The original Jurassic Park worked so well not only because of the dazzling dinosaur effects—which still hold up today—but because the film adapted a fantastic sci-fi thriller and had characters the audience cared about. Jurassic World…well, it has good looking dinosaurs at least.
Set twenty-two years after the events of the first film, Jurassic World has seen John Hammond’s dream realized—a fully-functioning dinosaur attraction park. The onsite administrator is Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), a meticulous businesswoman who compartmentalizes everything in her life. Her two nephews, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), are coming to visit the park, but she’s so busy, she dumps them on her assistant, Zara (Katie McGrath). Claire is prepping for the launch of a new attraction, Indominus Rex, in a bid to spike attendance totals—because regular dinosaurs apparently aren’t good enough. Indominus Rex, however, won’t be found in a science textbook as it is a completely genetically-engineered dinosaur. The park’s owner, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), wants Owen (Chris Pratt)—a Velociraptor handler and expert—to check out the security of Indominus’ paddock. Owen has been busy bonding with four Velociraptors and essentially becoming the leader of their pack. As he explains to the head of InGen security, Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), he doesn’t control the raptors, “it’s a relationship built on respect.” Hoskins is interested in taking the raptors and adapting them to military applications, which Owen is firmly against. Owen goes to check out Indominus’ paddock and it looks like the dinosaur is missing. When he goes in to check it out, he discovers that the dinosaur tricked the humans into opening the cage so that it could truly escape and rampage throughout the park. Of course, Zach and Gray have given Zara the slip and they are alone in the park. Terror is supposed to ensue.
Okay, let’s get this out of the way first: yes, the new dinosaurs are cool. Indominus Rex is a total wild card with all the different DNA that was spliced into it and the aquatic Mosasaurus is pretty badass. The problem is Director—and one of four credited co-writers—Colin Trevorrow doesn’t really do anything interesting with them. The previous Jurassic Park films did a great job at scaring audiences and building suspense. There is none of that in Jurassic World. If you’ve seen the trailer, you pretty much know what you’re in for, but there is nothing deeper than that. The first film was essentially a horror movie, but Jurassic World telegraphs all the action a mile in advance. What kills me about this is that one of Indominus Rex’s tricks is that she can camouflage herself, which would have made for great scares, but the filmmakers do nothing with it.
Everything in this film is just glossy surface. The characters are paper thin with Hoskins being one mustache twirl away from being completely cliché. The only surprise was Dr. Wu (BD Wong), the only returning character from any of the previous films. In the first film, Wu came across as a scientist that shared John Hammond’s ideals and beliefs. Now, he fills in for Dennis Nedry and has a God complex. However, he also has the only scene that addresses why the film ignores current scientific findings about dinosaurs and how they are believed to have had feathers. But it is just one scene. Science took a real backseat in this one.
Pratt and Howard are fine as the leads, but there is no real substance to either of them. A lazy romance subplot is shoehorned in there for the two of them, but it is a very weak attempt to turn them into a modern day Han Solo and Princess Leia. The kids are another problem. Zach and Gray are only in this film to serve as a callback to Tim and Lex from the original film—Claire even wears all white a la John Hammond. The thing is, in a park full of patrons, we don’t need kids connected to another lead to put in danger. There are literally thousands of other people to use as dino victims. That brings us to the biggest problem with Jurassic World—only three named characters die in the film and one of those is in an accident, while another is only in the film for a handful of scenes. You never once feel that any of our main characters are ever in any real danger. I was so waiting for one of Owen’s raptors to gut him or at least maim him before the end of the film, but alas. By divorcing the kids from Claire, we might have believed they were in real danger, but the movie fumbles that badly.
The whole endeavor just feels like a wasted opportunity. The military application subplot comes across as so schlocky and even though this is a movie about genetically-engineered dinosaurs, there are several moments that stretch the audience’s suspension of disbelief. The action is well-filmed at least and the effects are nice, but they all add up to nothing. The best scene in the entire film involves Owen and Claire coming across an Apatosaurus that has been mortally wounded by Indominus Rex. It’s a quiet scene and the only one that actually generates some emotion. It’s also the only scene that really hearkens back to the wonder of the first film.
Jurassic World is a big dumb movie. If that’s your thing, you’ll enjoy it, but I expect more from a film that is tying itself so closely to the original Jurassic Park. Trevorrow and the producers have succeeded in turning Jurassic Park into a Michael Bay film with a lot of soulless action and little character development. There are some fun scenes here to be sure, but overall, it’s a disappointment.