Jurassic World either thinks it’s a lot cleverer than it actually is or is a lot more clever then we give it credit for. It’s usually a fine line between the two. Regardless Jurassic World essentially remakes Jurassic Park lacking the Spielbergian touch and freshness of the original. Like all sequels World goes bigger not better but it also playfully acknowledges dare we say criticises these conventions. The everyman scientist is replaced here by a Navy hero, the corporate career woman takes centre stage in the finale -not cast off in a side plot, the hubris of the CEO here leads to an action scene not a quiet moment of regret and the signature monster of the piece is both the cause of so much carnage and also a reflection of our own unhealthy desires for corporate excess and new unnecessary products, the kids are not just smart and cute but kinda hurting due to their parents divorcing, the treacherous human here is neither the instigator of the crisis nor in it purely for profit but he is far more evil as well. There is also restraint displayed in the use of the dinosaurs with a handful of species gradually coming into the narrative for their respective scenes, only the popular raptors and the brand new super dinosaur star throughout. That last minute reveal of one species made me break out in a grin. The plot might be uninspired but the riffs on the original formula are and create some good will towards the film. The film currently holds various opening weekend records and is the 3rd highest grossing film of all time. The Force Awakens might give it a run for the money but the film’s comparative success would suggest it’s time to tap into 90s nostalgia far more so than 70s or 80s nostalgia themed vehicles. Alas nobody told Adam Sandler and Arnold Schwarznegger.
As the trailers intoned The Park has opened twenty years after the disastrous events of Jurassic Park. In fact it’s been running for some time without incident but wouldn’t you know it-all hell is about to break loose. Claire Mitchell is the operations manager of the park with her two nephews Zack and Gray being dispatched there for a holiday under her care while their parents divorce. The park, the only one of its kind in the world, is seeing dwindling interest in the phenomenal and unique novelty of dinosaurs existing in the modern world!!!!!!! So they genetically engineer a new dinosaur called Indominus Rex or I-Rex for short (that can’t be coincidence and kudos to the writers) made out of all of the demands of focus groups who want a bigger meaner deadlier dinosaur for the sequel-I mean park. I won’t spoil the break-out but you know one is coming. The film thankfully sets things up in a call back to old school blockbusters by leaving the first act relatively action free. We get introduced to the characters and their relationships to each other. We get a sense of the scope of the park and then we are suitably unnerved by the new monster that immediately seems like a bad idea. Once all those things are ticked off the film lets the proverbial hit the fan. If there is one criticism I can’t shake it’s the lack of an immediate lockdown the second a dinosaur is on the loose but distance from the break out and the main park gives the powers that be confidence they can recover the creature with minimal PR damage. I guess. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Chris Pratt (a far more rounded performer then he probably gets credit for) plays a lot of beats from his Captain Star Lord performance but it’s a likeable persona right at home in a blockbuster and he’s positively a bona fide movie star when he turns in the control room and says “Evacuate the island.” He hasn’t been studying dinosaurs for years; he’s been training them like a lion tamer for a little while after leaving the Navy.
Bryce Dallas Howard is arguably the main character of the film as Claire, she’s basically running the park and is a successful career woman mostly office bound having to liaise with clients and potential sponsors. It’s not impossible to imagine she would wear heels or find herself still wearing them outfield (albeit I know plenty of career women who always have a pair of joggers under their desk however I digress) but it has certainly been the source of much mocking over this American summer. I’ve run in heels (hey I was a drama student once upon a time) and it is not easy but not impossible as clearly displayed here by Rachel McAdams in Morning Glory. Howard is great in the role, her first real go at a blockbuster since her M. Night Shymalan films really and clunky dialogue aside she grounds the film well. She’s a professional doing her job, she is trying to spend time with her nephews despite clearly big things happening in her workday and she sets out to find them when it becomes obvious the situation is dire
The two kids who the primary audience will identify with are Gray and Zack Mitchell. Gray is wonderfully enthusiastic about his holiday and far more emotional about the reality of his parent’s divorce. Zack Mitchell his older brother like all teenagers coats his pain with outward indifference and frustrated hormones. These kids are hurting with something far more terrifying than a raptor and as the divorce rate stands at 40-50% in the U.S. there are certainly a lot of kids watching the film who are going to find it relatable.
Irrfan Khan played by Simon Masrani is both a cheerful and likeable CEO if not a maker of smart decisions and Vincent D’Onofrio is suitably slimy as Vic Hoskins head of security. A smile breaking out across his face halfway through the film seals his fate and when it comes it is wonderfully satisfying. Vince you can play scumbags any time you want buddy. The cast is filled out by very talented actors who mostly get at least one moment to shine but these are the main hitters.
One of the smartest decisions I think the filmmaking team have made here is the characterization of the dinosaurs themselves. The I-Rex keeps pulling out a new surprising capability long after somebody-anybody should have thrown Dr Henry Wu up against the wall and made him spill everything but as monsters go she looms large as a threat for the whole film through several encounters and that is pretty impressive. The Raptors being given names if not personalities (except you Blue, you’re my boy Blue) and getting to be used for good is also a nice development. The film boasts likeable humans thank God but nobody forgot that some good dinosaur on dinosaur action holds massive appeal.
But I’ve dissected the film like an adult looking for double meanings and narrative originality. This is a big kid’s film and after watching an interview with director Colin Trevorrow claiming he directed the whole film as if from a child’s sensibility-immediately the film shot up in my estimates. The repetition of the words Animals and Assets that Honest Trailers picked up on, the bickering between the female and male lead at the beginning, the stolen kiss later on, the set pieces, the inexplicable lazy fat security guard for the I-Rex’s enclosure, the overtly long staring at girls from Zack and pretty much every characterisation is informed by this viewpoint and all for the better. In particular the seriousness and lack of silliness in the scenes referencing the divorce become more poignant too. In my humble opinion there were better blockbusters this American summer Jurassic World I suspect made more money for a very good reason. Maybe Jurassic World doesn’t think it’s smarter than it is. Maybe I do. Check it out, only a fool wouldn’t enjoy it.