Jurassic World is making crazy amounts of money at the box office for the third week in a row. However, is Jurassic World yet another mindless popcorn movie or is it making some very clever, accurate comments on the summer blockbuster genre? Is film director/co-writer Colin Trevorrow actually making meta commentary about the current state of the summer blockbuster with his fourth addition to the Jurassic franchise?
Arguably speaking, the first summer blockbuster occurred in 1975 with Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. Ever since then, audiences have been eager to see what big tentpole movie gets churned out over the summer. Spielberg delivered again in the summer of 1993 with Jurassic Park, and similar to the theme park in the movie, he spared no expense. The first Jurassic Park movie had a subtle meta-commentary about its role as a money-earner as well as a slice of pop culture. And given how meta it is, here are the reasons why the film embodies all that is wrong with summer blockbuster films. (spoilers ahead!)
The film is one giant commercial. Most films will sell toys, clothes, and other products associated with the movie: one can’t watch the Iron Man movie without owning an Iron Man action figure, or one can’t watch Star Trek without wearing a comm badge or a Star Fleet uniform (hopefully not a red shirt). Since Jurassic World was a film about a theme park, they could literally sell any prop or item used by the characters in the theme park, making the movie (as well as most summer blockbuster films) one giant blatant commercial for products to buy.
The film is literally clone of previous films. In the movie, Jake Johnson’s character of Lowery wears a shirt from the first movie and also makes reference to the events of the first film. Jurassic World is literally all about building upon the foundations of previous versions of the park. There’s also a great scene where the two brothers in the film find the ruins of the original Jurassic Park Visitor Center but seem to not really know its significance or previous importance, possibly making commentary on how films disrespectfully build upon foundations of previous movies without acknowledgment? When Chris Pratt learns that the kids have escaped in a fixed Jurassic Park tour jeep, he’s baffled as to how they made it work, again making a meta commentary on how blockbusters from previous eras simply don’t or couldn’t work by today’s standards.
Summer blockbusters can never have enough wow in them. In the first film, there is an iconic discussion amongst the main characters about how cloning dinosaurs is not right and just because we can doesn’t mean that we should. The park ultimately fails because of Dr. Hammond’s ambitions, not because of industrial sabotage. With Jurassic World, the park also destroys itself because it tries to outdo itself and be bigger and better. Chris Pratt’s character of Owen says to Bryce Dallas Howard “They’re dinosaurs. Wow enough.” But clearly “enough” is never enough for a summer blockbuster.
The Indominus Rex in the film represents the wow factor that all movies try and achieve. B.D. Wong warns the new patrons of Jurassic Park that all of the disasters happening were because they wanted bigger and better. Indominus Rex is a hybrid of a variety of different dinosaurs and animals to make it an apex predator. Ever watch a summer blockbuster and feel like they’ve done it before, or that a character feels like a rip off of a previous movie? The Indominus Rex is literally an amalgam of previously successful animals, just as most summer blockbusters feel like rehashes of previously successful films.
One of the exhibits at the park is a giant sea dinosaur, called a Mosasaurus, eating a shark in one bite. Does that bring us full circle to have the biggest blockbuster to date (Jurassic World) eat a shark, representing the very first blockbuster (Jaws)? Then is it irony when the Mosasaurus comes back at the end of the film to eat the Indominus Rex? Or does it establish the vicious cycle that all giant summer blockbusters go through of constantly eating its predecessors to be bigger and badder each summer?
What do you think? Is Jurassic World just a fun flick or is there a clever warning hidden in the story’s structure? Post your comments below or follow us on Twitter!