Christian Movie Review
[Note: after you read my review for “Jurassic World” below, if you’re a fan of C.S. Lewis, please check out my new blog Stabs of Joy or my podcast Aslan’s Paw. Both seek to crack open the surprising treasures of Christian belief — the things that Western society has forgotten, ignored, or never encountered — with the help of logic, literature, film, music, and one very unsafe Lion.]
“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”
If that G.K. Chesterton quote is too early 20th century sounding for you, allow me to rephrase it: “We are perishing for lack of wonder, not for lack of things that are wonderful.”
In other words, society has lost its ability to look at things with wonder — that childlike wonder that never wears out or grows cynical.
That quote (or paraphrase of a quote) from Chesterton’s “Tremendous Trifles” published in 1909, could serve — 106 years later — as the primary movie poster slogan and the summary of the film “Jurassic World” from beginning to end.
We certainly don’t have a shortage of amazing new things — whether it’s new gadgets, new science, new “friends” on Facebook, new blockbuster movies, new bestselling books, or even new discoveries about the past (i.e. they just discovered the ruins of a 1,500-year-old Christian church between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv).
But somehow, somewhere along the way, the Screen Age, which accelerated in 2007 with the birth of the smart phone, has made us very hard to impress. A person can quite literally “see it all” (on YouTube), and he or she is not even 13 yet.
It’s a profound thought quietly slipped into a soon-to-be classic summer blockbuster that has all the ingredients of a carefully formulated (with a couple solid surprises) Hollywood tent pole picture.
Does it deserve its current 70% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes? Absolutely.
More on that in a moment…
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance for this PG-13-rated film…
Sexual Content/Nudity/Themes of Sexuality and Romance: In a conversation between Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), Owen jokes about “consulting” in his bungalow, and he makes a flirtatious reference to sex while talking about the instincts of the dinosaurs. Two characters kiss passionately for a few seconds.
Violence/Gore: Dinosaurs eat humans. A lot. In every way possible. Probably between 20-30 dinosaur-related deaths occur on-screen. HOWEVER…none of these “feedings” are in-your-face gory with detail. In every case, the camera cuts away when the actual tearing apart of people begins (though you definitely hear the tearing apart and screams). Though in some cases, tons of blood is splattered on walls or windows to show the “effect” of the eating. Despite all of that, the original “Jurassic Park” was actually more graphic in its gore in that it actually showed dismembered, half-eaten body parts. “Jurassic World” doesn’t get quite as detailed in its camera shots. It does show some humans getting bitten and swallowed whole, but the shots are from a distance, and you don’t see gore. All of that being said, it’s definitely PG-13 for a reason. They make up for the lack of detailed gore by really ratcheting up the “creepy” factor and the scariness of certain scenes. So I agree strongly with the rating: kids under 13 is probably not a great idea.
Language: No f-words. A few s-words, d-words, a-words, and b-words scattered across the film.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: Not really. One character mentions drinking tequila as a normal part of his diet (in context of a joke). I think (if I remember correctly) a character is drinking a beer in one scene.
(Review continues below)
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Entertainment Value and Film Craft
As an audience member of “Jurassic World,” I was not hard to please. I only had a few requirements:
1. That it take place on the original island where “Jurassic Park” took place and that it showed gorgeous aerial shots of said island. Why? Because that sense of escape — like you’re taking a vacation on an exotic, mysterious adventure island off of Costa Rica — was one of my favorite elements of the original film’s atmosphere. Check.
3. That it has some cool new dinosaurs and mind-blowing shots of said dinosaurs that are an improvement on anything done before it. Check.
4. That it include carefully placed (but not too in-your-face or overdone) nods, easter eggs, and little tributes to the original “Jurassic Park.” Check. (Heck, this new film even brought back some of the old props and sets from the original movie!)
5. That, even though it’s essentially a monster/disaster movie that can’t really innovate too much on its plot, it have some creative plot twists that surprise the audience and give the film a distinctive flavor from the first one. Big check.
“Jurassic World” fulfilled all of my requirements with flying colors. It was a joyous thrill ride with equal measure nostalgia and newness.
And — as a bonus that was not on my original “requirement” list — it was actually thought-provoking.
Worldviews, Subtext, Symbolism, Themes of Redemption, Social Commentary, Etc.
I love that Chesterton quote so much I’m going to use it again: “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”
Our general “want of wonder” is the root cause of the initial conflict in “Jurassic World”: after being open for 10 years the world has gotten accustomed to dinosaurs, and the resort keeps upping the ante to maintain “wow” factor and strong profits. Eventually they up the ante a little too far. (Or how ’bout a LOT too far — whoa.)
And, it’s interesting: “Jurassic World” presents to us a public that — if you can even imagine it — has gotten a little disenchanted and bored with all the dinosaurs. We see people obsessed with their phones instead of the dinosaurs and teenagers ignoring a dinosaur to check his social media updates.
It’s a commentary on the nature of the human heart and the way it so easily loses its ability to be grateful and see the wonder that surrounds it.
It’s the law of diminishing returns. Once something loses its newness — whether that be something as trivial as a new flavor of candy or something as hugely important as our faith experience when we first discover that Christ and His claims are real — we tend to slowly but surely take it for granted. If we let that thankless tendency go on, we eventually stop appreciating it altogether.
Another one of my favorite themes of this movie: brotherhood — yes, specifically brotherhood. Not sibling-hood — but the bonds of brotherhood and what it means to look out for your brother. I have two older brothers, and I found the sub-plot of the two brothers going on vacation to Jurassic World moving. It was a highlight of the film for me. I’m not saying it’s an Oscar contender or anything incredibly dramatic or deep, but the two brothers and their story was a nice touch.
Besides the interesting “wonder” commentary and the moving bond of brotherhood, the film works as a critique of the usual villains that Hollywood likes to demonize: 1) heartless corporations who care more about profits than people; and 2) cold-blooded, blood-thirsty “military industrial complex” types who are obsessed with war and look at the world around them as if it were a Medal of Honor video game. Though I wouldn’t say the movie is anti-military because the hero of the film is a military veteran who served admirably in the Navy. And I probably wouldn’t say it’s against all corporations, just the ones that dehumanize their customers and treat the “bottom-line” with greedy idolatry — like the giant movie studios who treat moviegoers like cattle, just to name an example.
Despite the subtle hypocrisy of the film — a movie warning us about the evils of large, money-obsessed corporations made by a large corporate film studio that is completely profit-centric — you can’t really disagree with the film’s critique. It’s a solid morality tale about the dangers of greed, ruthless ambition, and the devaluing of human life. When an “extra” or minor character is killed by a dinosaur, for example, the film treats it as something tragic and significant; they make it clear that a precious human life has been lost and their heart has stopped beating. (They even track the flat-lining of their heart stopping in one significant scene.)
As far as other worldviews: the film is firmly planted in the mentality that the theory of macro-evolution is indisputable fact.
There is no perfect movie. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a movie where I 100% agreed with every little nuance of its worldview(s). Movies are very much like people: many of them — even the great ones — have a complicated mix of things that are good and bad.
But “Jurassic World” has more than enough to like — especially the whole “lack of wonder” theme — that I had a blast, and I had some substantive things to ponder as I left the theater. It’s a nostalgic thrill ride updated with today’s breathtaking special effects and capped off with a superb grand finale. You walk away from the movie with a sense of satisfaction — not unlike the original “Jurassic Park.” Although it could never replace the inaugural freshness of the first film, “Jurassic World” is the (near) perfect sequel.
My rating for “Jurassic World”: [usr 7]
Note about my ratings:
1 star = one of the worst movies ever made (the stuff of bad movie legends), and it usually (not always) has below 10% on Rotten Tomatoes
2-3 stars = a mostly bad movie that has a handful of nice moments; it usually falls between (but not always — as is the case with “Spy”) 10-30% on Rotten Tomatoes
4-6 stars = a decent movie with some flaws, overall. Four stars mean its flaws outweigh the good. Five stars mean equal good, equal bad. Six stars mean it’s a fairly good movie, with some great moments even, that outweigh a few flaws. A 4-6 star rating usually means it falls between 30-59% on Rotten Tomatoes (but not always).
7-9 stars = a rare rating reserved only for the best movies of that year; and a film must have a Fresh Tomato rating (60% or higher) on Rotten Tomatoes to be given 7 stars or higher.
10 stars = one of the best films of all time, right up there with the all-time greats (i.e. Casablanca, The African Queen, Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars Episode IV, Indiana Jones, etc.).
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