Jurassic World Review
At its release in 1993, Jurassic Park was ground-breaking. Steven Spielberg’s action-oriented direction was thrilling and remarkable, and the novel dinosaurs and the special effects by which they appeared took audiences by surprise. These elements did the film’s heavy lifting, and it is to those Spielberg owes its success. Jurassic Park’s characters weren’t particularly riveting or admirable. Richard Attenborough’s Mr Hammond after all “spared no expense” in creating a predictable disaster, while Dr Sattler and Dr Grant were a brave, but forgettable duo. The sole exception was Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Malcolm, a source of genius offbeat comedy who continued to meander through the following two sequels.
Director Colin Trevorrow had the opportunity with Jurassic World, afforded by a reboot, to redesign the franchise’ model altogether. It is thus rather disappointing that he chose to stay away from any ambitious innovation. With great thrills, solid special effects, and hints of humour, the feature is an entertaining watch, but its characters are uninteresting, and the plot a poorly concealed rerun of the first film.
Jurassic World starts out with its two kid heroes - ten-year old Gray (Ty Simpkins) and sullen teenager Zach (Nick Robinson), who are sent off for a week-end to their aunt, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) the manager of the spectacular Jurassic World theme park on Isla Nublar. The relationship between the two brothers is the most convincing of the film, with Simpkins shining as a vulnerable, perceptive child, drawing his brother out of his semi-idiotic adolescent haze. The first views of the island are stunning, containing a park made up of a beautiful, futuristic set of attractions.
Claire is an overworked executive, and like Sam Neil’s Dr. Grant in the original Jurassic Park, has trouble connecting to children. Her new project, a genetically modified dinosaur, is about to be released into a new attraction. It is difficult not to wince at the clear parallel between the fictional park and real film audiences. Her speech to her investors claims that while dinosaurs were considered exciting twenty years ago, the public is now bored with them (as, presumably, film audiences are today). As the theme park needs something new and more exciting to attract visitors, so does the plot of the film. The common solution is the Indominus rex, designed to be a cleverer, scarier, and toothier dinosaur.
Under Claire’s command is Lowery (Jake Johnson), a Jeff Goldblum-like persona, who despite working in the theme park’s control room, is dubious about the new venture, and questions the idea that nature can be manipulated to suit profit margins. Ensuing events, of course, prove him right. Yet it is curious that in a world and global economy which largely functions on the principle of capitalising on natural resources of various kinds, the Jurassic Park films consistently take an opposite stance, without much justification.
A security fault in the pen of the Indominus escalates to its escape. Enters Owen (Chris Pratt), a raptor trainer who is well-versed in the psychology of dinosaurs, and takes on the chase of this specimen. Owen, aside from his superior survival skills, is woefully under-developed as a character, reduced to teasing Claire about the self-discipline which presumably made her successful as a businesswoman. The film’s suspense is here aided by a series of unexplainably catastrophic decisions, which leave one wondering why the park’s management, security and laboratory staff are so poorly trained in dealing with any whiff of an emergency. The plot here also reveals itself to be disappointingly sexist. Overcome by events, Claire defers to Owen in all respects, while running around in oddly out-of-place heels (a point already much discussed in media following the film’s release).
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Throughout the film, Trevorrow pays numerous, and genuinely touching tributes to the series’ first instalment. This devotion, however, comes at the price of originality. The script cleverly handles complaints from palaeontologists that the film’s dinosaurs are not represented accurately according to latest research. The creatures are now believed to have been carrying feathers, or fur, rather than scales. Dr Henry Wu, played by BD Wong (the only actor to have featured in all four films) explains that the park’s dinosaurs have been created to please customers, and aren’t accurate. This makes sense, and maintains continuity with the previous films - but wouldn’t it have been braver, and more interesting to innovate in this respect?
Jurassic World is entertaining, backed by sound directing and well-managed suspense. Yet it suffers from puerile characters and an unoriginal plot. What’s more, one can’t help but feel cynical while watching the park’s enthusiastic visiting public; we join them in consuming the park’s attractions whilst being similarly bombarded with corporate logos and brazen product placement. Well-timed moments of humour principally delivered by Simpkins and Robinson add to a film which is frustrating, but far from boring.