I wrote the following post before I knew Aaron was writing about Genisys yesterday. So, impromptu debate, ahoy!
I saw both Jurassic World and Terminator: Genisys last week, and you know what? Genisys was better. Yeah, I said it. Here’s the thing: both movies are not that great, objectively speaking. As my good friend Sam likes to say, there are three classes of movies: good, bad, and fun. Genisys and World are fun. It doesn’t matter if the plots don’t make sense or if the characters behave irrationally because who cares? You get to watch dinosaurs and robots fuck shit up on a biblical scale.
But despite the fact that both movies are unrepentant shlockfests, World seems to be getting a pass from a lot of critics. It currently enjoys a 71% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 71%! Genisys, on the other hand, is sporting a measly 26%. What the hell? Am I missing something?
Let’s do a comparison and see where things went wrong. Maybe I have brain damage and can’t see the glaringly obvious; that’s always a possibility we have to consider. To assess whether or not I’ve had a stroke in the past week and forgotten how to compare movies, I’ll use a well-respected critic as my barometer.
Richard Roeper is a guy I generally like. He writes succinct reviews and doesn’t mess around with numbered scores. Roeper liked World. He points out that it resorts to “sci-fi thriller tropes” and celebrates it when it “pays homage to the original.” He is sold by the special effects, saying that he totally believes “humans and dinosaurs are sharing the same space.” His biggest criticism is that Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady “ends up being kind of a stiff.”
Now let’s look at his Genisys review. Roeper dislikes the way it puts a twist on its source material, calling it “a little insulting and off-putting.” He likes most of the actors but calls Jai Courtney “bland.” He admits that the special effects “are more impressive than ever,” and praises Arnold, saying “the best thing in the movie is Schwarzenegger.”
So what do we have? It looks to me like two movies with somewhat weak narratives and characters, big-budget special effects, and a lot of hats tipped to the source material. But World is good while Genisys is bad. I still don’t get it.
Is part of it that Genisys deals with time travel shenanigans which don’t make a ton of sense? But we live in a world that loves Dr. Who’s wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey bullshit, and Matt Smith is even in the movie, so that can’t be it. The time travel is paradoxical, but when has movie time travel ever made sense (except in Primer)?
It can’t be the characters, either. Jai Courtney isn’t great, but at least there’s some attempt made at a character arc for him and Sarah. All the characters in Genisys movie get pretty nice arcs, actually, in contrast to World where no one grows or changes the entire movie. Bryce Dallas Howard comes the closest, but her “growth” is pretty much just realizing that macho Chris Pratt is right about everything and she should just 100% do what he says and date him.
It can’t be the plot, either. While Genisys relies on some questionable time travel logic and doesn’t explain how certain robots get sent back in time (saving it for the sequel presumably), its main characters have a coherent goal and plan which gets challenged in interesting ways throughout the movie. In World, the plot is a slave to absurd occurrences like a teenager being able to repair a thirty year old abandoned jeep because he worked on his Grandpa’s old Malibu once, or Chris Pratt constantly finding abandoned cars with the keys in the ignition and stealing them. The main characters do nothing but bumble around and drive cars until the dinosaurs kill each other.
Is it just nostalgia? That can’t be it. People are already ready to hate Terminator movies because 3 sucked and Salvation was so-so, but didn’t Jurassic Park 2 and 3 also blow pretty hard? Why all this goodwill towards one crappy franchise fallen on hard times but not the other? Are dinosaurs just cooler than robots? (Answer: they are not.) Do 90s kids just remember a 1993 PG-13 movie better than a 1984 R-rated movie? Both movies play with the tropes of the originals, but Genisys actually takes the time to recreate whole scenes from the 1984 film before twisting them in subtle ways. It’s a nice homage that you might not pick up on, unlike in World where they beat you over the head with references. The guy wearing the Jurassic Park shirt is funny, and seeing the original visitor’s center was cool, but they don’t add a lot to the narrative of the movie. Genisys, in contrast, is all about an alternate timeline to the original film, so the references become integral.
It can’t be the special effects, either. Despite what Roeper says, I never believed the dinos and humans were sharing the same space. It looked like a ridiculous cartoon except for one scene with a nice animatronic. Genisys looks pretty cartoony too, but at least it does some really interesting things with its visuals. I can only see so many dinosaurs before I get bored, while sci-fi robots have endless possibilities.
So I don’t know, man. Maybe I’m the crazy one. I’m tired of defending movies I like that everyone else hates. All you guys that hate Genisys but love World are insane. I’m done. Have fun seeing Pixels, you maniacs.