Jurassic World Review - The claws are out as tried and tested prehistoric plots are let loose in this blockbuster
It’s been 22 years since the first film and 14 years since the last movie was released, but finally the Park is open. And once again, they’re not about to make the same mistakes, they’re going to make all new ones. Richard Hammond would be proud. Isla Nublar, the original site A from Jurassic Park is the now fully transformed Jurassic World, a theme-park commoditised around dinosaurs. There are rides on baby triceratops, giant aquariums with mosasaurs, and even gyrospheres to give you an up-close experience with the once extinct creatures. But in today’s consumer driven society, people are no longer content with just seeing dinosaurs. The once extinct animals are just not ‘wow’ enough anymore. People are demanding something newer, bigger, better, scarier, and basically has, well, more teeth. So the good old scientists, led by B.D. Wong reprising his role as Dr Henry Wu, alongside the corporate machine that runs the show, decide that the way to increase attendance is to cook up a genetically modified dinosaur.
So, what could possibly go wrong? In the words of Dr Ian Malcolm; “Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that's how it always starts. Then later there's running and um, screaming.” Jurassic World (2015) brings the same old tried-and-tested concept as its precursors, and unfortunately little else. The park is for once running smoothly (no one is getting eaten) but losing interest from the public, so the scientists, keen to up the ante, go and play God, creating a smarter, bigger and all round more pissed off dinosaur, that, as animals do, falls prey to its basic instincts to figure out its place in the food chain (hint its up there at the top). Subsequent dino-escape scene and cue the havoc.
The once daring and revolutionary formula of the original is instead disenchanting and overused here, plainly stated throughout the film and its casting. Instead of Sam Neill as the gruff child-hating palaeontologist, we get Chris Pratt (in fine form both literally and figuratively) as raptor-wrangler Owen Grady, a gruff-but-comedic Indiana Jones like character, who rides a motorcycle, wears a leather vest, and for some reason gained experience to work with dinosaurs by being in the navy? Similarly Bryce Dallas Howard takes the reins as female lead Claire, who is not quite as spunky as Laura Dern’s Dr Ellie Sattler, or as daring as Julianne Moore’s Sarah Harding. Instead she is a bland authoritarian hell-bent on preserving her femininity in the face of all the chaos by remaining clad in high heel shoes despite being chased by a T-Rex. Rounding out the protagonists are Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson as brothers Gray and Zach, the nephews of Park Manager Claire, and the stock-standard link for children to the movie.
Such a formula has so much potential, if it was executed on the same level as the original. Instead, the characters fall into one-dimensional frames, the neurotic business woman, the sexy animal whisperer, the teenager more concerned with looking at girls than at the once extinct creatures around him. Despite fantastic acting on the parts of Howard, Pratt and Simpkins, only Owen crosses the line as a character you want to root for, representing a more normal, less chaos-y, and sexier looking Jeff Goldblum. The rest are caricatures to the ‘making a transformation’ trope that adventure films rely on, and lack any real chemistry or connection with each other and the audience. Why Owen and Claire are painted as love interests baffles, considering the complete lack of build-up or passion, with their backstory being reduced to a single line informing audiences that they have only ever been on one date (which she micro-managed and drew out an itinerary for). The villainous character of Hoskins, whilst effectively brought to life by Vincent D’Onofrio, somehow manages to conjure even more one-dimensionality, introducing a sub-plot about using dinosaurs as weapons, which shifts so far from the virtuous themes about humans playing God that made Jurassic Park the defining film it is, that it almost lands the film back on the mainland and away from any semblance of sophistication.
What Jurassic World does do however, it does well. What would a good dinosaur movie be without a bit of mayhem, and Jurassic World certainly serves it up. There are more dinosaurs, more action, and a stunning use of animatronics that damn-near brings a tear to the eye. The eye-level-hunting dinosaur scenes that made the first film the success it was, and guaranteed the T-Rex a place in nightmares the world over, are used to great effect. The fear is absolutely palpable when you see just how big the Indominus teeth are. The dinosaur fight scenes are also slick and ferocious, like the beasts themselves. The final clash in particular is executed so wonderfully, that it is a fitting pay-off for making it through the film, and a great nod to the ending of the first film. Whilst the CGI raptors don’t always look convincing here, they are finally utilised for something other than the traditional villains’, and it’s a refreshing change.
Above all, the film is a clear homage to Spielberg and his 1993 classic, and a satisfying addition for fans. From classic soundtracks that drift in and out of the movie, to long lost banners, night-vision goggles, and beloved beast cameos, there has been care taken to tell the audience that we are still a part of the world Spielberg created all those years ago. Whilst Spielberg took back seat for this movie as executive producer, handing the reins over to relative newcomer Colin Trevorrow, whose most stand-out film to date was the impressive Safety Not Guaranteed; it is easy to see his influence stampeding throughout. From scenes that fundamentally mirror moments from the first film; such as the glorious entrance through the Jurassic World gates, through to life-like animatronic dinosaurs suffering as humans look on; Spielberg is constantly reminding us that it is he that is the true king of dinosaurs. It’s a shame therefore that he didn’t direct. Whilst Trevorrow has crafted an interesting, and entertaining film, that certainly keeps the adrenaline pumping and the eyes open, it’s a shame that with a film like Jurassic Park as its precursor, it instead chooses to rest on the laurels of that great, instead of pushing past it to become its own masterpiece.
Rating: 3.5 Dino-Footprints out of 5
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