The park is open and the dinosaurs are real, welcome to Jurassic World.
It has been 22 years since my tiny brain was blown by Steven Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park, one of the watershed cinematic experiences of my childhood. So any sequel is going to have a lot to live up to.
And Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World gets the necessary pieces in place right at the start – there’s the child’s perspective, the sense of wonder and the big reveal of the new and improved park, with a little help from some of John Williams’ old score.
It’s a strong set up, one which mirrors aspects of the first film in particular but does enough to move things on – like having the park up and operational for years and an aggressive manager in the form of Bryce Dallas Howard.
There’s little really new here, the corporate side to the parks operation was always an element of the original plot, so in a very really well it’s all just been expanded and nudged slightly to the side.
This balancing act must have been a difficult task for Trevorrow – making his blockbuster filmmaking debut. He has to create a new film which is a sequel of sorts but also a kind of reboot (Universal will certainly be considering sequel potential), while also paying heavy homage to the first film and tribute to the work of Steven Spielberg.
On top of that, he has to create a child-friendly adventure film about murderous creatures the size of buildings and jam in some corporate espionage, science blather and even a romance. And that’s without really considering the spectacle and, naturally, those dinos.
It quickly becomes too much for the film to handle, with a half dozen plot-lines that are nothing less than distracting. We came here to see the dinosaurs dammit – not stand in line while we worry about how these kids are getting on with their aunt or whether Chris Pratt and Howard are going to go on a second date.
By the time a human villain is added into the mix (you’ll guess who it is pretty quickly) we’re well into our second hour and little enough has actually happened, despite a rampaging genetically-spliced dinosaur being on the loose.
This new beast the Indominus Rex never has the sheer impact of the Tyrannosaur in Jurassic Park. Partly that’s because his showing in 1993 was groundbreaking in its use of visual effects which we’re all used to nowadays. But the design is also pretty dull, considering the freedom they had to play with it. I want to see real dinosaurs in my dinosaur movie, not this focus-tested monstrosity.
When Trevorrow does get to let loose, the film does improve – like the extended chase involving the hamster ball, and anything to do with the raptors. It all culminates in a knock down monster fight at the end, with an ending most will find cheer-worthy. But even here there are disappointments – mainly the focus on the plight of the humans when we just want a few clear shots of those bloody great terrible lizards right over there!
The humans in question are a pretty uninteresting bunch, and the film drags to a halt any time they’re forced to interact. Chris Pratt is a veritable font of machismo but he’s utterly lacking in charm, mostly projecting a casual sexism which feels terribly outdated. In some ways, he’s the show’s biggest dinosaur.
He’s crass and belittling to his boss played by Howard, who for her part doesn’t get enough support from the script to mount a defence. Mostly she’s fawning and ineffective next to his bravura and never really earns much in the way of pay-off. Laura Dern’s Dr Sattler was a far better female role model, more than 20 years ago.
Overall, the film just feels safe and controlled. The onscreen peril is mostly of the theme park ride variety (expect Jurassic World to pop up in Universal Studios soon) and the onscreen violence is more limited than in the original, bar an horrific extended death scene for a minor nanny character featuring the kind of horror Spielberg reserved for lawyers.
If all you wanted from this movie was some action stuff with lab-born dinosaurs then you’ll probably come away satisfied. But if you were expecting a decent plot, strong characters and an ounce of the original’s charm and sense of awe, you’ll be disappointed.
Also, I never want to see a human communicating with a dinosaur ever again.