Jurassic World: Film Review
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, Dinosaurs, BD Wong
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Welcome to Jurassic World.
A world 14 years in the making, a world where logic and cell-phone coverage are dramatically intermittent, a world steeped in a reverence and nostalgia of its past. And a world where once again reason fails to win over corporate greed and dinosaurs threaten our very existence.
In the latest, the fourth addition to the Jurassic Park series, we find ourselves on Isla Nublar, now a fully functioning dino theme park, living the legacy of Richard Hammond and yet still fighting the corporate greed of attracting a new range of visitors and sponsors to the site.
When the nephews of park manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard, initially heroic and always in high heels) head to visit, she finds herself having the worst day possible, thanks to the escape of a new genetically modified dino hybrid, the Indominus Rex. Setting out onto the island with the help of the Doctor Doolittle of the Dino world, Owen Grady (a slightly moodier and serious but still wise-cracking Chris Pratt), she tries to track down the kids.
For its first 30 minutes, Jurassic World is a blast.
It's bathed in a nostalgia of the kind of goosebumps you felt the first time you saw the dinosaurs on the big screen way back in the 1990s, when the T Rex roared through the speakers and the screen shook when that foot first slammed on the muddy ground.
It's a film which has a character admit early on, rather cannily, that "no-one's impressed by a dinosaur any more" before then showing off the very latest CGI Dino-tomfoolery while blasting that iconic and still effective John Williams riff through the screen. It also riffs on how corporate greed for the continual pursuit of the dollar is crippling their industry, messing with the very eco-sphere and apathy that haunts theme parks' owners everywhere. It even has a funny warm tech guy (New Girl star Jake Johnson) who has an original Jurassic Park T Shirt on as well as that CGI DNA Strand from Hammond's original presentation. It's horrendously self-aware and beautifully aware of what to stir within you to set you off reminiscing.
But then the cliched characters and everything-goes-to-hell-at-a-convenient-moment-plot really kicks in and you have this horrible feeling of deja vu. A B-plot about the army wanting to take on Grady's trained raptors presents itself and everything old which felt new again is suddenly old in terms of story and dialogue as the B-movie schlocky creature feature kicks into gear.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the writing of the women of Jurassic World, which feels like it's come from the Jurassic Era of Hollywood screenwriters. Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire goes from strong ball-buster to shrieking wreck who has to be rescued all the time; her one moment of self-empowerment is ripped away thanks to Grady's acknowledgement of her achievement and she's back to the sidelines; equally, the nephew's mum is simply more than a worrying sort who sends the kids away and then frets as the inevitable plays out. It looks very much as if Joss Whedon's Twitter criticism of the script is spot on and certainly it's hard to step away from the overall nagging feeling that the women don't do well in this world that's clearly here just for the ride and thrills and nothing else.
Pratt brings his usual charisma to the role of Grady, though it's somewhat steeped in more dour seriousness than we're used to - but don't fret, there's still quippery to be had and there are still plenty of signs that this guy's groundedness and everyman charm show no signs of wearing off.
However, it can be argued, thanks in part to a Deus Rex Machina, that this cheesy lined, cornball flick is saved by the creatures themselves - even the Raptor Squad that Pratt's character has trained up. Most of the moments the dinos are on screen - from the Indominus Rex to the raptors racing through the forest to the Sea-World-esque creature soaking the viewers are incredible; a nod to previous creature features (via a Viewmaster early on) shows the series respects and adores its roots -even if it bastardises them somewhat with a dino that's had its DNA mangled by the mad scientists in the lab. A scene where Grady and Dearing are out in a clearing is a nice nod to a certain scene with a Triceratops from the first flick and gives the production a chance to use an actual creature rather than another CGI interloper.
Ultimately, Jurassic World brings exactly what you'd expect to the table in terms of story and spectacle - it's a world where dinosaurs both literal and metaphorical roam triumphantly, content to bathe in the glory that once was. It's a spectacle and a blockbuster alright, but it's a hollow one that feels like it's just managing to stay one step ahead of extinction.