In 1993 I was eight years old, naturally as an eight year old I was obsessed with Jurassic Park before I had even seen the film. I had all of the merchandise; action figures, clothing, video games, even a Jurassic Park stationary set, if it had Jurassic Park plastered all over it, I wanted it. Just as Star Wars before it, Jurassic Park was the defining film franchise of its generation, it was such a cultural phenomenon that a professional basketball team (The Toronto Raptors) were even named after the film’s iconic ‘bad guys’ the Velociraptors.
Following two somewhat disappointing sequels (that I adore) the general public cooled on the franchise which brings us to 2015 and the release of Jurassic World coming some twenty-two years after the original film’s release.
Jurassic World never reaches the level of achievement of the original, lacking both the quality and charm of Steven Spielberg’s film, this is not to say it is a bad film it is actually very entertaining. I just feel that before I go any further, I needed to temper expectations.
Jurassic World accomplishes everything it sets out to do, it evokes comfortable feelings of nostalgia in those old enough to remember the original and serves as a thrilling introduction to those new to the franchise and is a capable and spectacular summer blockbuster that will capture the minds of a whole new generation of cinemagoers.
However it all too often too closely resembles a theme park attraction, much like the Jurassic World of the title the film is at times a series of abstract attractions designed to thrill audiences with breath-taking dinosaur encounters, whilst lacking much of the quiet time and suspense-building that made the original film so memorable.
Jurassic Park teased the viewer, slowly revealing more and more of Isla Nublar’s dinosaur inhabitants, first the park itself, then the peaceful herbivores, then the rustling of long-extinct tree branches as the Tyrannosaurus Rex is tempted with a live goat before unleashing its fury when the audience finally gets to see the almost mythical T-Rex in all of its glory. The original T-Rex reveal was so iconic precisely because its arrival and presence was built up. We feared the T-Rex before we had even seen what it was capable of.
Jurassic World is rarely so subtle; its dinosaur reveals come thick and fast, with the tour of the titular theme park rarely sticking in one place or with one species for very long before moving on. The argument can be made that this is all intentional and that Jurassic World is a film for the ‘meta’ generation of film viewers.
Jurassic World the theme park exists in a world where the general public have become jaded with the spectacle of living dinosaurs, there is a sense of ‘seen it all before’ amongst its patrons. Similarly Jurassic World the film is selling itself to an audience that has already been wowed by Jurassic Park and has grown increasingly familiar with what was once unbelievable.
Jurassic World as a theme park attraction is reliant on corporate sponsorship to stay afloat because the spectacle of seeing live dinosaurs is not enough to sustain such a costly operation. The film itself features lots of product placement, Beats headphones, Mercedes Benz and my personal favourite, the Samsung Innovation Centre building that takes centre stage in Jurassic World’s Main Street promenade. Whilst watching Jurassic World I very much got the sense that its creators were acutely aware of their position, blockbuster budgets are ever-increasing driven by the demand for films to be more spectacular, more action-packed and more of an unrivalled cinema experience. The drive for cinematic thrills has a cost, and over the last few years the increasing amount of in-your-face product placement in films has been revealed as the price we pay for our spectacle.
The audience for Jurassic World will roughly fall into two groups, those who grew up with the franchise and are excited about its return to cinema screens, and those people new to the franchise looking for an exciting summer blockbuster film. Jurassic World attempts to satisfy both of those audiences but is perhaps more successful in pleasing the latter.
Jurassic World is typical of a summer action film; it is a thrilling visual and auditory experience, bombarding the viewer with a sensory overload. The downside of this is that the film is also extremely light on character development, is full-to-the-brim with tropes and clichés and functions mostly as a series of vaguely connected set-pieces, rather than having a coherent plot with a beginning, middle and end.
Rather than being fully-developed people, the characters are paper-thin Hollywood stereotypes. Chris Pratt stars as Owen, the Han Solo/Mal Reynolds character; Irrfan Khan is the reckless and idealistic billionaire, Ty Simpkins plays Mikey from The Goonies, BD Wong plays the irresponsible mad scientist or the Brad Dourif role as I like to call it and Bryce Dallas Howard is Claire, the uptight career woman who is terrible with children but absolutely phenomenal at running in high heels.
Sure, the characters in Jurassic Park were painted in broad-strokes but each character felt as though they had their own individual traits and story, and by the end of the film we felt that Dr. Alan Grant had been fundamentally changed by his experience, his love of dinosaurs turned to fear, his fear of children turned to love. We do not get that here, the characters exist as plot-devices, nobody learns anything and everybody is a one-dimensional concept rather than an actual human being. The one character that shows promise is Barry played by Omar Sy, a Velociraptor trainer working alongside Owen who seems more spiritually connected to the raptors. We are told that Owen ended up at Jurassic World after leaving the Navy but Barry’s presence at the theme park is never explained though he seems to be an excellent tamer of wild animals. I was at least interested in his back-story which immediately makes him the most notable character in Jurassic World even though he himself fulfils just as much a stereotype as everybody else.
Everybody plays their role well enough and nobody stands out as noticeably good or bad in their performance, yet and this could be said of the whole experience, everything pales in comparison to Jurassic Park. Wayne Knight was unforgettable in his performance as Dennis Nedry (“Ah-ah-ah, you didn’t say the magic word”) similarly, Bob Peck delivered an iconic line of dialogue as raptor hunter Robert Muldoon (“Clever girl”) and that is not even mentioning the smouldering screen presence of Jeff Goldblum as the world’s sexiest ‘chaos-mathematician’ Dr. Ian Malcolm. These were minor characters in Jurassic Park yet have stood the test of time as being memorable, whereas Jurassic World’s characters are instantly forgettable.
The attraction here is undoubtedly the dinosaurs, the Sea World-esque water attraction of the fear-inducing Mosasaurus, the affront-to-God genetic monstrosity Indominus Rex and every child of the nineties’ dream-come-to-life domesticated Velociraptors, the dinosaurs are undoubtedly where Jurassic World delivers. There are a number of memorable action sequences involving dinosaurs that fulfil the promise of a sequel fourteen years in the making, the Indominus Rex cleverly escaping its enclosure, the Mosasaurus leaping out of the water to eat a great white shark and Owen riding his motorcycle alongside a pack of raptors as the alpha of the pack. The dinosaur sequences definitely deliver, satisfying the nine-year old child that resides deep within us all who just wants to see dinosaurs doing really cool stuff.
The ending of Jurassic World is ridiculous, utterly ridiculous but I use the word ridiculous in the best possible sense, it is a stupid ending, a stupidly brilliant five species Royal Rumble of epic proportions that will have you grinning from ear to ear, it has to be seen to be believed. Suffice to say, that if the ending to Jurassic Park pleased you, when the Velociraptors teamed up to attack the T-Rex in the Visitor Centre, then the ending to Jurassic World is written with you in mind.
Jurassic World is basically Jurassic Park with all of the amps turned up to eleven, for better and worse. The scale here is impressive, we always got the sense that Isla Nublar was bigger than what we saw but here we see it in its entirety. Jurassic World is massive, resembling an Orlando, Florida of dinosaurs, rather than corporate mascots. Billionaire owner Simon Masrani like his predecessor John Hammond assures us that no expense was spared, and I am inclined to believe him, well that is until the security team is woefully underprepared for their job, communications systems stop working in a crisis and the entire corporate infrastructure breaks down within five minutes of an incident occurring, but I digress.
Jurassic World is an awe-inspiring place and as a summer blockbuster it delivers in spades. My enduring opinion of it is that it is clearly the best of the Jurassic Park sequels. Whether that you consider that a glowing recommendation or a damning indictment, will be influenced by your fondness for the franchise and its concept. I can confidently assure you that, either way, Jurassic World delivers exactly what you were expecting.