All of the ideas at the center of Jurassic World feel right on paper: the park being a sterile marriage between a zoo and SeaWorld; intense science meeting the indomitable demand of financiers; the self-conscious burial of fact in favour of maintaining the fantasy of what we know and love; Chris Pratt and raptors taking on the world together. Nobody was asking for a new Jurassic movie, and yet from the first trailer, Universal managed to create a benefit of the doubt. As needless as it is, Jurassic World could still be the loud, bombastic dinosaur fun we’ve all craved since first seeing Jurassic Park, or better yet it could be the prehistoric spectacle for a whole generation. It’s most certainly the latter, but it does so without any of the magic or heart of the original.
Somehow, someway, Isla Nublar has become a functioning theme park. The Jurassic Park dream is alive and in practice some 22 years after the events of the first film. Jurassic World is a fully fledged family’s dream, with all the celebration of dinosaurs and adorable interactive exhibits one could want. ‘Regular’ dinosaurs aren’t cool any more, people want bigger, more dangerous attractions. So, the park breeds a new dinosaur hybrid, the Indominus Rex, who has the DNA from several different dinos and animals. Conveniently, The Lost World and Jurassic Park 3 are side-stepped, as we find Bryce Dallas Howard introducing executives to the park and its plans for expansion and growth. The complete meltdown that was Jurassic Park’s Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptor related catastrophe is reduced to a mere throwaway joke on fandom and how this is a different, more organised theme park that won’t suffer the same fate.
And despite using John Williams‘ magnificent theme whenever possible and more than a few iconic shots, this is a very different film with a very different feel. When things go awry this time around, as they inevitably do, it’s not a catastrophe; it’s incompetence. The events of Jurassic World are fueled by every staff member in the park being almost totally inept at their jobs (which is, again, subject of a blatant punchline). The only one who isn’t is Chris Pratt, the affable hero who is here to save the day and train raptors, though it’s never fully clear exactly why he was training raptors in the first place.
He and Dallas Howard find themselves on a journey through the wilds of Jurassic World to recover her nephews, the chosen lost children of the movie. Even with perfectly fine performances all around, there’s no urgency to any of the characters being in danger and none of them are interesting. They’re simple caricatures that have no arc and see no change through-out the movie. Story beats are introduced, like the boys’ parents getting divorced or Dallas Howard‘s character possibly wanting children, but none ever actually go anywhere or give a semblance of ever having had a direction to begin with.
Even the Indominus Rex suffers from this jaunty characterization. The hybrid has a range of abilities that only ever see use once apiece before never coming into use again. Which is especially puzzling as the entire second half is filled to the brim with all the dinosaur action the trailers promised – though, there is one death in the movie that feels unnecessarily cruel, like they wanted to show off and there was only one character that they could so with. For all the great ideas present, only a few are engaged with, and none meaningfully. Everything is given its one scene and then off the screenplay goes, looking for the next half-baked beat. There are so many opportunities where something smarter could’ve been done, something that held onto the spirit of the original film with more than just a feather-light whisper and a nod to self-awareness, but instead the film chunders on, predictable, loud and visceral.
But, even with all these complaints, there’s a lot of fun in what Jurassic World is offering. It’s a far cry from the days of Sam Neill seeing those Brachiosaurus for the first time and it isn’t a better film for that by any stretch, but after 20 years, there’s a whole other bunch of children and adults who’ll get to experience dinosaurs on the big screen for themselves and be shrouded in the wonders of science and history. If nothing else, there’s still some magic to be found in that alone.
Visit, but only for the dinosaurs. 5/10