It’s hard to imagine the pantheon of blockbusters without thinking about one of Spielberg’s crown jewels, Jurassic Park. For more than two decades the dino-thriller has inspired filmmakers working in the industry as they strived to make the next big hit. After falling into development hell for nearly 14 years after the widely panned Jurassic Park III, Jurassic World has arrived so late to the party that we’ve finally started to miss it. Does this decades old dinosaur know a few new tricks or is this one project better left to total extinction?
Jurassic World takes us into the park with first time visitors Zach(Nick Robinson) and Gray(Ty Simpkins) who are on vacation to see their aunt Claire(Bryce Dallas Howard) who happens to be the operations manager of the theme park. After years of failed attempts, it appears InGen was finally able to get the park up and running just as John Hammond had always envisioned it. In attempt to reignite public interest in the theme park, the CEO Masrani(Irrfan Khan) plans to unveil the development of a new genetically engineered dinosaur developed by Dr Henry Wu(BD Wong) called the Indominous Rex. Upon hearing about the project, the park’s raptor trainer Owen Grady(Chris Pratt) becomes skeptical of the facility’s ability to domesticate the mutant dinosaur. After an accident in the Indominous Rex’s cage, the animal breaks from his confines and begins wreaking havoc every man, woman, and dinosaur in the park.
If you came to the ride expecting to feel the classic nostalgia of the original film, you’ve not come to the right place. Sure, there are more than a handful of fun nods here and there, but by and large, this is more about the dino on dino battles and wonky one liners delivered by Chris Pratt and Jake Johnson. This movie brings all of the fun, the fluff, and the action of Spielberg’s classic without bringing any of weightier philosophical notions about man’s inability to leave nature to its own devices.
Jurassic World occasionally aspires to a curious exploration about human nature and man’s obsession with tinkering and making money. These ideas are doubly present after the park’s corporate owner InGen (represented by the especially redneck Hoskins played by Daredevil’s Vincent D’Onofrio) steps in and attempts to use the outbreak as a field test for weaponized raptors. Sadly the script never goes any further to break beneath the surface as it rushes to the next big set piece.
If anything, Jurassic World comes across more like a post-modern reflection on amusement and the entertainment industry. Aside from Gray who is the dino-fanatic of the group, people actually seem pretty bored by the idea of dinosaurs walking among humans. What’s more fascinating is that the movie takes more than one moment to complain about audiences’ addiction to bigger and flashier over the real world dinosaurs. It’s especially ironic when you consider the overzealous use of CGI in favor of more traditional effects.
It may be 22 years old, but the original Jurassic Park still holds the reigns as the best looking movie in the franchise despite our “advancements” in visual effects. Unlike the previous films, the majority of the dinosaurs in this movie are rendered completely through CGI. The lack of practical effects is a blow to the horror these animals are intended to create. The raptors never quite create that same sense of terror we’ve seen before and the almighty Tyrannosaurus Rex feels like he’s a shell of his former “King of the Cretaceous” self we’ve grown to love. I’d like to think that sophomore director and co-writer Colin Trevorrow is sneaking in these snarky criticisms about flash over substance as a way to pan the studios preference for CG, but it comes across as a bit hypocritical.
The script for this movie ranges from decent at best, sci-fi original at very worst and Chris Pratt manages to sell every line of it like it’s a giant strip of pre-historic bubble gum. This cast is too good for this script and luckily most of them are smart enough to know it. Pratt and Onofrio drum up the cheese and play into their respective caricatures so hard that it’s undeniably charming. Bryce Dallas Howard has to play the role of the straight man(err..woman?) which doesn’t give her much to work with, but she still serves as a great foil to Pratt and the movie’s unsung computer schlub Lowerly(played by New Girl’s Jake Johnson).
Jurassic World isn’t anything particularly special and it’s not the movie Jurassic Park fans have been waiting more than a decade to see. It’s easily worth the money for fans to check out and even has enough thrills to service the wider audience looking for a fun escape at the movies. Between the charisma of the cast and cheer worthy dinosaur duels that unfold throughout the two hour runtime, it makes for some good summer fun, but it’s nothing more and nothing less. For a movie that’s sixty-five million and twenty-two years in the making, it’s actually a bit of a shame. My consensus? Needs more Jeff Goldblum.