While the movie features a “highly intelligent animal,” the film itself is lacking in the smarts. Jurassic World is an above average summer blockbuster but all its posturing about having something to say and having more layers than its mid-June release would suggest fail to follow through. It is, however, still quite worth watching.
Jurassic World is a temporally adjusted sequel in the Jurassic Park series where the dinosaur theme park has gone from guided tour to full-blown Sea World. (You’d think, though, that the events of every other Jurassic Park movie would tell people to do anything but that.) John Hammond has passed the reigns of the park to Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) who in turn has left the business upkeep to Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard).
A classically cold and disinterested career-focused character, Claire decided that the only way to maintain visitor numbers was to manufacture an entirely new dinosaur via gene splicing. It’s a terribly large and violent thing called the Indominus Rex, an abomination that resident Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) finds out about and warns against. By then it’s too late, as they all soon discover it’s also wicked smart.
As a review, it’s never wise to simply compare one product to another, but certainly the lineage is worth considering. Jurassic World deserves praise in this department as it is never cloying towards the vaunted 1993 original, nor is it intimidated. Instead, it is referential while being reverential, surreptitiously throwing back to the first film in a way that rewards old fans while not alienating new ones.
It does, however, have a tendency to still try to aim for the bar set by the Spielberg classic. The film wants to be as smart about its characterizations and storytelling as the Indominus Rex is about being a dick. For the most part, it gets the foundation right.
Owen is painted as a man who gets the dinosaurs, making his unbelievable control over the Velociraptors actually somewhat believable. Claire is successfully set up as a woman who singularly wants to progress her career and make sure the park is operating at peak profit levels. Her nephews—who come to visit at the worst time possible—manage to both be their own self-contained drama while filling in some familial backstory on Claire.
But then they fail to go much of anywhere, though the performances backing them are quite good. They start out as people and mostly devolve into archetypes and clichés with predictable arcs. Owen, in fact, doesn’t change at all. Claire only kind of gains respect for the dinosaurs (it’s also more of a fear than respect), but it’s a moot point when it’s highly doubtful they’ll ever open another park again.
It’s disappointing, actually, that as a female lead, most of Claire’s functions revolve around shallow woman-oriented subjects like a man, children, and running (impressively) in heels while screaming. She’s never quite a helpless damsel in distress, but she isn’t a layered character with complex motivations so much as a poster for that kind of character. (Nor is anyone else, as Owen doesn’t fare much better as Guy Who Is More Solution Than Person.)
As for the actual world of Jurassic World, writers Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow build quite the framework. If you were told that they built out an entire timeline of events from the opening of the first Jurassic Park to the opening of Jurassic World and then started writing this movie, you’d probably believe it. The background feels thick and believable.
Either as a consequence or in spite of that, though, the things that happen from there come across as inevitable more than anything. There isn’t a sense of dread where you wonder how deadly they’ve made the park or where it will fail this time around. Right out of the gate we are introduced to the incredibly large and dangerous Mosasaurus, the answer to any sense of foreboding we might have had. From there it’s just a sense of acceptance rather than terrified refusal.
The action is pretty top-notch, though. While heavily CG’d and far removed from any amount of dread, it is supremely entertaining to watch. These feel like sequences you would play out as a kid with little dinosaur toys and action figures and it comes across with that kind of glee and irreverence. There’s not much drama imbued in these bits, but engrossing all the same.
The sequence you see in the trailer where the Velociraptors run as a pack into the night in particular is fantastically done. It actually conveys how strong yet sleek these animals are and why you would and should fear these things, extinct or not. They move smooth and fast and with an immense amount of power. It was great to see.
It matches the pace of the actual movie, too. The film moves quickly between its mired attempts at characterization to bits of running/screaming fast enough that it’s kind of hard to fault the static players and the lack of impending doom. By building out the scope of the world and the dinosaurs and the subsequent action, Jurassic World comes across more electric than it is.
It’s hard to believe that Trevorrow went from little indie film Safety Not Guaranteed to a huge project like this, but he and his crew pull it off with aplomb. Not to say it all goes off without a hitch or a modicum of disappointment, but everything they do well generally outweighs what they didn’t do so great. Go into Jurassic World expecting spectacle and not a lot of brain and you’ll find a good time.
Final Score: 7 out of 10