Jurassic World (2015)
The park is open.
More than two decades ago, director Steven Spielberg blew people’s minds with the colossal blockbuster Jurassic Park (1993) — a movie going experience that redefined cinema and provided the world with some of the most iconic sights and sounds of contemporary film. With its plausible mix of science, breathtaking imagery and imagination, it’s difficult to convey the brimming excitement that surrounded Spielberg’s flick at the time of its release, with viewers feeling as though, they too, were seeing actual dinosaurs for the very first time, just like the characters in the movie. A cautionary tale about messing with the natural order of the world, Jurassic Park was also responsible for some of the most important visual effects advancements in film, pioneering software that is still being used today. With its subsequent sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Jurassic Park III (2001) dropping the ball in terms of quality storytelling and spectacle, this new ‘Jurassic’ picture, Jurassic World doesn’t even bother addressing events from the follow-up flicks, instead it builds off Spielberg’s original masterpiece — which was based on the 1990 novel by Michael Crichton — and comes around full circle as the park that was promised twenty-two years ago is now finally alive.
Skilfully directed by Colin Trevorrow — whose only other feature is the low-budget Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) — Jurassic World takes us back to the isolated Isla Nublar, an island situated off the coast of Costa Rica — last seen in Jurassic Park — where Dr. John Hammond’s dream of building a functional theme park — giving folks from around the globe an opportunity to come and experience the wonder and delight of witnessing and interacting with bona fide dinosaurs — is at long last a reality. Welcome to Jurassic World, a beautifully realized, fully operational theme park — constructed around a luxury resort — which features numerous state-of-the-art, awe-inspiring rides, educational holograms and tourist attractions, all surrounding a bustling Main Street — complete with a Starbucks café and a Pandora jewellery store alongside other such recognizable stalls selling tacky souvenirs, gifts and apparel.
Luckily, the thriving park has been up and running, operating ‘disaster free,’ for many years but given its commercial prosperity, demands for new yearly innovations are a constant concern with corporate shareholders keen to create better, flashier dinosaurs in order to ensure that guests keep returning to the resort — this in some ways parallels the challenge of satisfying the contemporary blockbuster crowd, who are always looking for bigger, faster, louder and better. In pursuit for greater profits, the genetics team at the park, led by Dr. Henry Wu — BD Wong, reprising his role from Jurassic Park — have spliced together a hybrid dinosaur they’ve named the Indominus Rex; a gigantic, highly intelligent 50-foot-tall killing machine, who we eventually learn can change its color and elude heat sensors.
Overseeing every corner of Jurassic World is the strict, career driven operations manager, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who finds herself burdened with the unexpected arrival of her two nephews, the 11-year-old Gray, (Ty Simpkins) and his older brother, 16-year-old Zach, (Nick Robinson). Shipped off by their mother, Karen Mitchell (Judy Greer), to spend a few days at the resort, Claire has little time for distractions and loads the boys with special passes, sending them to explore Jurassic World on their own, in the care of her equally clueless assistant, Zara Young (Katie McGrath). Busy with the park’s newest ‘monster,’ the Indominus Rex and the security of its containment, Claire visits Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), an ex-military expert turned animal behaviorist who trains Velociraptors at a secluded research base on the margin of the main park. Why? Who knows! Luckily, Owen has formed a bond with four of the raptors and established an alpha relationship with the dinos, one that skirts dangerously close between sly obedience and predatory revolt. As it turns out, Owen’s research has piqued the interest of Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), the head of InGen’s security operations, who hopes to make an easy buck by using the raptors as weapons. Alas, when the deadly Indominus Rex escapes the confinement of its pen, a squad of InGen soldiers, led by Vic, attempt to stop the creature before it reaches the tourists whilst Claire and Owen join forces in order to the hunt for her nephews who are lost in the park as the resort falls into mayhem and guests turn into prey.
Strait off the bat, it’s evident that director Colin Trevorrow has a fondness for the Jurassic pictures and has opted to ‘honor’ and embrace aspects of Spielberg’s original vision instead of attempting to surpass or equal it. Mimicking blockbuster specialists such as Spielberg and to some extent, even James Cameron, Jurassic World works as a homage to event films from yesteryear, paying tribute to the foundations Spielberg laid out in the original Jurassic Park; it recalls moments of Spielberg’s masterwork both flawlessly and naturally, such as a tender scene where Owen comforts a dying herbivore who’s been attacked while the boy’s astonishing drive in a gyrosphere — a hamster ball-like vehicle that rolls around on the ground, allowing its riders 360-degree visibility of the world around them — evokes bittersweet nostalgia. Even a brief appearance by the animated Mr. DNA comes as a welcome surprise. As one would assume, the quintessential beasts are animated with generous fluidity and rapid speed whilst the feature’s last sequence, which slips into B-movie madness — where a particular soaring dino charges into battle against a foe of equal stature — is the icing on the cake of this entertaining tribute, working as a final nod or a closing reminder that roars, ‘don’t mess with the original!’ Additionally the flick’s new monster, the Indominus Rex, could almost be seen as somewhat of a symbol of consumer and corporate excess, with director Trevorrow stating that the dinosaur was ‘meant to embody [humanity’s] worst tendencies’ — our desire and thirst for profit.
With that said however, Jurassic World does have its fair share of problems. The picture more or less lacks that extra something that filmmakers such as Spielberg can often bring to a movie and essentially works best as a disposable piece of fan service; the thrills are there — the sight of hundreds of Pterodactyls swooping over a massive food court then attacking the defenseless crowds is a riot, whereas shots of a colossal underwater dinosaur, who devours a Great White Shark in a single gulp (a sharp joke in relation to how irrelevant Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) has become) are extraordinary — but they are never quite as impactful or as thrilling as those from the past — nothing matches the alarm, tension and dismay of the Tyrannosaurus Rex’s first appearance in Jurassic Park. What’s more, the picture is fairly violent, so I’d urge parents to take note of its rating.
Moreover, the script by Colin Trevorrow and his three fellow screenwriters — Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who penned The Relic (1997), and Derek Connolly — sticks too close to a highly potent formula — it’s basically a rehash of the original film — although the narrative, at times, does manage to thankfully subvert audience expectation while toying around with clichés. The first half of the picture spends too long laying down the groundwork for what’s to come whilst the majority of the flick’s dramatic beats seem forced or needless; a subplot revolving around the young boy’s parent’s impending divorce feels out of place, as if inserted simply to give the brothers something to talk about as they gallivant around the park. The characters in the piece are also rather hollow and unmemorable, predominantly the underwritten Claire Dearing — who embodies all the worst stereotypes of a successful career woman — whereas the human ‘big bad’ Hoskins, stands as a bit of a roadblock, distracting from an otherwise engaging adventure.
Despite the fact that the ‘real’ stars of Jurassic World are the dinosaurs, the film’s human cast do a decent job with the material provided. Flavor of the month, Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), is the evident centerpiece here, bringing his own warm comic sensibility and charm to the part — although he lacks the cool, sarcastic wit and intelligence of Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm and the every-man charisma of Sam Neill’s Dr. Alan Grant. Female lead, Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help (2011), portrays the crisp-looking theme park executive Claire, a corporate-type yuppie who can somehow outrun a T-Rex in heels, making the best of her one-dimensional role whereas the young boys, Nick Robinson, The Kings of Summer (2013), and Ty Simpkins, Iron Man 3 (2013), are ‘okay’ as far as ‘teens in peril’ go, although they’re overshadowed by the dinosaurs once the carnage kicks in. Surprisingly, the feature’s only ‘memorable’ performances come from its supporting players; Indian actor Irrfan Khan, Life of Pi (2012), is predictably great as Simon Masrani, a billionaire CEO of the Masrani Corporation, who has taken Hammond’s dinosaur theme park idea and turned it into a reality while Jake Johnson, Let’s Be Cops (2014), generates the picture’s biggest laughs as Lowery Cruthers, a geeky, dinosaur-loving park employee who wears a vintage Jurassic Park t-shirt he bought off eBay.
Leaving paleontology to the first three installments, Jurassic World is an enjoyable romp that takes viewers back to the dino fantasyland that wowed them some two decades ago. Stumbling only when trying to secure a commentary on ‘big issues’ such as the abuse of power along with an anti-militarization message, Jurassic World basically looks fantastic, its soundtrack by Michael Giacchino, Star Trek (2009) — which reprises parts of the classic John Williams score — is spot on and the flick displays some of the most impressive visuals in the prehistoric series. Although failing to reach the heights of its predecessor, Jurassic World works as a worthy companion to Spielberg’s original outing; it delivers on serving the dino-mite action and nail biting suspense promised by early buzz and packs enough of a wallop to rattle even the most secure raptor cage. In short, this is the Tyrannosaurus-sized sequel fans have been waiting for. Let’s just hope that the inevitable fifth film goes beyond the exhausted ‘monster of the week’ formula that’s plagued the Jurassic pictures thus far and filmmakers develop a screenplay that actually justifies the series’ continuation, until then, it looks as though dinosaurs still rule the planet!
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Jurassic World is released through Universal Pictures Australia