I’m of about the age that means the original Jurassic Park film was formative of my affection for films and dinosaurs. It is a pretty key piece of my cinematic education and psyche.
I’m also a bit odd, in that I don’t regard the sequel, The Lost Word as a complete catastrophe as everyone else thinks it was. Yes, it could definitely have done without the gymnastics, and it was weird that the back end of a Godzilla film got caught up at the end. But there was still a good film in there somewhere.
Jurassic Park III, mind, was an unadulterated disaster, start to finish.
So that’s the pantheon of Jurassic Park films. That is the scale on which Jurassic World be judged, but this blogger at least.
22 years after the original Jurassic Park, InGen has fulfilled John Hammond’s dream, and created a thriving dinosaur theme park. Zach and Gray (Nick Robinson and Sy Timpkins) go to visit their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the administrator of the park, as she prepares to unveil a new, artificially created dinosaur. Raptor trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) thinks this is not the best of ideas — and surely enough, the creature escapes and wreaks mayhem.
Okay, so before I get started with this, I feel there is something that needs to be addressed. It’s very easy to write Jurassic World off as a bad film from the start, owing to one simple premise which must be accepted in order for it to make any sense. Everyone is stupid. Aside from very few outliers, every single man, woman and child in this world is either a complete moron or suffers from selective amnesia. This dinosaur theme park idea has gone disastrously wrong on two occasions already, and there is zero reason to think that won’t happen again.
But if you can accept that everyone is stupid, then this film works on a number of levels.
The first is obviously nostalgia. Jurassic World plays on the nostalgia, from the sweeping aerial shots of the park — to a not unfamiliar soundtrack — right up to all the dinosaurs you loved from earlier films, and even a tour of the rusty old original park. It knows you loved the first film, and it is going to trade on that.
And it has the same terror-inducing approach to the action scenes, and readily embraces the sense of awe accompany confronting much more powerful than yourself. That has always been the core of the Jurassic Park films, and it’s an idea which still holds as much potency as it did in 1993. Part of the reason that we are so in awe of dinosaurs is that they dwarf us in size and power in a way that we do not encounter in the world we live in.
The idea of messing with something that ought not to be messed with, the line of mad science, is in Jurassic World better expanded than it was in, say, The Lost World. The use of genetic manipulation to create something which never existed for entertainment purposes and to generate money is something bizarrely plausible, even down to the ostensibly benign billionaire running the show, whose lack of general attention to what his people are doing leads to the whole fiasco.
It’s a bit disappointing, then, to have to say that the weakest link — for me and apparently a great many others — was Bryce Dallas Howard’s character. Less for her herself (Hey, excessively organised people are exactly who you want for administrators -Ed) but just the way the story treats her. It coalesces around the high heels issue, and is focused on a moment in the climax when for all the reasons of stupid she is still inexplicably wearing them.
It would have been so easy to fix, having made a joke of it early, to pan upwards on her from a pair of heavy-duty work boots. It makes you miss Julianne Moore’s character in The Lost World, who in retrospect was one of the strongest points of the film..
Chris Pratt, though, is pretty excellent as “raptor wrangler” (Copyright Karl “Helo” Agathon, Battlestar Galactica -Ed), and is clearly onto a winner as the action/SF male lead. Considering that he’s been whispered about for any future reboot of Indiana Jones, he does here his best Harrison Ford impersonation short only a hat and a whip. And Vincent D’onofrio is an excellent personification of the military-industrial complex.
There are flaws. Aside from the base premise acceptances I’ve already mentioned, and the somewhat sexist treatment of its female lead, the moment when the two kids get a 22-year-old car from the original park up and running without a problem.
Overall, I’m in the “enjoyed it” camp. It had its problems, as it said, but it gets enough right and games my nostalgia just enough to be a hit with me. It doesn’t, of course, measure up to the original Jurassic Park, but in the pantheon it is, I feel, a more worthy successor than The Lost World. And I look forward to the Jurassic Lawsuits sequel.