Okay, I really want to go to Jurassic World, you know, before all the dinosaurs escape and start eating people. It seems amazing–equal parts zoo, wildlife reserve, Disney Land, and science project. There is a world-class hotel, petting zoo (petting dinosaurs!), water show, rides, and even a Margaritaville! Okay, maybe that last one isn’t that great, but you get the idea – this place is all-around amazing.
More than two decades ago, Steven Spielberg–the ever-consistent fabricator of childhood wonder and nostalgia–brought audiences Jurassic Park, a truly once-in-a-generation film that captured everyone’s awe and imagination. Since then, the series has endured two significantly sub-par sequels and a nearly 15-year hiatus. It returns (because nothing is ever completely dead in Hollywood), with a new action-packed adventure called Jurassic World. And though nowhere near as great as the original, the new film is still a fun and worthy ride.
Aiming–somewhat successfully–to be a true sequel to the original (and mostly bypassing The Lost World and Jurassic Park III altogether), the new film takes place 22 years after the events of JP. John Hammond’s dreams have finally been realized with the massive success of an interactive theme park filled with live dinosaurs and thousands of daily visitors.
Already in operation for several years, Jurassic World is seeking a new attraction – a bigger, scarier dinosaur – to drum up international interest and attendance. As one character notes in a bit of meta-cinematic commentary, people are not impressed with just dinosaurs anymore, they want bigger, faster, and more dangerous dinosaurs. Makes sense knowing today’s short attention spans and demand for carnage, but still, simultaneously, a good and bad idea.
Caught on opposing sides of this argument are the film’s leads – Owen (Chris Pratt), a cocky, ex-Navy animal trainer, and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), a stuffy workaholic in charge of the park’s day-to-day operations. Naturally, these opposites hate each other, yet are unquestionably attracted to one another. A rather unnecessary romance subplot, of course, unfolds.
Along for the ride are Claire’s young nephews (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson), who are growing apart in age as the family heads for an imminent divorce - another half-formed subplot. The film also stars Irrfan Khan as John Hammond’s ambitious & careless replacement, plus Vincent D’Onofrio as the closest thing to an antagonist (other than the dinosaurs), Jake Johnson as the comedic relief, and BD Wong as the only carryover from the original film.
The film’s action is impressive, as are the set pieces and special effects. The film rightfully hearkens back to the original as often as it can, whether it be familiar locations, recycled dialogue, or old jokes. And I must admit, when John Williams’ iconic original score swells, I cannot help but feel like an 8-year again, staring up in awe at the stunningly captured dinosaurs on the big screen.
As stated before, the film frequently mentions the notion of visitors wanting bigger and better attractions, much like the average moviegoer. The fact that the filmmakers recognize this and utilize it as a slight bit of humor, still does not stop the film from falling into this very same trappings. Most notably, the film sacrifices some story and character development for over-the-top action and killer creatures – such is, unfortunately, the nature of Hollywood blockbusters these days.
But the original was able to maintain both successfully, why couldn’t this long-delayed sequel? Well, in addition to that old “times have changed” adage, there is the issue of pedigree. Through highly capable, director Collin Trevorrow, with his first major studio film, is not Steven Spielberg nor does he have the same control over the story and production that the legendary director had to craft such a memorable film.
The characters are a bit stock and storylines are mostly clichéd, but in the end, audiences are coming for the action, effects, and excitement. And there, Jurassic World succeeds in creating a worthwhile and enjoyable sequel. Though one thing has not changed in the intervening decades, no matter how many new dinosaurs are introduced or artificially created, the T-Rex still reigns supreme.
Jurassic World is now playing on over 4,200 screens nationwide.