Hard on the heels of “Mad Max: Fury Road”, George Miller’s attempt to exploit the success of his previous three films in this series, come “Poltergeist” and “Jurassic World”, retreads of two vintage films with a Stephen Spielberg imprint and playing at your local Multiplex (“Jurassic World” opens everywhere tomorrow). Spielberg wrote the screenplay for “Poltergeist” in 1982 and directed “Jurassic Park” in 1993. Haven’t had your fill of remakes? Then put “Terminator Genisys” on your to-see list. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role (you were expecting Ryan Gosling maybe?), you would have to adopt a suspension of disbelief to regard this 67-year old actor of being capable of terminating anything except an appointment with his urologist.
In technical terms, some in the film industry distinguish between remakes and reboots (or retools). A remake is fairly close to the original, like Gus Van Sant’s “Psycho” while the other approach involves a new interpretation entirely—the most egregious case being the monumentally stupid “47 Ronin”, a travesty that starred Keanu Reeves as the leader of a samurai suicide mission. The only suicide worth considering is that risked by a serious film buff as a reaction to this CGI-laden mess that includes a shape-shifting monster. The inspiration appears to be the Hercules films rather than the austere 1962 classic “Chūshingura”.
After having been besieged by fans of “Mad Max: Fury Road” as a snob with a prejudice against action films for dubbing it “rotten” on Rotten Tomatoes, I wish I could make amends by saying that “Jurassic World” was “fresh”. Unfortunately, it shares the same flaws as the other film, namely a tendency to make such retreads only faster and louder than the original, as well as stripped of character development and wit.
Having received an invitation to see a press screening of the 3D version of “Jurassic World” last Tuesday in an Imax theater, I went there with the same sort of expectation of mindless entertainment that I had for “Mad Max: Fury Road”. To reprise the opening lines of my review that provoked dozens of Mad Max fans into a pitchfork armed assault on my blog, I would say that “Jurassic World” was indeed mindless but entertaining not so much.
Before saying anything about this retread, I should state for the record that I have a soft spot for some of Spielberg’s work, particularly “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “ET”. I also found “Jurassic Park” entertaining but less so for the rampaging Tyrannosaurus Rex than for Jeff Goldblum’s character Dr. Ian Malcolm who had such memorable lines: “What’s so great about discovery? It’s a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores. What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.” (I wonder what Edward Abbey would have made of this film.)