A firmly by-the-numbers franchise milker.
Jurassic World is a classic case of sequelitis. It is a movie that tries to do everything right but nevertheless largely fails in recapturing the spirit of the original. It faithfully applies the Jurassic Park formula of puny humans being slaughtered by the dinosaurs they underestimate, in their haughty superiority. But in the process, that slavish imitation loses some of its soul. The result is a technically accomplished visual effects spectacle that nevertheless feels dull, repetitive, and utterly predictable.
The premise is, of course, a giant park with dinosaurs – Jurassic World, an even grander spectacle than Jurassic Park before it. In the name of pursuing bigger profits, scientists create an even bigger, badder, smarter dinosaur called Indominus Rex out of the genetic material of a T-Rex and several other dinosaurs. Human hubris rears its ugly head and the Indominus Rex escapes, and wreaks havoc on the park in the customary fashion. Amidst this carnage we have the human interest angle – two brothers, in a van – no, I mean, two brothers Zach and Gray Mitchell, on a field trip to see the park in the midst of their parents’ impending divorce, and their aunt, Claire, the park’s operations manager, who is portrayed as the typical career-focused executive who barely spends time with her family. The film sees the three of them, plus Owen, the badass velociraptor trainer played by rising action star Chris Pratt, at the centre of the action to take down Indominus Rex, and in the process, get some valuable family bonding time together.
The formula is strong with this one. I have three criticisms to make about this film.
First, the film gets bogged down with all that tiresome exposition about human hubris and the evils of corporate greed and abusing our knowledge of genetics. It’s unoriginal, it’s condescending, and it’s largely pablum – and it also has a kind of insidious anti-science undertone, the kind that causes people to criticize GMOs and rail against vaccines – you know, misplaced rage against The Man in a white lab coat who mindlessly fashions monsters in lab as part of an insane quest to crack the mysteries man was never meant to crack. That kind of theme has been inserted into every two-bit science fiction film since Frankenstein, and frankly, it’s getting stale and needs to stop.
Second, Jurassic World is, in typical fashion, a litany of stupid people doing stupid things that serve to aggravate the situation until the climax. That’s an uninspired and plain lazy way to ratchet up tension in the film. The film establishes Owen as the only sensible guy who has a handle on what’s going on, while everyone else is milling about in confusion, trying to clamp down on the situation in the worst possible way. In other words, Owen is the only trope-savvy member of the lot, a lone Cassandra in a bunch of wilful idiots that the film invites the audience to pour righteous scorn on. The most egregious example of this is the obnoxious Vic Hoskins, a private security firm contractor who wants to weaponize a bunch of velociraptors and use them to pursue the Indominus Rex. Minor spoiler: it doesn’t end well. Later he gets his comeuppance by being eaten by said velociraptors. The writers clearly intended his unfortunate demise to be maliciously welcomed by the audiences – but they made him such a caricature of the overweening alpha idiot that it just seems patronizing. Then, of course, when the park is in ruins and everyone’s dead or fled, our heroes can pull a couple of tricks out their asses and save the day. (Also, spoilers: that ending was such a cop-out megathirio ex thalassa…but a little fitting in that way: those with the biggest teeth need to assert their dominance in the food chain, after all…)
My last criticism is perhaps my biggest gripe. It’s that this film seems to have just looked at the Jurassic Park films and came to all the most wrongheaded conclusions on how to update the formula for contemporary audiences. The new film just focuses on setting up the disaster and going through its carefully-selected laundry list of “things to put in a dinosaur film”, while missing out on the qualities that made the first films iconic – the sense of wonder associated with just the idea of witnessing dinosaurs roam about in their own environment. I almost feel like the film’s teenage brother who just tags along, bored – like, this is all something I’ve seen before. Can’t dinosaur films do something other than “giant dinosaur escapes and goes on a carnage, eating hapless humans who obviously had it coming in their wrongheaded arrogance”?
Ultimately Jurassic World is a little bit like its namesake, ironically – big, flashy, over-corporate and over-processed, somewhat disturbing in how its main attraction is seeing dinosaurs eat and kill things, and lacking in that primal excitement, that spark, that verve, that drives a sense of wonderment. It’s palatable summer spectacle, but ultimately, it’s not a film that I’d revisit again.
I give this film: 2.5 out of 5 gyrospheres (how do those things not get dirty as they roll on the ground?)