JURASSIC WORLD REVIEW
InGen Classified Fact-File:
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, BD Wong, some Dinosaurs
Certificate: PG-13 /12 A
Running Time: 2 hours 4 minutes approx.
22 years after ‘that’ incident at Jurassic Park, the scientists and businessmen still have not learned their lessons. A fully functional theme park, Jurassic World is now open and whilst its numbers are good, they still strive for something bigger and better.
Enter a new dinosaur: Indominus Rex. Bigger than T-Rex; scarier than Velociraptor and above all – clever and deadly – . The administrators and visitors at the Park are about to learn again that man is not meant to meddle with DNA and nature.
Indominus-Rex goes on the rampage, thereby unleashing chaos on all around it. So it’s left to corporate executive Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), her two nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) and Navy veteran turned Raptor tamer, Owen (Chris Pratt) to try and save the day.
It was a very long time coming, but I’m pleased to report the fourth ‘Jurassic’ film is a fine blockbuster that thereby justifies the wait. The timing is just right: nostalgia for the first film at a premium; special effects advancing; reboots/re-makes/re-quels all the rage and enough time to finally nail the elusive premise that simply ‘worked’.
The pitch is a logical one. Whilst the original park was aborted due to the incidents of the first film, ‘life found a way’ and the suits simply waited to open a bigger, better one. And life mirrors art, or is it vice versa, here?
The events of Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park 3 are ignored. They were an irrelevance, a mere test for this true sequel. I never understood the hate for Lost World (I love it; consider it a truly great action-adventure film and superior in some senses to its immediate predecessor). But I seem to be a lone voice there. As for Jurassic Park 3? It was perfectly fine but not finely perfect. So, nothing is lost by simply skipping previously attempted sequels and framing this as a direct follow-up to part one.
It’s not a ret-con or reboot. But there is no attempt at burdening Jurassic World with shoe-horned cameos from the original cast (save quick visual nods to the late Richard Attenborough and a book cover that features..well..keep your eyes open and just wait).
The advantage is that the story need not devise contrived ways for old characters to involve themselves in a new adventure and we can simply get straight down to business. Nostalgic nods are reserved for the atmospheric set-pieces, all of which in some way doff a cap to the first film, whilst reflecting the ‘bigger and better’ mantra of the corporate suits and scientists in the film itself.
A film like this stands and/or falls on the efficacy of its visuals. Thankfully, this is a feast of imagery. You genuinely feel like this is a simulation of a real park and one gets the sense that a great deal of time and work was invested in logical, coherent and ambitious world design and building here.
Indominus Rex is a real treat; by far the scariest Dinosaur ever committed to film, with claws, teeth and skin texture that stand out from the screen be it in 2 or 3 d viewing environments. It’s a proper ‘baddie’: so it’s ok to want this thing taken down (it’s not some misunderstood King Kong type).
The island environment is filmed with scale and scope: juxtaposing luscious green jungle against the sanitised yet ironically more sinister corporate branded theme park set. But there is still the requisite sense of claustrophobia that sets in when the dinosaurs rampage and there is nowhere to hide. Believe me: there are some nasty, vicious scenes in this one. And quite right, too.
It always puzzled me as to why Spielberg’s vision in the first film was so restrained and benign? He toned down both the Dinosaurs and the human villains of Michael Crichton’s novels. Jurassic World, by contrast, never holds back.
It’s not quite an ‘R’ /18 rated movie and has plenty of ‘oooo’ and ‘ahhh’ moments (plus one domestic sub-plot that could ONLY have come from Mr. Spielberg!). But it has edge, too, both in theme and action and the pseudo-scientific exposition is here kept to a minimum. Ethical discussions do crop up; but punctuate rather than delay the action, so one never feels patronised.
The actors are all excellent. It’s a shame that Chris Pratt omits his customary comic timing, though one could argue that anyone would cease the jokes when generating genuine tension in a Man v Dino movie. He’s competent and convincing in the action sequences.
Is he Indiana Jones? Well possibly. This film certainly hasn’t harmed Pratt’s case. Needs to perhaps develop his body language as leading man, though. He can swagger and do genuine movie star machismo that was lacking for so long in today’s Cinema. But he cannot seem to fuse that with a library of ‘ticks’ that distinguish the ‘star’ from the ‘actor’. He’s getting there though and we all want him to win in this movie as in life.
It’s still a shame this film does not also have a Harrison Ford ‘type’: the academic elder statesman turned reluctant action hero mentor. Yes, story the better for not forcing old cast members into the fold. But even a five minute spot from Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm (say on television, TALKING about the Park?) would have been a warmly welcomed treat.
That said, we do get BD Wong returning as Dr. Wu (not looking any different either, 20 years on: did they clone him, too?). It’s a larger role this time; more complex. Teetering on villainy and mad scientist machinations, one nonetheless could find sympathy for the arguments he poses when defending the genetic monster Indominus Rex as a concept. Irrfan Khan’s Masrani is also likeable and a worthy successor to the Spielberg vision of John Hammond (‘Ross Perot meets Walt Disney’), whilst still hinting at the darker sides to the company he’s heading.
The two kids (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) are well cast: normal, adventurous yet vulnerable and hold their own with the grown-ups whilst remaining refreshingly un-precocious (bit like Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello in the first film). Vincent D’Onofrio is a sort of baddie come corporate henchman / military wannabe and as always, he’s excellent, though the role is slightly ill defined.
The stand out star here (aside from the Dinosaurs!) is Bryce Dallas Howard. Forget that Joss Whedon fuelled nonsense about her being some pre-feminist throwback. No. Avengers: Assemble and your mission is watch this film to learn how you REALLY show a ‘strong’ woman.
Bryce’s Claire is a corporate high flyer at the film’s start (powerful; career minded; competent: how is that weak? It’s not). She evolves a more nurturing side AND survivor’s spirit: advancing with the film. That’s character and plot in harmony, via a great actress.
This is a sexy, beautiful, powerful character who nonetheless maintains an alluring vulnerability that requires Chris Pratt to help her save the day. Because emancipation need not mean emasculation. Jurassic World shows true feminism. And Bryce is a true star: she just needed the right sequel!
Drawbacks? Quibbles? Weak spots? The film does drag in places and there’s a lack of cohesion between the hanging plot threads pervading the piece. There’s an occasional yet conspicuous lull in atmosphere, too. The outdoor, daytime shots are all well and good but the director here perhaps forgot that these movies look better at night and it takes him a LONG time to give us that nocturnal action.
Yes, I know the point here is to show a functioning theme park and those work during the day. But Night = instant atmospherics and it was for THAT reason (rather than a special effects deficit alone) that Spielberg’s originals probably opted to give us that darker pallet.
It also seems a shame that a movie which finally gives us the open theme park does not show more of the park’s sectors and escaping Dinosaurs causing havoc. There is one major set piece in that spirit (I won’t spoil it for you but there are these pesky flying creatures..run away now..quite fast..). We get plenty of glimpses and even some simulated rides. But there could and should have been more of that and less of the sub-plots. The control room scenes also fall flat: muddled in both tone and look, not a patch on the original.
The motif about the military is tagged on: a superfluous hangover from previous drafts and /or presumptuous set up for a sequel (inevitable now anyway, given the Billion Dollar Box Office Behemoth this movie has become overnight). You should not splice story strands, any more than scientists should play God with Dino-DNA! Speaking of awkward splicing, Michael Giacchino’s music score is fine but not a patch on his Star Trek and Mission: Impossible work. There’s no beating John Williams.
And one simply cannot top or beat the original Spielberg at his best: camera angles, style and unique gift for generating atmospherics of awe, wonder and terror. Jurassic Park was not just a movie but an event and one whose aura simply cannot be replicated or matched.
But Colin Trevorrow does a great job here and especially at such an early stage of his career. If this is just the beginning of his blockbuster run, then one might expect him to match not only Spielberg (who selected him, personally for this mission and collaborated on some key ideas) but also the likes of Alfred Hitchcock.
Trevorrow has made a film one can simply LIKE and ENJOY. Sure, he’s trading on old memories and falls short of their original impact and sensory feel. But there are also plenty of new ones on offer here and those stand on their own claws.
JURASSIC WORLD is not a ground-breaking classic and does have flaws. But it is also a movie with style, charm, thrills, heart and blockbuster brilliance. And yes, the Dinosaurs and effects are great.
Grade B+ : Something for everyone; (perhaps don’t show to younger children or more vulnerable adults). It’s not really ‘new’ but neither is it some tired re-tread. A wholly satisfying experience. GRRRRR-eat popcorn fun.