Jurassic World is a big, shiny, and entertaining roller coaster ride, though the ‘World’ is more interesting than the people.
Jurassic World picks up twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, at a time when the late John Hammond’s dream of a fully-functional dinosaur amusement park on Isla Nublar has finally been realized. However, the reality of keeping such a massively expensive business afloat means having to maintain high-security measures, appeal to multiple corporate investors, and continuously unveil new products (read: dinosaurs) to keep the public from losing interest in the park and its various “biological attractions.”
Jurassic World operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is charged with overseeing the launch of the park’s latest attraction: the Indominus rex, an extremely dangerous hybrid dinosaur that was designed by the park’s chief geneticist, Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) and his team of engineers. Before everyone knows it, the Indominus rex has escaped its pen and is running wild around the park, leaving it to Claire, velociraptor handler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), and Jurassic World security forces to stop the creature… before it reaches the unsuspecting customers.
Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World and Joe Johnston’s Jurassic Park III were commercially successful, but at the same time, neither film is generally regarded as having reached artistic heights similar to those scaled by Spielberg’s original 1993 installment. Jurassic World doesn’t come close to reaching (much less clearing) that high bar either, though what it lacks in inventiveness and innovation, it makes up for by being a fun work of crowd-pleasing blockbuster entertainment.
Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, the director/writer team behind 2012 indie breakout film Safety Not Guaranteed, co-penned the Jurassic World script, while Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) are credited for their work on an earlier screenplay draft. The film often plays as a mix tape of the best elements from the previous Jurassic Park installments, be they variations on iconic sequences (as well as major action set pieces) or familiar plot developments. As a result, Jurassic World frequently walks the line between homage and knock-off, but solid pacing and tight execution allow the film to avoid feeling like reheated leftovers.
Trevorrow, as the co-writer/director, does more than assemble good action sequences that involve (what else?) dinosaurs on the loose. He also sketches a clear and carefully-designed map of what life is like in the Jurassic World universe. The first half of the film is devoted to that world-building process, which allows Trevorrow to quickly bring longtime fans up to speed (since the last Jurassic Park movie), while at the same time clearing the table enough so that any future installments do not need to keep looking back over their shoulder. Jurassic World is a successful “soft reboot” of the franchise, on those grounds alone.
Directing-wise, Trevorrow succeeds at letting Jurassic World steadily gain momentum over the course of its three-act narrative, and the cinematography by John Schwartzman (The Amazing Spider-Man) allows the story to unfold like an amusement park ride. Obstructive camera angles and shots are used to build up a sense of intrigue as details are gradually revealed, before more expansive visuals of the actual Jurassic World establishment (and its prehistoric beasts) are employed to generate a sense of awe and wonder. The same is true once the plot kicks into full-gear, as brightly-lit sequences showing majestic dinosaurs in motion (brought to life via a solid combination of CGI and practical means) are juxtaposed with visually dark and claustrophobic action scenes of the Indominus rex (among other predators) on the hunt. 3D isn’t so much of a necessity, but your Jurassic World viewing experience will be enhanced by watching the film on an IMAX screen.
Jurassic World frequently references Jurassic Park visually (by way of “Easter eggs” and set pieces that bring iconic JP moments to mind), while at the same time invoking Spielberg’s film with the score by composer Michael Giaccchino (Up, Star Trek), which blends John Williams’ classic Jurassic Park leitmotifs with exhilarating (and original) material to efficiently set the mood. Thematically, Trevorrow’s installment carries on ideas and issues addressed in Spielberg’s film adaptation of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park novel, by expanding upon them with subplots that revolve around dinosaurs being viewed as property (the kind that can be used for a variety of purposes). These elements are secondary to the special effects and action, but are developed enough for Jurassic World to avoid being completely brainless.
Where Jurassic World misses the mark, however, is with the human element. The dinosaurs may be the real stars of the Jurassic Park franchise, but Trevorrow and Connolly still make an effort to craft a strong character piece around the film’s big thrills and spectacle. Nonetheless, Jurassic World falls short in this regard because most of the human characters are lacking, and despite many being quite likable, most of the people are either too cookie-cutter in personality, not fleshed out enough, and/or exist solely as potential dinosaur food. This installment at first seems to have more heart than previous Jurassic Park sequels (not a difficult bar to clear), but the larger the body count grows, the less true that becomes.
Bryce Dallas Howard’s character was at the heart of Joss Whedon’s now-infamous “sexism” complaint, but it’s her, not Owen, who is the real human protagonist of Jurassic World. Claire starts out being a stereotype (the successful and hard-working businesswoman who’s uptight and difficult to relate to) before evolving into something else over the course of the film; yet, her journey is too derivative to be fully satisfying. Owen also fits squarely into a box (he’s “Indiana Jones-lite”), and while Pratt’s screen charisma and sense of humor help make up the difference, the character always remains (somewhat) flat. The Romancing the Stone-esque relationship between Claire and Owen has its moments, yet it also rings hollow in the end.
Many of the other humans in Jurassic World are variations on archetypes from the original film: Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi) is the eccentric wealthy entrepreneur, who here takes the form of Jurassic World owner Simon Masrani; Jake Johnson (New Girl) is Lowery Cruthers, the park’s quirky but likable tech operator; and Vincent D’Onofrio (Daredevil) is Jurassic World head of security Vic Hoskins, the park employee whose ulterior motives put everyone else’s lives in jeopardy. All of these actors turn in fine performances and leave their stamps on these character tropes, yet aren’t very memorable (as a result of either subpar script material and/or additional scenes of development being cut).
The subplots in Jurassic World revolving around Claire’s relationship with her sister Karen (Judy Greer), as well as the dynamic between Claire’s nephews Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson), are a key element of the heroine’s arc; still, the scenes between them that don’t involve getting chased by dinosaurs aren’t very impactful, though again, the characters are perfectly easy to root for. Lastly, the story thread featuring the character played by Omar Sy (as Owen’s co-worker) and especially the thread with B.D. Wong’s Dr. Wu aren’t fully explored, possibly because they’re meant to serve as setup for a Jurassic World sequel (one that, to be fair, is probably going to happen).
Jurassic World is a big, shiny, and entertaining roller coaster ride, though the ‘World’ is more interesting than the people. The film succeeds at revitalizing the Jurassic Park movie franchise and delivers on its promise of a fun blockbuster adventure with good humor, scares, thrills, and more than its fair share of awe-inspiring dinosaurs. However (and this comes as no surprise) it just doesn’t recapture the “magic” of Steven Spielberg’s original installment.
To those who’ve never seen CGI dinosaurs on the big screen before (especially youngsters) Jurassic World should be an agreeable piece of summer movie escapism. As for longtime fans of the Jurassic Park franchise, it’d be a stretch to call any of these sequels “necessary” viewing at this stage – but this new installment will deliver your fix of dinosaurs running wild on the big screen.
Jurassic World is now playing in U.S. theaters. It is 124 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.
Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section. For an in-depth discussion of the movie by the Screen Rant editors check back soon for our Jurassic World episode of the SR Underground podcast.
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