Jurassic Park was released at the perfect time in my life. It was 1993, I was just about to turn 7 years old and I had a toy T-Rex I carried with me everywhere. (His name was Mikey). Seeing Spielberg and his team bring to life these almost mythical creatures was a defining moment in my young movie-going life.
What made Jurassic Park timeless however was that, at its heart, it was the story of how Dr. Grant’s opinion of children evolves when thrust into his role as a protector. It was about John Hammond’s charisma in selling this crazy idea. It was about innovation and it inspired a generation of young moviegoers by populating the story with scientists and dialogue that didn’t shy from the scientific and moral implications of the park’s very existence.
Now twenty-two years later, Jurassic World has taken Jurassic Park‘s concept and extrapolated it. Now home to a fully operational dinosaur theme park, Isla Nublar is host to thousands and thousands of daily visitors and preparing to unveil its first genetically engineered hybrid, the Indominus Rex. Of course, things go wrong fairly quickly. When the Indominus Rex breaks free, Claire (the head of park operations played by Bryce Dallas Howard) enlists Raptor trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) to help rescue her two nephews trapped in the chaos.
Director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) delivered on the action with Jurassic World, but his entry in the franchise lacked the emotional core that made the original movie so iconic and memorable. Jurassic World boasts a high body count and plenty of thrills and death-defying escapes, but the characters being hunted aren’t very relatable. The movie gives weak emotional hooks that failed to connect me to the characters and made it hard for me to care about their safety.
The nephews Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) are one example of Jurassic World stumbling to give its story some emotional context. The kids don’t seem too close to one another at first, with Gray being ecstatic about the park and Zach only being interested in the girls around him. It works to establish there’s a disconnect between them, due to age, but it isn’t followed through very well. Or at all, really. Their disconnect is swapped for concerns about their parents’ marital problems and how Gray is affected by it. Their parents aren’t at the park with them, so the movie doesn’t really explore this subplot past a couple of lines of dialogue and, even worse, completely fails to resolve it.
The parents’ marital issues feel like a throwaway bit of emotional context. Had the parents been on the island with the kids, it would have made for a much more interesting dynamic. Instead, we have Claire who has something of an aversion to children. She’s disconnected from her sister’s kids and the weekend getaway is their chance to reconnect. Unfortunately, Claire’s commitments to the park’s supposed need for new and exciting attractions (contradicted by Gray and every other kid’s visible excitement) force her to leave her assistant with the kids.
Claire’s arc is the closest the movie comes to that magical blend of adventure and personal growth embodied in the original movie’s Dr. Grant arc. But it falls short as it contends with other subplots of equal disappointment. She’s also utilized in a weak attempt to inject a theme about the state of Hollywood blockbusters themselves.
The park’s low attendance is due to its attendees’ need for bigger and more dangerous attractions. It’s nonsensical when viewed in conjunction with the success of the original movie’s smaller and tenser moments. Jurassic World’s thrills are big and, for the most part, they work quite well. But it’s the absence of quiet, suspenseful breaks in the action that prevent Jurassic World from being more than just a summer blockbuster.
Vincent D’Onofrio plays Hoskins, who represents the park’s board of directors determined to sell the dinosaurs (particularly the raptors) to the U.S. military. It’s overbearing and incredibly difficult to take seriously. It felt like a forced antagonistic arc that didn’t have any real implications to the story unfolding onscreen. It was unnecessary and, although D’Onofrio is a lot of fun to watch, his screen time would have been better served developing the main characters and making them worth emotionally investing in.
There are glimmers of Jurassic Park’s iconic moral discussions in the dialogue of Jurassic World. Lines between BD Wong’s Dr. Wu (reprising his role from the original movie) and Irrfan Kahn‘s Simon (Jurassic World‘s John Hammond esque idealist character) are one of the movie’s high points. But we simply don’t care about the characters in this movie and that takes a lot of the punch away from the dialogue.
Even Chris Pratt, who is currently one of Hollywood’s most likeable and well-respected stars, falls a bit flat. The movie works so hard to make Owen the Indiana Jones of Jurassic World that it’s almost off-putting. It feels like the studio was aware that the script had its problems, but if they just put more emphasis on the natural charisma of Chris Pratt, it would distract audiences enough so that they wouldn’t question some of the weaker narrative choices. It didn’t work.
The excitement and thrills of seeing chaos unfold in a fully functional dinosaur theme park are Jurassic World‘s biggest strength, though. The movie plays off of some tropes of the franchise and pays homage to the original movie in overall satisfying ways. However, there is a sequence in the middle of the movie that relies way too much on nostalgia for the original. It’s distracting, out of place, and raises some unnecessary and ridiculous questions.
The thrills are paced fairly well throughout the movie and lead to a third act that takes some unexpected turns and is very enjoyable. If the characters were written better and the overall package was tighter, this would have been a very strong entry in the Jurassic Park franchise.
As it stands, however, the wish fulfillment of seeing a fully realized and operational dinosaur theme park is all that will hook you into the adventure and tension of the movie. Jurassic World takes the concept of the original Jurassic Park and runs with it. Unfortunately, Colin Trevorrow fails to recapture the magic, the wonder, and the heart that made Spielberg’s original movie so endearing. Jurassic World is a fun ride but deeply flawed and not likely to leave much of an impression.
Buy Digitally – These movies are worth owning but don’t necessarily need to take up space on your shelf or garner a trip to your favorite DVD/Blu-Ray shop.