“Jurassic World” gives you exactly what you asked for and maybe a little more.
Oh, you want to watch a giant, freakish, unidentified dinosaur eat people? You’ve got it. You want deep nostalgic feelings for one of the best blockbusters of all time? Here, take these night vision goggles.
However, if you were hoping for a neat, streamlined story, you might want to look elsewhere.
“Jurassic World” is the first sequel to “Jurassic Park,” Spielberg’s 1993 classic, that doesn’t feel ashamed of the fact that it is a sequel to “Jurassic Park.” In fact, the events of the film completely ignore everything from “The Lost World,” and “Jurassic Park III,” and act as a direct sequel to the first movie. It is the best sequel in the series so far, but maybe that isn’t saying a lot. Of course, it takes on a lot of the formula of its predecessors, but it actually does have some new things to say.
22 years after the dream of John Hammond was squashed by some renegade Velociraptors, a new dinosaur theme park has opened. This time, it is called Jurassic World, and it’s built on the foundation of Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar. If horror movies have taught the world one lesson, its that you should never build your house on an Indian burial ground.
The park is now run by the uptight Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is worried about profits and investors even as attendance for Jurassic World is spiking. While the original park resembled a wildlife reserve, Jurassic World looks more like SeaWorld (especially with all the talk of keeping animals isolated in captivity), complete with a Stegosaurus petting zoo, unbearably long lines, and a Starbucks.
For a giant popcorn movie, “Jurassic World” is surprisingly self-aware and even thoughtful.
The story centres mostly around the creation of Indominus Rex, a hybrid dinosaur made up of the DNA of T. rex and several other undisclosed creatures. Indominus is created because, according to Claire, people are bored by regular old dinosaurs now. They have been around in this world long enough that they are just like any other animal. Thus, Jurassic World needs something new and scary, just like the “Jurassic Park” franchise needed a fresh new voice.
Clearly, Claire is wrong. We weren’t bored by dinosaurs; we were bored by bad storytelling. And that misunderstanding is probably why a lot of people end up getting eaten.
As a summer blockbuster, “Jurassic World” works well as escapist fun, and the blinding nostalgia of the past certainly helps. It will be impossible not to cheer as a few recognisable dinosaurs from the past are reintroduced.
But it doesn’t just reintroduce some old elements for the sake of striking a cheap emotional cord.
It might only be a minor spoiler to say that there is a scene where the latest kids running from dinosaurs (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) stumble into some recognisable items.
The “Jurassic Park” series is a strange, inconsistent franchise, in that it is always abandoning characters and locations in exchange for more dinosaurs. The biggest strength of “Jurassic World” is its focus on world-building. You really get the sense that this expansive theme park is actually a nightmare in disguise. It is more than enough to kick off the next few “Jurassic” sequels which will definitely happen now.
The dinosaurs of “Jurassic World” feel like the most fully fleshed out characters here. While the trained Velociraptors go against all rules of science, it is a good twist. It feels like “Terminator 2,” in which Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator goes from bad guy to good guy.
Perhaps what “Jurassic World” could have used more of is better human characters. Bryce Dallas Howard does her best with a fairly bland character. Meanwhile, a divorce subplot is inexplicably added in and then completely dropped, just one of the many open threads that are never closed in the film.
However, Chris Pratt is great as Owen, the navy seal and friend of the Velociraptors. Pratt plays Owen like a mix of Indiana Jones and Crocodile Dundee. Pratt is not the lead actor here, but that doesn’t stop him from stealing every scene he is in. I suspect that had “World” gone into development after “Guardians of the Galaxy” came out, Pratt would have gotten a lot more screen time.
Also great in the necessary role of comic relief is Jake Johnson as Lowery, who seems to be taking Samuel L. Jackson’s old job. You might know Johnson as Nick Miller in “New Girl,” and also for his role in “Jurassic World” director Colin Trevorrow’s first feature “Safety Not Guaranteed.”
But sometimes, the character who provides comic relief is never allowed to be more than that.
Lowery comes to work in a Jurassic Park shirt that came from the original park that he found on eBay. His co-worker (Lauren Lapkus) reminds him that this is in poor taste because “people died there.”
This meta moment is crucial.
“Jurassic World” really wants to be the next “Jurassic Park,” but there is a key difference. While “Jurassic Park” played off our love of dinosaurs, “Jurassic World” plays off our love of “Jurassic Park.”
It gets that, and that is why it tries to spoon-feed both the nostalgia and the new stuff that a sequel should provide. Director Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) doesn’t have Spielberg’s gift for build-up, but he definitely learned a lot from him. While the blood dripping from the tree was a great visual effect, it would have been nice if they waited a little bit longer to introduce Indominus.
You have to give Trevorrow a lot of credit for taking on “Jurassic World”: This was a film meant to attract a huge audience that could have easily made a lot of people angry if done incorrectly. After all, “Jurassic World” was in development hell for 10 years.
In doing so, he made a mainstream movie packed with weird ideas. This is a big dinosaur picture that also decides to bring in the military and condemn SeaWorld. It doesn’t always work, but you admire how much he throws at the wall.
“Jurassic World,” tries to show that sometimes, it’s ok not to give in to all of your audience’s demands. When you do that, you end up with a flesh-eating Frankenstein dinosaur.
Overall, one of the points of sequels is to introduce an old story to a new audience. If “Jurassic World” is somebody’s first introduction to “Jurassic Park,” then it’s not a terrible place to start.
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