The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
The best aspects of "Jurassic World," in which a hybrid super-predator runs amok in the trouble-plagued theme park, are so good that they transport you that exhilarating mental space where the series' original director, Steven Spielberg, raised a tentpole back in 1993. The worst aspects are bad indeed: thin characterizations, a blase attitude toward human-on-animal violence and a weird male-supremacist streak that comes close to sneering at unmarried career women who don't have kids.
On the "smarter" side of the ledger, you can enter three, maybe four large-scale action sequences that do the master proud. Directed by Colin Trevorrow in a style that's Spielbergian but not slavishly so, they're bruising but not overbearing, and laid out with clarity. You always know where you are and what's happening, and you rarely see as much brutality as you think: some of the mayhem is suggested by sound effects, a blur of motion obscured by foreground objects, or a spray of blood on a wall. Every shot and cut pulls its weight. Every new development makes the sequence feel like a story-within-a-story with the end goal of getting the hell away from dinosaurs. The final half-hour is a sustained chase through dark woods that reverses expectations again and again, culminating in a whirl of dino-on-dino violence: a funnel cloud of claws and teeth. But best in show goes to the sequence where park visitors are attacked by pterodactyls that pluck them from the ground like mice—an homage to "The Birds" that amounts to Treverrow doing Spielberg doing Hitchcock. You can say a lot of things about this director, but not that he lacks confidence.
Less bruising but more intriguing are the the bits that feel like preemptive strikes against criticism—or at the very least, examples of a $200 million franchise installment sizing itself up as a consumer product as well as a film. It's as if somebody had taken one of the most-discussed bits from the original "Jurassic Park," the shots of merchandise emblazoned with the same logo as the film you were watching, and unpacked it with care and joy, as if it were a bottomless, self-referential toy chest. That "Jurassic World" can think about itself as a sequel without taking us out of the story we're
watching makes it truly Spielbergian.
When a friend heard the premise of "Jurassic World"—the park, which has been open for twenty years without an accident, decides to create a bigger, badder meat-eater—he said the tagline on the poster should be "We Never Learn." As it turns out, Chris Pratt's character says "These people never learn" when he hears about the new dino. Park staffers talk about how they introduce new creatures every few years to goose ticket sales. Jaded park visitors are compared to Americans who lost interest in moon missions after the first one, and require "bigger, louder" dinosaurs with "more teeth." The movie is talking about the "Park" series itself, which introduced new dinos each time out to keep viewers interested, and easily bored movie audiences in the age of computer-generated imagery, technology that the first two "Park" films made fashionable. It's also talking about the steady escalation of scale in the blockbuster, which mandated that the each new incarnation of Godzilla be larger than the previous one, and birthed superhero films so inflated that on those rare occasions when the good guys save the human race instead of the universe, critics congratulate the filmmakers for daring to be intimate.