Review: Jurassic World
They don’t exactly say ‘life will find a way,’ the lovable catch phrase of Jurassic Park, but the fourth entry in the series does all it can to pay homage and reference the original while trying, in vain at times, to be its own film. More like, ‘summer movies will find a way.’
Jurassic World is almost a remake; almost. Twenty-two years have passed since the first movie where an incident during an island investigation took place, but science and business and discovery move on (for the fictional park, and the film franchise). That’s why it’s not five minutes in that we return to the same tropical retreat where a massive resort is up and running.
Of course something eventually goes wrong and life breaks free (no one learns), but you’re not necessarily in need of the pandemonium to start right away. That’s because you’re given a breathtaking tour through the park itself: you ride in the valley alongside a herd of dinosaurs, kayak down a riverbed, watch behind glass as a T-Rex hunts, and sit in the stands at a giant aquarium that holds a massive sea monster.
Director Colin Trevorrow, his second time at the helm of a film and first time with something so grand in scale, leans heavily on John Williams’ classic score as the idealized island is presented to us. Throughout he also relies on visuals and spectacle in lieu of compelling characters and meaning. Running the show is Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), a meticulously-organized woman whose duties include getting people excited again about dinosaurs after ten years of operations and spending time with her two teenage nephews visiting for a vacation.
She’s too busy for them (among the unattractive qualities she’s given for no reason), pawning them off on an absent-minded assistant (who really seems to be hated by the writers), and instead soliciting help from animal trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) on a new project. He trains raptors, respects their power, and is unimpressed with the latest attempt to draw in bigger crowd: a genetically-modified predator that, as you guessed, is far more complex than anyone knows.
This creature, dubbed the Indominus Rex, sets chaos in motion. Where Jurassic World succeeds though is delivering all that which is expected with excitement. Of course something is going to go wrong, of course we will be graced with the presence of the T-Rex and raptors, and of course we know our heroes aren’t going to die in early dangerous encounters.
It doesn’t matter though. This summer spectacle uses the dinos in order to be thrilling and tense, and in the moment, it’s utterly captivating. You may figure how the action will unfold, but it’s entirely satisfying. At least for a while.
And thank goodness for the dinosaurs, because every single character is forgettable while bordering on cartoonish, and somewhere in there has to be another female, one not subject to or in need of a man. The brothers Gray and Zach (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) are generic, filling the obligatory role of children. Claire and Owen, meanwhile, are stereotypes of the straight-laced woman and the hunky outdoorsman respectively, hers a far more offensive portrayal than his. We’ve the eccentric park owner Simon (Irrfan Khan), the goofy control room technician (Jake Johnson), the menacing militarist (Vincent D’Onofrio), and the pacifist animal lover (Omar Sy). The return of BD Wong pushes his once proud geneticist Henry Wu into mad scientist territory.
They aren’t memorable while spouting bloated, awkward dialogue. It’s of course about the dinosaurs, and Jurassic World does not disappoint, making Indominus the villain and every other creature the sympathetic heroes; the humans are secondary at best. Steven Spielberg is an executive producer here, and Trevorrow references indirectly and blatantly the first film (several scenes seems almost shot-for-shot), but it doesn’t come close to the potency and nuance of the original.
The parallel is obvious. The park runs to make money, adding something new every so often to capture again the attention of the globe while enjoying new marketing opportunities. The franchise has done the same. It’s entertaining and welcome, but to paraphrase Ian Malcolm, a character that no one here comes close to being as interesting as, ‘they were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.’