Grading The Product Placements of Jurassic World
Brands will find a way.
Jurassic World(dir. Colin Trevorrow), the first entry in the beloved Jurassic Park franchise in 15 years, just made over 208.8 million dollars in its opening weekend, edging out The Avengers (2012) for the biggest open of all time. The film follows two brothers, millennials Zach and Gray (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins, respectively) whose parents send them to visit the dinosaur park twenty-two years after all hell broke loose in Jurassic Park and everyone nearly died, eighteen years after The Lost World when the T Rex made landfall in LA, and fifteen years after whatever happened in Jurassic Park III happened to whoever it happened to.
Point is: Isla Nublar is a great place to send your kids while you and your husband sort out your (spoiler alert) potential divorce. Unlike in the original Jurassic Park, these kids are pretty boring: Zach is an advanced teen and sulks around for the first third of the film feeling like he’s been sent on the world’s most dangerous babysitting mission (this is true). His younger brother Gray’s personality type is, like, “hyperactive or something.” This kid loves dinosaurs! The two are a pretty lame pair; Gray gets really excited about something (dinosaur statistics, etc.) or morose about something (impending divorce, witnessing human death, etc.) and then Zach rolls his eyes in exasperation, puts on his headphones, and ogles some girls.
Things move at grumpy teen vacation speed for the first chunk of the film, but in the background things are pretty wack. In thrall to the freaky bloodlust of the public and the park’s shareholders, Zach and Gray’s aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park’s operations manager, has given the go-ahead to make a new dinosaur/spit in the face of God. Everyone seems to think this is a good idea except Owen (Chris Pratt) a straight talking, raptor whispering, patronizing ex-Marine. These two butt heads in a weird nature vs. corporate-science battle (theme alert) but manage to put their differences re: genetically modified organisms aside when (spoiler alert) the new evil dinosaur—the Indominus Rex—escapes her enclosure and goes absolutely ham, wrecking shit, terrorizing the park full of tourists, and scarfing everyone from CEOs to low-wage workers. United by their desire to prevent everyone on the island from being eaten, most of the people team up with some of the dinosaurs to defeat most of the dinosaurs and some of the people.
Such is the human drama that Trevorrow and his crew have cooked up. Out of respect for the 15 people left on the planet who haven’t seen the film I will avoid more details, but let’s just say the film has some Big Winners and Big Losers. Big Losers include: freaky science, non-conventional weapons, military contractors, and divorce. Big Winners: relatively less-freaky science, conventional weapons, the US Marine Corps, true love, established gender roles, and brands! That’s right, baby: brands. Jurassic World is so full of sweet product placement that the transition from the pre-credit commercials to the tentpole blockbuster happens like a slow, graceful fade. Headphones, cell phones, Brookstone: the Isla Nublar of Jurassic World is a virtual duty free shop teeming with the good stuff, and while some people have complained that the film reaches a new low in terms of obnoxious product placement, other people (me) see the the brands as part of the drama!
What follows is a non-exhaustive rating (one star to four stars) of how some of our most beloved brands fared in the dino-hell that erupted in Jurassic World:
Mercedez-Benz: The relationship between Mercedes-Benz and the terrifying dinosaur island dates back to The Lost World, when the car giant introduced it’s M-Class vehicle which might have fallen off a cliff, I can’t remember. Either way, I hear their are great cars and the new SUV—the GLE Coupé—looks fresh in the film. I don’t think it gets crushed by a dinosaur so I assume it is very strong and has a high safety rating.
Beats by Dre: Zach spends the early part of the film staring into the middle-distance with his headphones on. Because he doesn’t have much of a personality, your guess is as good as mine when it comes to what Zach is listening to and whether it necessitates an expensive pair of headphones that will probably wind up getting stepped on by a stegosaurus anyway. By all indications, Zach has no personality so maybe he is listening to: Mumford and Sons.
Coca-Cola: I’ve almost lost the ability to detect Coca-Cola ads anymore; they just blur together like leaves on a tree or the sound of the ocean. In Jurassic World, you only notice the Coke brand as it falls into a trash can which seems like a bad location to place your product (the trash can).
Verizon: In one of the films more glaring po-mo approximations of self-awareness, Claire courts a group of execs who want to sponsor a new attraction that will scare the shit out of everyone and at one point she suggests that Verizon could have its name on the Indominus Rex! I am no brand ninja, but here’s the thing about associating your phone company with an unnatural killing machine: it seems like a bad idea!
Samsung: Here’s another weird telecom presence. Samsung products are all over this movie—tablets, computers, phones, you name it. In fact, the brand gets its name plastered on its own building: The Samsung Innovation Center…where the park uses weird science to make big mistakes that result in dinosaurs chowing the fuck down on a tourist buffet. I don’t even get it at this point. Oh, also, plenty of shit goes wrong because the characters’ Samsung phones lose reception. Samsung gets a lowly one star that I’m awarding out of pity only because no one in the film took a selfie while being gored on the beak of a pterosaur.
Starbucks: Seems like everyone noticed there was a Starbucks sign in the background but me which I take to mean I got Trojan Horsed. Good work on the part of the Starbucks brand.
Jimmy Fallon: Fallon just had future president Jeb Bush on his show, so it’s been a big few days for him and giant lizards (hahaha). But seriously folks, an on-board pre-recorded Jimmy Fallon shows up in the film to lecture the boys on vehicular safety but really just goofs around. Imagine Fallon being the last thing you saw before getting stomped by a 9 ton pebbly skinned lizard. Yeesh. Even weirder, imagine the island devoid of all human life except a looping vid of Fallon flailing around and giggling. Ok, ok, too creepy to even compute. Decent if terrifying work with the Fallon brand.
Margaritaville: Here’s the big winner, ladies and gentlemen. Oh yeah. That’s right, Margaritaville. This bastion of coconut shrimp, bottle-opening sandals, and bad puns makes a brief appearance in the film (the obvious choice for where you want to roll the dice on food poisoning on Isla Nublar), as does its founder Jimmy Buffett. Buffett’s cameo is a true highlight of the film. When all hell has broken loose for like the third time, all of the tourists go absolutely nuts and start screaming their dang heads off. But not Mr. Buffet. In a split second shot I am intensely proud/ashamed that I caught, Jimmy Buffett can be seen straight hoofing it off camera while clutching two lime green margaritas! So good! Of all the brands involved in production, Margaritaville, with it’s I’m-On-Island-Time je ne sais quoi/je ne sais what hotel I’m staying at because of that 6th genetically modified Margaritasaur, is the one that manages to stay on message and resilient in the face of trouble.
Photos by Universal Pictures