There were many ways in which Jurassic World, the first Jurassic Park sequel in fourteen years, could have gone wrong. After two disappointing entries, several screenplay rewrites and years in development hell, everyone’s expectations were low, and it’s safe to say that no one expected anything other than standard Hollywood focused grouped mediocrity.
Fortunately, director Colin Trevorrow followed his instinct and delivered a movie that’s heartfelt, respectful to the originals and, best of all, really fun to boot.
PRODUCER: Universal Pictures / Amblin Entertainment
“Well, there it is.”
Jurassic World is set in the present day, twenty years after the events of the first movie and John Hammond’s failed attempt at bringing his vision to life. Now, the park is a reality. Jurassic World has been functional for ten years, and gets twenty thousand visitors a day. But while park attendance numbers have been steady, the costs of running the park have grown too high.
Enter Claire (beautiful Bryce Dallas Howard) head of operations of the park, a workaholic businesswoman who of course doesn’t have time for her family or to start one of her own, despite the insistence of her sister (played by the always great and very underrated Judy Greer.) Claire explains the park’s latest idea to attract new audiences: create a new dinosaur. Her reasoning being, people have become tired of seeing the same creatures over and over, and attendance numbers have spiked every time they introduced a new species. So, in order to give audiences what they want, they created a new predator: The Indominus Rex. A hybrid made out of the most ferocious dinosaurs… and some other stuff too. Bigger. Badder. With more teeth. It’s a nice bit of of meta commentary, which Trevorrow talked about while the movie was still in development, but sadly it doesn’t go any further than that.
Claire’s nephews Gray and Zach (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) are also visiting the park. Like everyone else in the movie, there isn’t much going on about them in terms of character: Gray is the whiz kid, spewing useless dino trivia about everything he sees. Zach is the teenager who ogles at girls and doesn’t want to be there babysitting his little brother.
Then we have Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, who will be cast in every action movie from here to 2030) who works in the park as a raptor trainer of sorts. This aspect of the film was criticized before release and, to be honest, I had some doubts myself about whether they’d be able to pull a ‘raptor whisperer’ without it looking dumb. And pulled it they did. One of the biggest strengths of Jurassic World is that, for once, the raptors feel like living animals that behave like animals, instead of the cold, almost slasher film level killers from the earlier movies, a pitfall that even Spielberg himself was unable to overcome. Owen’s Raptor Squad (relax, nowhere in the movie they’re called that) work as a concept, feel believable, and I actually grew to like them during the movie.
Can’t say the same about Pratt himself though, since his character got probably the worst lines in the movie, and he felt really underused. Except for a few scenes, it seemed to me that Owen Grady could’ve been played by any other actor and the movie wouldn’t have suffered for it.
Of course, Pratt isn’t to blame for this, since most of the characters in Jurassic World only came in two flavors: cardboard cutouts, or cartoonishly over the top, especially Vincent Donofrio’s Hoskins, a villain so stereotypical you’d think he was gonna twirl his moustache at any time. I did like Irrfan Khan’s Masrani, and wished that he got a bigger role. The only returning character, BD Wong’s Dr. Wu, feels like an entirely different character than in the first movie. While his evolution makes sense for those familiar with the character from the book, it’s jarring if you don’t know his motivations. Even the kids, a staple from the series, don’t add much to the movie and aren’t in any real danger most of the time (They are at the center of one of my favorite setpieces in the movie though.) But their relationship is never expanded upon much, and the core of their issues (their parents going through a divorce) doesn’t amount to much in the end.
A lot of the dialogue in the movie sounds unnatural and forced, and some scenes lack the impact they should have because of this. It’s that strange feeling where you know what a line of dialogue is supposed to make you feel, but it failed at it. The humor misses the mark more than it hits it. Some character moments are weird and feel shoehorned into the movie as an afterthought.
But of course, none of it matters since this is all just setup to get to the meat of the film: dinosaurs wreaking havoc and eating people. And boy does Trevorrow deliver on that front. From the moment the Indominus escapes capitivity (due to human stupidity, of course,) the action in the movie starts ramping up and never stops, while Owen and Clare need to find a way from stopping the Indominus from reaching the park. Because when there are twenty thousand people in the park, everyone is potential dinosaur food.
The action in Jurassic World is fast paced, frantic, closer to a modern blockbuster than any of the other movies. Trevorrow’s choice was not emulating Spielberg’s style, which worked for the best, since the movie feels really personal, and quite different in tone to any of the others in the series, even Joe Johnston’s JP3. Michael Giacchino’s score also contributes to giving the movie its own identity, even when revisiting concepts and ideas from the original. Seeing John Hammond’s dream realized and then destroyed (again) is both amazing and heartbreaking.
Jurassic World is a good movie that could’ve been better, but also could have been much worse, all things considered. It suffers from both being made by people who loved the original (and there’s a ton of references and easter eggs for the keen-eyed fans,) and some pretty obvious executive meddling. While some of its elements just don’t work, and I’m terrified of the prospect for the inevitable sequel, it amounts to (much) more than the sum of its parts, and is some of the most fun I’ve had in a movie in a long time. Was it worth to bring this dinosaur back to life after all these years? Yes, it was.