In the beginning, there was a park. A park with dinosaurs. It was a park that never really made it past the test phases because everything went to hell, but it was a park brimming with imagination, entertainment, and damn fine filmmaking. Today, we have Jurassic World: a theme park that has been running comfortably on Isla Nublar for over a decade and allowing over 20k guests a day to witness the magic of dinosaurs! It’s in introducing the world to this Disneyland style theme park that Colin Trevorrow flourishes with his latest installment in the Jurassic Park series.
He opens with shots of eggs hatching and a small bird landing on the ground as though it’s a dinosaur, and uses John Williams’ “Welcome to Jurassic Park” as an ironic throwaway track while showcasing the consumerism-heavy locale that this majestic place we once experienced has become. Even when he introduces the audience to Claire – Bryce Dallas Howard’s corporate woman in charge, who is the film’s true lead and spends the whole damn thing running around in heels – and her nephews, we’re treated to two entirely different perspectives on this world. Claire sees everything in terms of business, while her nephews (mostly the younger one as he’s not distracted by every teen girl around him) view this world with a wonder that only youths experiencing their dreams for the first time really do.
Though the dinosaurs in this film are slightly hampered by awkward coloring and special effects that can’t quite match the original film from 22 years ago, it’s still a wonder to watch all the species interacting with humanity in all sorts of ways. There are petting zoos, water shows that would shame SeaWorld, spinning orbs that allow one to traverse the plains with herbivores, and research lab tours. All of this is everything a kid could wish for, and the way Trevorrow presents it genuinely makes one wish there was a documentary companion piece to this blockbuster that solely showcased a day in the theme park, sans disaster. Hell, as inspired by the first film in which we get a minor taste of it, even the concept of witnessing the “behind the scenes” activities within the park feels right at home in establishing this World as a fully functioning theme park; whether it’s ex-navy velociraptor trainer played Chris Pratt or simply tech folk played by Lauren Lapkus & Jake Johnson.
But alas, we’re used to disaster when it comes to anything Jurassic, and a complete dismantling of this fantasy is exactly what we get again. In comes a hybrid dinosaur, Indominus Rex, made up of heaven knows how many creatures (and featuring DNA from a T-Rex, cuttlefish, and tree frogs, among other reveals) and solely in existence to fuck things up and move the plot along. In one scene, Indominus breaks into the aviary, looks around and then disappears for no good reason other than to apparently free the pterodactyl’s from their cage to cause havoc. Stupid? Yes. But, at the very least, the presence of this seemingly unstoppable Rex offers a whole lot of fun. When the film actually bothers to amp-up the tension for some rather of its action sequences – which involve a whole lot of hiding, running, and the delightful ways that Indominus manages to trick and kill its prey – it’s at its most entertaining.
Trevorrow’s direction lacks a lot of the finesse in style and ability to show without actually showing that Steven Spielberg had with his original (World is a lot more violent than Park and not in a great way), but most folks walking into World don’t expect the kind of terror that Park once delivered; they’re, somewhat sadly, here for carnage and b-movie thrills through CGI, and the film sometimes delivers and sometimes doesn’t, pulling away from death to show some blood on a window. If anything, it’s the moments where it actually shows the carnage of Dino Attacks when it’s at its worst. A scene with Claire’s assistant, who barely registers as a character, is essentially rag-dolled by a series of pterodactyls, only to be dropped in the same water as a mosasaurus (in a beautiful shot that is silent and full of tension), and then rag-dolled further until she finally dies.
But it’s more a testament to bad writing than bad direction that the scene went over as poorly as it did, as this often times feels like a movie that has next to no interest in the characters it presents (from minor to major). Not only is the dialogue atrociously cheesy most of the time, every bit of personality or motivation feels unevenly doled out and handled to these characters. Divorce, war-like mentality, and child raising, among other things, are tossed into the narrative haphazardly in attempts to flesh out characters, but when these traits/issues only amount to single scene inserts, there’s little reason to care. Regardless of that, if one walks into Jurassic World with little to no expectations – or simply willing to overlook all of its glaring flaws – they’ll find themselves enjoying the experience of actually watching it. It’s dumb, it’s fun, it’s bigger and all the other things the characters describe as better in a dinosaur, but, as expected, it’s far from the greatness that Spielberg doled out decades ago.
With that said, you can read on elsewhere for a spoiler-filled piece on the problems with how Jurassic World poorly handled the roles of its two lead characters. If this doesn’t matter to you – and it might not considering you might just be walking into JW for the thrills and SFX – or if you don’t want to be spoiled, that’s all folks.
Directed by Colin Trevorrow; written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, and Derek Connolly; starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, BD Wong, Judy Greer, and Lauren Lapkus; 124 minutes.
Jurassic World is now playing everywhere.