Jurassic World Review

Posted: June 18, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

jurassic-world-poster-mosasaurusWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

A few weeks ago saw the release of Mad Max: Fury Road, a return to a much loved franchise. Of course, the franchise part is a bit misleading in that it isn’t really the series loved so much as one specific film; Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. The original Mad Max is more of an admirable “little movie that could”, while Beyond Thunderdome is a neutered mess no one really cares for. And yet, in spite of an only 1/3 ratio, fans were tremendously hyped for Fury Road. A similar, more extreme version of this is occurring now with an even bigger blockbuster; Jurassic World. While Steven Spielberg’s original film is much beloved and a modern classic, the sequels haven’t fared as well. The Lost World: Jurassic Park is generally seen as dumb, and a pointless sequel, while Jurassic Park III is completely subpar and forgettable. While all of the films have been financially successful, each grossed last than the previous film. The third in particular may have been a respectable hit, but not gargantuan production previous entries were. And yet, in spite of this underwhelming history, Jurassic World has been one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year, to the point of shattering box-office records. Could we finally have the first good Jurassic Park sequel?

The film ignores the events of the sequels and instead just uses the original as a building block. In the years since John Hammond developed the technology to recreate long extinct dinosaurs, the island of Isla Nublar has been repurposed as an amusement park of sorts where people come to see real dinosaurs. The island is popular, but as the years have gone by, the masses have become accustom to dinosaurs. In an effort to maintain public excitement, scientists have taken to creating new dinosaurs which never previously existed. The newest addition is the Indominus rex, a hybrid of several dinosaurs meant to be big, loud, scary, and profitable. However said creation comes back to bite them when it breaks loose and begins causing chaos in the park. Much of the responsibility falls on Jurassic World’s park operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is doubly concerned as her young nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) are out in the park on their own. She finds an ally however in Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a park employee who aids Claire in saving her nephews and finding a solution to their mutual problem.

The plot and characters of the film are mostly stock. We’ve seen these stories before of a professional trying to face a disaster situation while the person’s loved ones are caught in the middle, and we’ve also seen the character dynamics between Claire and Owen before, through Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard do elevate the material slightly. The plot is also overstuffed with other elements, such as the young nephews and their situation at home and a subplot involving a head of security (Vincent D’Onofrio) who wishes to use the velociraptors for militaristic purposes. These elements too are, by and large, derivative and uninteresting, as well as being unnecessary. Given how long Jurassic World has been in-development, I suspect elements from multiple scripts were forced into one. The resulting film is not quite a mess, in fact it’s always watchable, but it isn’t entirely organic either.

Director Colin Trevorrow does however find some interesting things in the little details. For example, it’s pretty neat to actually say Isla Nublar serving as a dinosaur amusement park. The first film was about the development of such an idea, while the sequels saw dinosaurs roaming an abandoned island. Here, we get a glimpse at the inner workings of the part and there’s some fun to be had here, even if there are a lot of holes, namely with security. The film also contains some slight satirical reference. The notion of interest in dinosaurs waning and the desire to spruce things up with bigger and better dinosaurs such as the Indominus rex has been noted by many as a metaphor for the increasing excess in modern blockbusters. There are also references to the old park being better because it didn’t need any cheap gimmicks, referring of course to the original film. I like these elements, but it’s mostly light satire and it disappears quickly after the second act.

Perhaps I’m looking at the film the wrong way though, and I should just be focusing on the real reason people are here; the dinosaurs. The special effects here are mostly solid. There were a few lackluster VFX shots, but for the most part the dinosaurs looked good. The general look of the film is also decent, if unnoteworthy. The film does however have a couple of above average action sequences which are generally fun. The highlight is probably a scene where pterodactyls terrorize park visitors. Trevorrow does a good job capturing the chaos of the attack and the scene on a whole has a nice b-movie feel. There’s also a decent set-piece involving a gyroscope and a fun finale involving multiple dinosaurs. I should point out however that while the finale is fun, I don’t think it quite compares to the giant monster fights in Pacific Rim, or more importantly the epic throw-down in last year’s Godzilla.

So, is Jurassic World the first good Jurassic Park sequel? Eh, not really. It might be the best sequel, but that isn’t really all that impressive an accomplishment. There’s certainly some fun to be had, and even some creativity, but most of said creativity is centered in tiny details. The major elements of the film are simplistic, tired, and unnecessary. Additionally, even at its best the film never rises above “pretty good”, which is a problem for a film with such a questionable script. So what then, accounts for the film’s massive success? Maybe the Jurassic Park franchise carries more weight than I thought, maybe the marketing was that good, maybe it’s working of Chris Pratt’s emergence as a star at the right time, or maybe people were just ready for another Jurassic Park movie? I’m not really sure, but I do suspect much of the success is owed to external forces rather than the film itself. When all is said and done, this really isn’t all that special.

C+

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