Jurassic World had the biggest opening weekend ever, incredibly topping the record breaking opening of The Avengers in 2012 and pulling in over $500 million dollars. Most of this had to do with the excitement and anticipation of a generation who grew up with the magic of the original Jurassic Park (1993) and the over fourteen years since we last saw a middling sequel. It also helped that the ever popular and newly be-muscled Chris Pratt plays the male lead who awesomely rides a motorcycle through the jungle with an entourage of velociraptors. How could that not be cool? And it’s true, Jurassic World is undeniably a cool movie with mind-blowing pseudo-sciencey dinosaur things going on and a ton of really cool action scenes also involving awesome dinosaurs. Because dinosaurs are awesome, and you can bank on that awesomeness when you spend a lot of money making what is actually a really, really, really terrible movie.
The movie begins with a pair of generic parents having undefined marital trouble sending their two sons – one prepubescent and unnaturally bright and the other a brooding teenager with unnecessary attitude – off to visit their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is in charge of operations at the Jurassic World theme park. Jurassic World is the thriving reinvention of the original Jurassic Park idea put forward by the sadly departed John Hammond – because apparently no one learned anything from the first three movies. Despite the unflagging popularity of the park and the infinite coolness of dinosaurs, the owner of Jurassic World wants a new attraction – a new genetically engineered dinosaur that is cooler and scarier and that will absolutely not get loose and eat people. So while uptight-career-woman Claire attends to operations, her nephews escape their handler and roam the park on their own. Inevitably, so does the cooler and scarier new dinosaur. Enter Owen (Chris Pratt). He’s a man with skills. He’s part of a research project where he has trained a group of velociraptors, which makes him the expert on all other behavior – dinosaur or otherwise. He’s here to disapprove of Claire’s lifestyle choices while trying to conjure up the illusion of having sexual chemistry with her. She’s here to fail at her job and slowly come to the realization that she has no worth as a woman unless she’s a mother. They’re clearly meant to be together. There’s also a weird side plot featuring Vincent D’Onofrio – as probably the most developed character in the entire movie – about genetically engineered dinosaurs being weaponized for the military. Or something.
So basically what I think happened is that the five different writers of this movie spent all their time writing awesome dinosaur scenes and forgot to add characters until the very last minute. Anyone in this movie could have been played by a cardboard cutout and would have shown just as much character development. There’s really just nothing to work with. Let’s start with Claire, who is an extremely successful career-woman with a very defined set of priorities and lifestyle that she likes. However, these are all bad things. Claire is bad, because she’s practical and restrained and has no plans or desire for a family or children. Claire very firmly puts the emphasis on “if” when she talks to her sister about having children, to which her sister dismissively replies, “Ugh, when!” Motherhood is, after all, the highest calling any woman can have. Then there’s Owen, who is as generic-action-man as you can get. It must have been hard for Chris Pratt to play a character with no personality. He’s as dismissive of Claire as everyone else and is insufferably arrogant when it comes to his own “alpha male” opinions. Brooding teen and precocious child are both equally generic characters. I mean, who really cares if any of these people die? Vincent D’Onofrio as the scheming, condescending, and hubristic Hoskins perhaps has the most clear cut motives involving power and money, but even his character fails to make any internal progress. The best thing you can say about him is that as soon as he’s introduced you can’t wait to see him get eaten.
Despite all this, the dinosaur scenes are incredibly well done and fantastically creative. The dinosaur villain, the genetically engineered monster called the Indominus Rex, combines all the most dangerous predatory and defensive attributes of the animal kingdom. It can camouflage, it can disguise it’s heat signature, and it is incredibly intelligent – all things that would, say, make it an excellent weapon for the military if only they could find a guy who can train dinosaurs. Needless to say, the movie includes a plot device that leaves the movie open for the inevitable sequel.