Jurassic Park set a precedent that was so stark that neither of its sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III came even close to recreating the magic that made it so impactful. The bar was simply set way too high and feeble attempts to go back to Isla Nublar proved to be moronic each time. But now with the park up and running like original creator John Hammond always wanted, it has more of a purpose and direction. While it doesn’t reach for that brass ring that the original has claimed, it doesn’t really need too. It sets out its own path and stakes its claim that it’s very worthy to be put alongside the film that started it all. With a higher body count, more menacing and original dinosaurs and a willingness to realize that it’s meant to be taken as a fun thrill ride during the hot summer months, Jurassic World showed that these amazing animals don’t deserve to be extinct.
The grisly incidents that happened 22 years ago on Isla Nublar are now part of storied legend, but now man has figured out a way to go back to the island and retake it to what it was originally meant for. Jurassic Park now became Jurassic World and it’s a fully functional theme park with numerous dinosaur exhibits, gift shops and petting zoos. It is undoubtedly a huge success as people are actually able to see dinosaurs and not be devoured by them. It’s been open for the past ten years but attendance has been slowly dropping due to disinterest among the dinosaurs they deem boring or unexciting. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the parks operating manager, overseeing each dinosaur and making sure that they attract as many people as possible. She now has been tasked with overseeing a new dinosaur, the Indominus rex, a mutant hybrid created in the lab from various species, including the Tyrannosaurus rex.
The owner of the park Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) notices that the Indominus rex may get out of hand so he enlists Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) a Velociraptor trainer and expert to inspect its enclosure for vulnerabilities. Owen has to contend with Vic Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio), the head of security for InGen, who hopes to use his raptors for his own personal gain. But events spiral out of control as the I-rex is much smarter than anticipated as she soon starts unspeakable havoc on the park. At the same time Claire’s nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) and his younger brother Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins) visit Jurassic World for the first time and hope to spend time with her but they both get put with her assistant. Before too long they are also both in immediate danger from the dangerous inhabitants that live on Isla Nublar. Everyone on the island is now in danger and struggles to survive not only against the brutality of the dinosaurs but the ugly politics of man.
Like any child that grew up in the 90s, I loved Jurassic Park and never had seen anything like it before. This was all the more disheartening when it became a shell of its former self with two pretty bad sequels, the former clearly worse than the latter. One of the many problems was that they weren’t taken as seriously and it was very contrived. The reason to go back was simply too stupid as if they made it up on the spot. With Jurassic World, there seems to be more of a purpose for the film and reason to not only go back but have another sequel that doesn’t feel like a retread. And while it does have its contrivances, it doesn’t overtake the story or take you out of the action. While I hate most sequels/prequels/reboots/remakes for their laziness and unwillingness to do anything different, I loved how they went about with Jurassic World. It seemed so simple that I’m actually quite surprised it has taken this long for it to come about. By simply having Isla Nublar be the park that it was always intended to be, it’s as if it went full circle and the viewer who grew up with the original was taken right back to their childhood. It was a great feeling to see everything up and running and marvel on how amazing everything looked.
Out of the many surprises in Jurassic World, the choice of director would have to be one of the biggest. Colin Trevorrow is basically an unknown in every sense of the word with only one single directing credit to his name. This would seem like the last person to helm a sequel/reboot to one of the most iconic films of the last 30 years with a budget of $150 million. When you realize that his only other film was an often unseen indie starring Aubrey Plaza, you’d never guess that he would tackle a summer blockbuster with the next action hero Chris Pratt. Safety Not Guaranteed is highly underrated and a fun and inventive look into a man trying to build a time machine. It’s a worthy addition to the time travel genre with a great performance from Plaza. Trevorrow was tasked in helming a big budget film of which he has never seen but it’s as if he’s done it all before. He doesn’t seem out of place and has oodles of confidence which is surprising since he’s basically a rookie.
Trevorrow outdoes Gary Johnston’s directorial attempt with Jurassic Park III who has a wide list of films to his name. He kept the pace brisk and fast with the necessary exposition to explain some of the plot. I felt at times a little antsy to see the dinosaurs cause mayhem and destruction but the wait was well worth it just to see a bit more of the park and how badass the I-rex was beforehand. Trevorrow made sure to not forget the original with many nods to it, some subtle some not to the experienced movie viewer and longtime fan of Jurassic Park. It wasn’t in your face obvious like “Hey, remember this movie and that moment when that happened and how cool it was?!?!?!” It was handled carefully as Trevorrow is a fan of the film like most. You could tell that those little moments sprinkled throughout mean a lot to not only the fans but also to Trevorrow. It’s as if he saw it through a fans eyes as it respected the original while also moving forward.
With so little experience, he knows exactly what embodies a big budget summer blockbuster and he provides one of the more entertaining summer spectacles this year. It fits perfectly in line with the likes of The Avengers, Mad Max: Fury Road and even San Andreas, which I didn’t really like at all. Being as he is shot through the sky like a rocket, I can’t wait to see more of his work and possibly if he will return to Isla Nublar. The script may not be the smartest but it is more than serviceable. There was a great team in place for the script including Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, the team behind Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, and Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow. Derek Connolly also wrote Safety Not Guaranteed. Before even knowing who wrote Jurassic World, I could tell that there were some similarities between the films besides them being blockbusters and a sequel/prequel/reboot/remake to classic films from decades ago.
Mainly the use of CGI to enhance creatures that otherwise wouldn’t have existed and the use of man interfering with nature that eventually bites them back with horrible consequences. While the writing was much more personable and engrossing with characters you could relate too with the Apes films, it doesn’t make Jurassic World any less entertaining if it didn’t reach the same peaks. It’s quite simplistic and refreshing in that it doesn’t try to be like Jurassic Park. That had its own story and themes so Jurassic World would have its own. The children in peril has always been a part of the Jurassic Park films as well as basically every monster movie so even if it felt a tad contrived, it wasn’t handled in an overly cheesy manner where you beg for the kids to die and see them kill raptors with gymnastics. It of course uses the man/women, opposites attract dynamic but with Pratt being as awesome as he is and the action being so fun, one is able to let such things fly.
I like that they finally made a world where people are used to seeing dinosaurs and eventually get bored with them. So much so that scientists create a new dinosaur to hold their attention. In an add infused world, people need constant entertainment to as many senses as possible from various sources which is kinda weird to be told that from a movie whose sole purpose is to entertain as many senses as possible from various sources. It never occurs to everyone at the park that bigger isn’t always better and that unseen problems may occur from middling not only with nature but new advancements that many don’t yet understand. Dinosaurs are not living, breathing animals but products with multimillion dollar signs attached to them. Company buzz words are aplenty here as corporization has run rampant to some of the most dangerous and monstrous creatures to ever live on earth with focus groups and easily said dinosaur names being some of the many ways to easily market the creatures.
The awe of these creatures runs quickly as coldness and apathy towards them is ever present. Having success for a decade has caused them to have much hubris that now can freely play god as if nothing is wrong. The same exact thing can apply to the people in power today who would rather see the end game with profits then the imminent dangers that it could actually cause. Then you have guys wanting to use the dinosaurs as weapons which reaches a new level of ridiculousness but within the confines of the movie, makes sense. A man in power always wants to control something they can’t contain for uses that only they can understand. What I liked the most was the usage of product placement throughout the film and they really hammered it down at points, which is somewhat surprising coming from a summer blockbuster which has much to gain from it clearly. I never thought I would see corporations sponsoring dinosaurs but with so many of them on stadiums and every single other thing under the sun, it was the perfect jab.
It reveled in its satirization as it showed among others, Mercedes, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Brookstone and Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville of all things. With the latter three being an integral part of the tourist attractions on Jurassic World's main road. When you open a park to people all over the world, you need something to sell to all of them. When it showed the Mercedes driving through the jungle, it felt like a car commercial as the camera shoots at a low angle from the front toward the camera and then swooping inside to the driver. It felt so over dramatic and cheesy that I feel it may go over many people’s heads that see it every day. Which ironically is what Jurassic Park did over 20 years ago with its many tie ins although it wasn’t as overt with its symbolism as Jurassic World. Even an old school Jurassic Park t-shirt with the now iconic logo gets a cool shout out and is one of the many great nods to the original film. I haven’t seen commercialism this obvious since Transformers: Age Of Extinction which did it so much worse, but Michael Bay is basically king of shilling crap for the sake of shilling crap with no subtlety at all.
Spotting all the references and reading about the rest that you missed was one of the many pleasures watching Jurassic World. It goes out of its way to recognize and include the original film without it overtaking or interfering with the story. One of my favorite scenes was when the old park was visited and the climactic scene where the T-rex battles the raptors was shown. It was a great callback and was more fun than seeing a cameo from Sam Neill, Laura Dern or Jeff Goldblum that would have felt forced. One character that needed to be included from the original was the T-rex as she made a grand entrance worthy of its iconic status. It was definitely cheer worthy moment where you can’t help but be giddy with excitement. The same goes for the legendary composer John Williams and his sweeping score. I got goosebumps every time it played and really brings you into the moment. All the new dinosaurs looked really amazing and cool. The I-rex looked much better than the Spinosaurus from Jurassic Park III and was helped by the extra narrative and action to make it that much more menacing. She made for a great antagonist which was helped by her cunning intelligence and incredible strength. The velociraptors looked badass as they always do but with the distinctive marks and personalities to separate them due to testing and to make them easier to control.
Next to the T-rex, they have been the most important to the series and you become more attached to them than one would think based on how they are perceived as “villains” in past films. It was cool to see them be under the care of someone who wants what’s best for them and actively looks out for their best interests. You feel for them and don’t want them to get hurt or be used as mere weapons. It was also really cute to see Owen interact with them and treat them like they were his own children. Despite being different species separated by millions of years, they were bros through and through who had each other’s backs. The Mosasaurus was like a killer whale in Sea World but on massive amounts of steroids. You see him jump out of his tank to devour a great white shark and splash the crowd, it was a great way to transport one creature from millions of years ago and plant him in place of another creature that is still living today.
The scene where Pteranodons and Dimorphodons terrorize the crowd was a great spectacle and a terrifying way to show how dominant a species they really are if they were to get out into the modern world. And it was a great reference to another film where animals attack humans, Alfred Hitchcock's classic The Birds. It was awesome to see so many people get attacked by dinosaurs in that way as it hasn’t really been done like that before on a massive scale. The final half hour or so of the film was exactly what summer blockbusters were made for as it went all out with the climactic slug fest free for all brawl one of the most thrilling in the entire series. The hype was built up perfectly and delivered on every aspect where you just want more and more. Watching dinosaurs kick the crap out of each other in Jurassic World has so much appeal that not many other movies can match.
If Chris Pratt hasn’t arrived with the box office smash Guardians Of The Galaxy, he sure as hell made sure he did with Jurassic World. With the bravado, macho standing and quick wit that’s befitting of an action hero, he stakes his claim as a leading man and someone who can headline a major film production by his lonesome. Usually known for comedies from his time on TV show Community and other comedic supporting roles, he fits very easily as an asskicking hero. He not only looks the part, getting down and dirty when needed, but he’s able to bring it down to earth with a quip or an air of brevity. Bryce Dallas Howard wasn’t badass like Charlize Theron’s Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, but she played her part well of an intelligent, determined woman who is often cold, business like and for the most part out of her element when things go horribly wrong. The romantic pairing she had with Pratt didn’t feel forced or shoved down your throat as it made way for the dino mayhem to take center stage. Though she has been in major blockbusters before, this is the first time that she’s been a film that was successful and a hit with critics and audiences.
D'Onofrio as usual plays a great imposing antagonist and revels in being the bad guy while chewing some scenery. The brothers in Robinson and Simpkins played their roles well and were used far better than I thought. Robinson hasn’t been in much films but he was great in the criminally under seen Kings Of Summer while Simpkins has quite an impressive resume as a child actor with his biggest being in Iron Man 3. They worked well off of each other and made for a good sibling pairing. It was great to see Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) come back and reprise his role as chief geneticist who was behind the creation of the dinosaurs. He had a bigger role than before and is different than we last saw him. The acting and character development wasn’t Oscar award worthy but people forget that it’s a summer blockbuster where dinosaurs live on an island. It shouldn’t be too hard to turn off ones brain for two hours.
One thing that bothered me was how everyone was complaining that it’s not as good as Jurassic Park or that it tried too hard to recreate the magic from the original. Which is true as it’s not as good as Jurassic Park, but it was never going to be. Why people would think that it would is idiotic as it set a standard that would have never been toppled. People should see it without the lofty expectations and not try to compare it to the original and separate them as two different movies. The introduction of the T-rex in Jurassic Park is one of the most iconic scenes of all time as it’s full of memorable moments from top to bottom. From the water ripple in the cup to the T-rex roaring for the first time to the slimy lawyer getting eaten on the toilet, its sequence that will remain forever in audiences minds. Shutting it down and comparing it to the original is ignorant since some things can’t be duplicated. Anyone who loved the original should be able to see the new film without holding onto the memories and legacy of the old film.
Many things could have gone wrong with Jurassic World right from the get go as many sequels fail to drum up the same level of excitement and wonder as the originals, especially to the ones that were made over two decades ago. I myself had my serious doubts as I grew up with the original film and was disappointed with the sequels. Jurassic Park is still watchable today and holds very well for the most part, so topping it would have been nearly impossible. Jurassic World knows this and doesn’t attempt to make you forget about the iconic original. It does however show you some ideas and aspects of how we live and what we see every day to make it all the more palpable in the 21st century. Some of it may be dumb or lazy, but much of it is really fun and exactly what made the original so thrilling. Jurassic Park merely set the table with its narrative, characters and action, now Jurassic World simply offers another piece of savory morsels that doesn’t inherently need to rely on certain aspects that made the original so beloved.
It may have taken twenty years, but dinosaurs have come back with a vengeance to stake their claim as the powerhouse they once were for a whole new generation. Four tender bro moments with velociraptors out of five.