There were a whole lot of people telling me to see Jurassic World after opening weekend. I couldn’t believe it.
I shook my head. More lost kids in the woods? Dinosaurs that communicate? Oh my god, is that Chris Pratt on a motorcycle with velociraptors riding shotgun? No. Way.
No way was I going to see this film at full price. Later, maybe, on iTunes.
For good reason. I had just suffered through the ghastly Transformers: Age of Extinction, recently released on Netflix. All the marketing leading up to Jurassic World made it look like a similar attempt at rebooting a dormant film franchise with nothing but cheesy riffs on old plotlines. A painful attempt that would further spoil the original.
Boy was I wrong. Boy howdy.
Jurassic World is wonderful. As good as the original. Maybe even a little better. (Though nothing will capture the awe of the first. How can you? You can’t. This film knows that.)
Plus it’s chock-a-block with Easter eggs. You can read about those all over the place. Here’s a good Moviepilot article if you want to catch up.
My guess is that with all the dazzling dinosaurs and paleo-this-and-thats, you likely missed three really cool things about this movie. Items you can take with you when you see it again (and again).
No. 1: It is a love letter to Steven Spielberg
There’s a whole lot made about the film paying homage to the original Jurassic Park (more on that in a moment). What many missed is that Jurassic World is a love letter to the film’s original director, American treasure and cinematic icon Steven Spielberg.
True, Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow worked closely with Spielberg throughout the film (he was his boss, after all). And Trevorrow is on record as saying that he “focused on not following in Spielberg’s footsteps but making a separate pair of tracks just slightly respectfully behind his and to the right at all times.”
What Trevorrow did, however, was pay homage to the summer blockbuster films Spielberg helped create - focusing specifically on a handful of the ones he created.
There’s little doubt the great white shark fed to the mosasaurus was nod to Spielberg’s Jaws, celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2015. With Jaws, Spielberg pretty much invented the modern day summer blockbuster.
I’d argue the scene with the pterodactyl drowning Claire’s assistant (easily the most terrifying moment in the film) is also an homage, this time to Jaws' opening scene. In that scene, we watch as Chrissie, a young swimmer, caught in the jaws of the great white, tossed and turned in the surf, plunged under the water multiple times, becomes the shark’s first victim. Also, the most terrifying moment in that film.
You know the scene where Claire takes a look outside the truck she’s driving and sees a velociraptor gaining on her? Most consider this an homage to Jurassic Park’s “Things in Rearview Mirror are Closer Than They Appear” scene. The one with the T. rex hot on Alan, Malcolm and Ellie’s tail. But is it?
Watch closer next time. Imagine Claire in a fedora.
The scene is more akin to Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Indy catches a Nazi motorcycle coming up beside him in his side mirror during the desert chase scene. Like Claire, Indy runs the Nazi off the road and into some brush.
The way Claire yanks the wheel, the camera angles, the dinosaur's tumble into the dense jungle foliage - even Michael Giacchino’s score riffs on John Williams’ Raiders soundtrack in that short moment.
Finally, watch Trevorrow’s and cinematographer John Schwartzman’s camera work. There are dozens of classic Spielberg riffs - so many signature tracking shots and power angles it's hard to count them all. You could say this was to adhere the film to the original. Two peas in a pod, so to speak.
Maybe, though, it was a nod to the filmmaker who built it all.
No. 2: It pokes fun at the audience
Do a little reading and you’ll discover that Jurassic World was as much about making a Jurassic Park 4 as it was a story about yet another dinosaur park gone out of control.
“It’s totally acceptable to suggest that this movie is about why Jurassic Park 4 exists in the first place,” Trevorrow told Entertainment Weekly. “Whether it’s a good idea or not to make a sequel to this movie, it’s happening one way or another.”
Part of that subtext is found in character dialogue, usually when characters argue about what park visitors - that’s you, the audience, by the way - really want.
The biggest commentary, of course, is the creation of the Indominus rex.
Claire explains that corporate (InGen) created the Indominus rex to “up the wow factor” and “be bigger than a T. rex.” She also explains that marketing created an easy to pronounce dinosaur name because visitors were having trouble saying names like Allaeochelys.
Note that Jurassic World screenwriters Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly and Trevorrow also created the name so it would be easy for movie audiences (and toy buyers) to pronounce.
More when Dr. Henry Wu says, “Nothing in Jurassic World is natural, we have always filled gaps in the genome with the DNA of other animals. And if the genetic code was pure, many of them would look quite different. But you didn't ask for reality, you asked for more teeth.”
He’s talking about us, of course. We don’t care that a real velociraptor is about the size of a turkey, is covered in feathers and you could easily kick it aside. We want the six-foot hunters - the monster border collies - to terrorize our silver screen.
In the end, though, the film says that’s all okay. Owen and Claire’s final exchange is really the filmmakers’ promise to the audience.
The movie's over. So what do we do now?
Probably stay together. For survival.
No. 3: It was more a remake of ‘Jurassic Park’ than a sequel
Here’s a little secret the filmmakers don’t want you to know. Jurassic World is, structurally, a pretty faithful remake of Jurassic Park.
Forget all the homage Easter eggs you’re reading about. The bones of both Jurassic Park and Jurassic World are almost identical. They are mirror images. When Trevorrow explores the idea of history repeating itself, he’s very clear that the film is repeating itself as well.
The way he does it is so deft, however, we hardly realize we’ve seen this movie a couple of times before.
Let’s take a quick look at some simple examples.
- Both film sends two siblings to the dinosaur park. The younger sibling is a dinosaur lover and the older sibling is a bit of an engineer.
- The siblings are related to the head of the park. The head of the park, in both instances, sends their nieces and nephews off into the park with an assistant rather than spend time with them alone.
- In both films the assistant is eaten by park dinosaurs.
- The park head in both films chooses to ignore the advice of advisors and park experts in favor of keeping the park up and running.
- The park head in both films asks for help finding their lost nieces and nephews.
- Both films have a hero who is a velociraptor expert.
- The climax of both films take place in the heart of the park - and completely destroy the place.
- The chief engineer in Jurassic Park and the security chief in Jurassic World both lose limbs to hungry dinosaurs.
And, of course, we can go on and on.
So next time you see Jurassic World - and I know you’re going to see it again - watch for signature Spielberg shots, subtle commentary about summer blockbusters and beats and riffs from the classic 1993 film that you didn’t even realize were there.