WELCOME TO JURASSIC WORLD!
Jurassic World is every bit a worthy entry in and follow-up to the Jurassic Park series. Writer-director Colin Trevorrow, under the watchful gaze of producer Steven Spielberg (director of the original classic and its sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park), has created a film that at once pays tribute to the original, but also moves the franchise forward in exciting and unexpected ways.
Let’s be honest, Jurassic World was never going to recapture the magic of the original – and, in particular, the magic of that first brachiosaurus sighting. We’re 22 years on now, in a world where the Avengers have fought not once but twice on the silver screen and where Middle-earth has been brought to life six times over. Simply, dinosaurs don’t wow like they used to.
Enter Jurassic World: set two decades after John Hammond abandoned his dream, Jurassic World is a new dinosaur theme park in the Disneyworld vein that has been up and running for some time. It’s starting to see diminishing returns however, as the novelty of dinosaurs has begun to wear off. Tasked with generating interest, the scientists behind the scenes cook up a bigger, meaner beastie with ‘more teeth’ under company direction – a dinosaur dubbed the ‘Indominus Rex’, a hybrid of a number of classified species.
Very early in the film, a character called Lowery, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the original Jurassic Park logo, says what we’re all thinking (and I’m paraphrasing here): “The original Jurassic Park didn’t need hybrid dinosaurs to be cool.” It’s not quite fourth-wall breaking but it’s nonetheless meta enough to be a knowing wink to audiences.
Shortly after, B.D. Wong playing chief geneticist Dr Henry Wu, the only human character to return from the previous films, reminds us that the scientists of Jurassic Park have always used DNA from other animals to fill in the gaps in the dinosaur DNA – with the Indominus Rex, Henry asserts that he was only doing what he had always done. It’s a fair statement that made me recall Dr Alan Grant’s line from Jurassic Park III: “What John Hammond and InGen did at Jurassic Park is create genetically engineered theme park monsters. Nothing more and nothing less.” Never before has that statement been truer than with Jurassic World.
Naturally, given the series’ theme of ‘life finds a way’, the Indominus Rex breaks free and terror takes the park. Chris Pratt cements his star status as Owen Grady, the Raptor whisperer who must work with park manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) to contain the beast, while also protecting Claire’s nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), who happen to be visiting the park. Irrfan Khan’s Simon Masrani fills the John Hammond role, with his company having taken control of InGen in the time since Jurassic Park III.
If there’s a weakness to the story, it’s that a couple of subplots don’t go anywhere. Notably, there’s a divorce side story about Zach and Gray’s parents which rears its head early but is then all but forgotten by the conclusion. Meanwhile, Vincent D’Onofrio’s Vic Hoskins, the head of InGen security at Jurassic World, is a pantomime villain who wants to weaponise dinosaurs for military use (yes, you read that right). D’Onofrio chews scenery in the role, but as soon as his character opens his mouth to monologue his wild (read: idiotic) plans, you know exactly what fate awaits him.
I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed that neither Sam Neill nor Jeff Goldblum return (although there may or may not be some well-placed Easter Eggs which I shan’t spoil here)… but that’s really neither here nor there. Predictable plotting aside, the effects – practical and computer generated – are outstanding, and John Williams’ classic score also returns to terrific effect. It’s worth mentioning too that the Indominus Rex is an imposing antagonist – and one of the better cinema ‘monsters’ of recent memory. Indominus makes Jurassic World the most violent of the series, but this is balanced by an increase in self-aware, Marvel-y humour to keep the picture breezy despite the two-hour runtime.
Based on box office returns for Jurassic World so far, it looks like we’ll be seeing more hybrid dinos in the future, but if each entry can maintain this level of quality then I look forward to many more to come. The park is finally, thankfully, open – it’s certainly been a long time but well worth the wait!