Jurassic Park sequels have always been jokes, silly popcorn movies that didn’t really try to stay true to the feel of the original or that didn’t have a competent enough cast to really carry it. Jurassic World doesn’t quite live up to the sheer earth-changing nostalgia of the original (because those of us who saw it aren’t seven years old anymore)…but it gets pretty close.
It has been over two decades since the incident at the original Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar (and apparently the events on Isla Sorna, InGen’s B-site have been heavily classified to the point where they are never mentioned again) and Jurassic World is a thriving visitor’s paradise. In order to overcome lagging attendance and troublesome profit estimates, Doctor Henry Wu (BD Wong), and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the public face of the park, have engineered a new, more crowd-pleasing animal to wow audiences. Unfortunately, mayhem happens and things go south quickly. Aided by raptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), Claire tries to not only contain the violence, but find her two nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) who are lost in the park somewhere while a reckless member of the park’s staff, Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), has a wild plan of his own to deal with the problem.
The thing that impressed me the most was that this movie felt like a blending of the original movie and Michael Crichton’s brilliant novel. There’s a scene from the novel that I always liked, and previous movies have sort of sidestepped the ramifications of the scene, focusing instead on lessons on power and responsibility (which are also in the book). But I was pleased that that scene was finally given form in this latest sequel. It runs as follows (and don’t worry, there’s nothing in here that hasn’t been mentioned in the trailer):
(John Hammond is talking to Doctor Wu in this scene. I’ve edited it down a bit.)
“‘You said yourself, John, this park is entertainment,’ Wu said. “And entertainment has nothing to do with reality. Entertainment is antithetical to reality….The past is gone. It can never be re-created. What we’ve done is reconstruct the past–or at least make a version of the past. And I’m saying we can make a better version.’
‘Better than real?’
‘Why not?’ Wu said….’Why not push ahead to make exactly the kind of dinosaur that we’d like to see? One that is more acceptable to visitors…” (pg. 121-22)
Now, in the scene, Wu is talking to Hammond about making more docile versions of the dinosaurs so that they can be more easily handled and can put on a better show for a paying public, but the concept of presenting what people want to see as opposed to presenting the actual reality of a dinosaur zoo is definitely something Crichton has addressed in his works. I think he would have been pleased.
As to the movie itself, it deals heavily in nostalgia. At times, it feels very remix-esque, preferring to ask the question “Hey, remember when that happened in the first movie!?” instead of treading new ground, but, to be completely honest, with a movie like this, continuing the story of a film that WAS the nostalgic movie from my and many others’ childhoods, I think it works.
The characters are decent, especially Owen and Claire. I am a huge fan of Bryce Dallas Howard, and I loved her character arc (though many other reviewers have expressed the opposite opinion, for some reason). Out of all of the characters, Claire was the only character I really cared about at an emotional level because of how she evolves. Chris Pratt is the dependable superhero he was in Guardians of the Galaxy, but with a bit more calm and seriousness, sort of a gruff-but-likable mix between game warden Robert Muldoon and paleontologist Alan Grant from the first movie. As for the other characters, the two kids are basically just generic kids that need to be rescued. I found them to be immensely cliche. They serve the demands of the story, I suppose, but I didn’t care about them the way I did Lex and Tim. It was nice to see Wu again, and I feel like he could easily play a part in a future sequel. I loved the way he was written. The rest of the cast are basically red shirts whose very appearance screams “A dinosaur is most likely going to eat me later.” A shout out, also, to Jake Johnson’s character, Lowery, for being basically the living embodiment of the nine year old nerd in all of us. The film’s most tragic moment belongs to him. I won’t give it away, but you really want to jump in the screen and give him a reassuring hug after.
The music was alright, but I found the big obvious shifts between Michael Giacchino’s score and John Williams’ main theme to be a bit obvious. Instead of blending the two styles the way he did with his score for Star Trek, there are many moments where the score stops and then Williams’ Jurassic Park theme starts playing, beginning to end, like it was airlifted and dropped right in the middle of the score. I know why they wanted to use Williams’ main theme (because it’s amazing), but cut-and-pasted in this manner, it lacked presence.
When it comes to the dinosaurs, there’s all kinds of awesomeness, though I must admit, the effects of the original still seem better. This one does still use animatronics, and they’re good, but the dinosaurs, especially the raptors, rarely have the same sense of heft and real-world weight that the originals did. The first movie redefined computer graphics. This one doesn’t.
The new “dinosaur,” the Indominous Rex, is well-designed without being overworked, and is a genuinely terrifying foe, but she tends to hog the spotlight. The raptors are interesting, and even have personalities somewhat (I love you, Blue!), having come along way from the kitchen-stalking nightmares that they were in the first film. And, of course, our gal, the T-Rex is there, though TRAGICALLY underused (and thanks to Buzzfeed, I now know her as Karen the T-Rex). In many ways, she reminded me of the most recent incarnation of Godzilla. Once a villain, Karen is now brought in to take part in scenes that exist to be really really cool, but not scary. We no longer fear Karen. We love Karen. We cheer for Karen.
Ahem, anyway. The rest of the dinos, especially the herbivores, are just fun wallpaper, save for one moment where I swear a dino almost made me cry. I literally felt tears welling up, and then hated myself because I felt nothing for any of the actual humans up to that point. The dinosaurs, as they were in the original, are the heroes of the story. The people exist to ruin things and get eaten, but it’s the dinosaurs you care about, and I think that’s why this movie works so well. You literally feel like a kid again cheering on all your favorite dinosaurs.
Basically, it’s exactly the movie you want it to be. To copy the original would be impossible, but this gets the closest to the original in terms of themes, visual style, and emotional impact. In terms of violence, it’s a bit more violent than the first, but not like the cheap rivers-of-blood silliness of The Lost World. I read one early review that made it seem like it was going to be this horrifying gore-fest, but it’s nothing like that. It’s the perfect amount of fun and scary. There’s no way it could have lived up to my expectations, and it could never surpass its film and textual origins, but it carries the torch ably and delivers on the promises of its trailer. All in all, a crazy fun film that I’m probably going to re-watch five thousand times. I also need to break out my Jurassic Park lunchbox from 2nd grade.
Next week, if all goes well, I will be reviewing Pixar’s upcoming Inside Out. See you then!