“God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.” – Ian Malcolm
These words have never been truer than in the newest installment of the Jurassic Park franchise, Jurassic World. Based 22 years after the original Jurassic Park film, Jurassic World opens and the audience experiences what John Hammond had only dreamed of, a fully functional dinosaur themed park packed with tourists. With it though, comes the requisite demands of continually making attractions bigger and better to attract more people to the park, and as Dr. Malcolm so succinctly put it “life finds a way.” Boy did it ever find a way in THIS film.
The film starts out well enough for the park. All the attractions and enclosures are working properly and the park is profitable. Though from the very beginning of the film the audience is hit over the head with the morals of creating dinosaurs in the first place, let alone creating one in a lab. The film makers seemed to want to create a moral grey area for many of the characters about what they were doing at the park. This created a layer of the movie for me that was undeniably relatable to the real world. Social commentary aside, there really is no ‘bad guy’ in this film. The closest there is to one is either the corporation InGen, the people who are in charge of the park, or the Indominus Rex, the genetically created dinosaur who inevitably runs amok in the park. Neither of these entities are really evil per say though. Especially the Indominus Rex, she’s just doing dinosaur things and no one can really fault her for that.
That’s where the whole park goes sideways, as always, with the dinosaurs. Obviously this is first and foremost a dinosaur movie, so you would expect to see the usual suspects of the Jurassic Park franchise. There is a Tyrannosaurus Rex involved in the film, as well as the infamous velociraptors. The capacity of the velociraptors in the film is an interesting twist on what has been expected from them in the first film. Here the raptors are ‘trained,’ much like a tiger is ‘trained’ to perform. The film also includes a host of other dinosaurs mostly in passing such as the ankylosaurs, triceratops, and the gigantic aquatic reptile the mosasaur. All this sets up the film for one of the most ridiculous battles of the franchise. One thing I did appreciate is the restraint that director Colin Trevorrow showed in the violent acts of the dinosaurs. He could have made the movie a complete gore fest but instead as a nod to the original film, panned off the violence for the most part.
Besides the dinosaurs of course, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are undoubtedly the stars of this movie. Bryce Dallas Howard who plays Claire Dearing, is the park operations manager and as such she controls basically all functions in the park. From the offset she is portrayed as a strong female character, one who likes to be in control. It makes a certain amount of sense to have someone like this running your park. Especially after what happened after the original one. She does seem emotionally separated from the animals as a whole though, treating them more as assets than living creatures. This almost immediately makes her character not as likable, though as the movie progresses her character does evolve. On the other end of the emotional spectrum, we have Owen Grady, played by Chris Pratt, an ex-Navy sailor turned velociraptor trainer. He is by far the most likeable character in the entire movie, and is also the most empathetic towards the dinosaurs. The film makers did an intelligent thing by reestablishing the world first and then introducing the ‘hero’ of the film.
That being said, the supporting cast of this movie was spot on as well. Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson play Claire’s nephews Gray and Zach respectively. Besides playing off the older brother/younger brother dynamic that is prevalent in films, they also create a solid foundation on which Claire can grow as well. Vincent D’Onofrio, who plays Vic Hoskins, is also featured in the film, as a foil of sorts to Chris Pratt’s character. Being the head of security operations for InGen, he isn’t an evil man, just a person who is always looking to get ahead somehow. In this case it’s probably the dumbest idea one could possibly think of after the happenings of the first film. Then there is B.D. Wong, reprising his role as geneticist Dr. Henry Wu. His character could be looked at as smarmy or insensitive, but he makes solid points throughout the movie about how the entire park is unnatural. Dr. Wu is also the only returning character from any of the previous Jurassic Park movies. I was particularly happy that they didn’t involve any of the main cast from the previous films as I would hate to have had those characters shoehorned into the movie just for the sake of sentimental value. After all in the scope of Jurassic World, they really have no business being there anyways.
This isn’t to say that the film doesn’t reference the first Jurassic Park at all. There are several points in the movie where it is amazing how they throw fans of the franchise a bone and let them see how the park has progressed over the 22 years. The references aren’t subtle but at the same time, they aren’t meaningless to the story. The film makers did an excellent job of rekindling the Jurassic Park franchise for a new generation while still making sure to satisfy older fans of the franchise. A great way they did this is by revamping the original score. Many familiar themes are used throughout the film, but they are used with the appropriateness necessary to the story being told.
Another aspect of the film that was excellent is the overall pacing of the film. Since it is a shorter film (by today’s blockbuster standards) at just over two hours, there isn’t a lot of time for the film to rest on its laurels. Even so, director Colin Trevorrow did an outstanding job at making sure the movie was action packed, but at the same time not fatiguing to the audience. The same could be said about the script as well. The screenwriters made sure to allow for the audience to catch their breath between action sequences by adding humor, which was predominately delivered by either Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady or Claire’s Nephews.
This isn’t to say that the film is perfect though. There were several aspects of the film that just felt out of place or was lacking in some way. The most predominate of these was that I never truly connected with the human characters. Ironically I connected to the trained velociraptors more than most of the humans. At the end of the film I couldn’t recall any of the character’s names except for Owen’s. The inclusion of an assistant to Claire, Zara Young is another missed opportunity. The way she is portrayed it felt downright pointless to include her. With her ineptitude and the inability to get off her phone, it felt as though she was included simply as a device to allow the nephews to break away from adult supervision. Gray and Zach literally run off as soon as they can and we don’t see Zara again until all hell is breaking loose in the park. There are a few other foibles in the film as well, but they’re so small that they aren’t very noticeable in the larger scheme of things.
I would highly recommend this movie to anyone who loves dinosaurs, obviously, but also anyone who likes science fiction in general.
Overall this is a great movie that still has the ability to bring out the little kid in all of us. As per the usual for these films, the CGI renderings are glorious for these animals. What surprises me more though, is that looking back at the first film, how well the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park still hold up to the current models of Jurassic World. Along with the excellent cinematography, the screenplay and pacing of the film were on point for the majority of the run time. As with any movie, Jurassic World has its ups and downs, but overall the finished product is a very solidly made film. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone who loves dinosaurs, obviously, but also anyone who likes science fiction in general. Besides being an enjoyable romp through a nostalgic part of my childhood it also reminded me, as an adult, how much fun a movie can be.