is not just an issue with Trevorrow or his blockbuster. Hollywood’s cynicism is hitting peak levels and continues to trickle into our multiplexes. Movie studio executives would love to greenlight to discover the next Spielberg or nurture a moderately-sized thrill ride into a big-budget classic. But they also want to make money. There are movies that challenge the balancing act with whirlwind intensity; Christopher Nolan’s Inception takes the frustration of imagining and executing action movies and turns it into an action movie. That subtlety is hard to come by. With change and reversion seemingly out of the question, creative types feel compelled to boo and hiss in their movies. Trevorrow employs Jake Johnson to spit his fire. Last month’s Tomorrowland lectured audiences in the dangers of apocalyptic disaster movies. And on the Oscar campaign trail for last year’s Hollywood satire, Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu just came out and say what the film danced around: superhero movies are “cultural genocide.” A few months later, when Birdman won the Academy Award for Best Picture, voters could pat themselves on the back for recognizing great filmmaking. They could make Birdman—isn’t that real cinema? And then the next morning, most of the voters returned to their movie studio jobs and pushed sequels, reboots, and $150 million toy adaptions through the pipeline.
I can’t refrain from adding to the laments however, as I peruse the box office total of Mad Max Fury Road after five weeks: a relatively moderate $138.6 million. It’s made more worldwide, but set against that $200 million budget it’s still not a big moneymaker. HOW! How can this galvanizing, senses-shattering, mind-expanding masterpiece of heart and magic have made only this much when twaddle like Jurassic World is setting records? Why, oh lord, why?
Yes yes, I know, MMFR was R-rated. Meanwhile parents were secretly eager to go see JW with their kids.
Will the religious fervor for the church of George Miller pave the way for an actual sequel? Hard to tell, but I doubt we’ll see Miller allowed to spend money on that level again, alas.
In my previous inquiry into the actual reason that people found the practical effects of Mad Max Fury Road so profoundly affecting compared to CGI spectacle, I didn’t find much from a psychological viewpoint, but several people pointed me towards this Cracked piece from a few months ago, 6 Reasons Modern Movie CGI Looks Surprisingly Crappy by David Christopher Bell. This piece sums up some technical reasons for the affectlessness of CGI, using shots from the Jurassic World trailer as examples. Digital grading, unrealistic camera angles, bad physics, and things our minds just reject. For instance this shot of a helicopter falling into a dinosaur:
Sure, that looks pretty awesome, but destruction on that scale should blow our fucking minds. The response to dinosaurs wrecking a helicopter should be nothing short of paralysis, but this scene has no sense of gravity or consequence. There’s no scale to it. There’s even going to be a scene where (minor spoilers) a Pteranodon picks up a woman and literally drops her into the mouth of the Mosasaurus. It doesn’t matter how real the CGI looks, because that scene belongs in a fucking Sharknado movie. It’s an absurd cartoon orgy.
There’s some more technical discussion at a site that offers AfterEffects plug ins of all places, 10 Reason Why CGI is Getting Worse Not Better, which lays out most of the same arguments as the Cracked piece, with some more scolding over the orange-and-blue digital grading that every movie is saturated with these days, and also “ratcheting up the sequel-itis:”
The CGI in every sequel has a major goal: it has to be more impressive, complex, and crazier than its predecessor. The stakes have to be higher. Filmmakers try to create engagement with more explosions rather than letting story, plot, and character development produce interest.
Another huge issue is that in a world of endless sequels, we no longer have to worry about our main character’s well-being. We don’t need to be invested in the characters because there’s no chance they’ll die. They aren’t in any real peril. The actors have already signed up for two sequels! James Cameron is working on three Avatar sequels simultaneously! What’s happening now is that filmmakers are making scenes more and more extravagant to offset this sequel fatigue. They keep pushing the limits to keep us saying ‘well surely they can’t survive this’ until it gets utterly ridiculous.
So true. I actually felt that JW was a little moderate in its uses of CGI, but how many big bad dino-hybrids do you think will be in the sequel?
For one little moment, it seemed the rapturous response to Mad Max Fury Road might have Hollywood thinking that more is not better. The unexpected success of Jurassic World has laid that idea to rest, just like you knew it would. It would be nice to think that MMFR might influence some filmmakers to take more chances in that direction, and I don’t doubt that we’ll see endless allusions to it as we did after The Matrix and 300 came out. But given the way Hollywood plucks indie directors out of the schoolyard and gives them huge blockbusters to direct while the SFX unit handles all the action—JW’s Colin Trevorrow had directed one movie previously, and nothing in the film shows the slightest hint of style—it’s not very likely the next generation of action filmmakers will be making waves or demands. These days moviemaking is just too expensive and leviathan to take chances.
And you know, Chris Pratt on a motorcycle and his henchdinos. That’s one things CGi is good for.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.