For my generation, Jurassic Park is our Citizen Kane. Where Orson Welles revolutionized what you can do with film, Steven Spielberg wrote the book on how to use visual effects in ways that are now mythological. The complexity of animatronics gave the dinosaurs more life and personality than anything created with a computer. Of course, Jurassic Park used CGI in tandem with the practical, but it was the practical that stood out. From the contraction of a T-Rex’ pupils, to the large-scale robots, the dinosaurs felt alive. Each movie applied the same visual techniques and in the years after, when there were no more Jurassic films after 3, CGI took over the job of true artists and consumed the film industry. Henceforth, practical effects and the movies that used them have become legend.
That creates and interesting dilemma for Jurassic World (JW). Park was very much of its time, when CGI was in its infancy. Looking at it objectively, the movie succeeds mostly on nostalgia and the admiration of fans, thus negating the potential of JW if judged in regards to the originals. A fanatical love of the past was not the mindset I wanted going in, as it would profoundly affect this review, unlike what many other fringe-critics might do. Does Jurassic World stand on its own or did it need more time in the incubator?
If I were to rank the series, JW is third under 3 (yes, 3 is that good), with the first obviously on top. It has everything you expect: dinosaurs, pulp science fiction, an emphasis on the business side of running a theme park, and the underling theme of man meddling with nature. Its biggest flaw is a lack of focus.
After the events of the original movies, Jurassic Park has been rebranded as Jurassic World, revitalized into a fully functional theme park of over 20 thousand guests. In an effort to remain relevant, Park Director Claire, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, enlists the help of her geneticists to craft the first dinosaur hybrid, the indominus rex (D-Rex). But when she underestimates the creature’s capabilities, the D-Rex escapes captivity and wreaks havoc on the park.
The issue with focus is in regards to the story. The other films had two or three plotlines with a common thread of the park. In JW, there are maybe five, all of which still tied to the park, but there is so much going on it is almost difficult to keep up. I say almost because you can figure out what is going, even though there is a lot to take in. The story had many layers that needed to be peeled and discarded.
On a positive note, it was far easier to follow than Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Regardless of plot issues, JW is still quite good. There are more than enough scenes of dinosaurs in their natural habitat, interactions with humans, and plenty of intense dino-on-dion fights. Though more is not always best, the slow pace and minimal exposure helps stifle the excess. Even the D-Rex, long after it was revealed, is sometimes hidden throughout. If it were completely hidden like a classic monster, it would have emphasized the menace and terror of having an intelligent predator as big as a dinosaur.
Fans of Park will find a lot to enjoy. BD Wong’s Dr. Wu returns as the chief scientist of genetics and one other character that unfortunately is not Jeff Goldblum. On a deeper level, JW uses the nostalgia of the first film to celebrate its legacy.
The movie knows it will never be as good and acknowledges Park’s legendary status. The characters visit the original setting, tinker with the night vision goggles, drive one of the jeeps, and one character wears a shirt of the iconic logo. Said character, Jake Johnson’s Lowery, alludes to the previous failures while dinosaur figurines decorate his desk. He represents the nostalgia and serves as a buffer between the old and new. Claire even criticizes him for holding onto the past, reaffirming the new park will do just fine.
Overuse of CGI aside, Jurassic World is beautiful. It has a color pallet of greens and blues that compliments the lost world/classic Hollywood aesthetic. Contemporary elements like an excess of glass and shiny metals are tailored to a point they do not affect the overall style. For me personally, JW has nothing on the beauty and mayhem of Fury Road.
I can imagine a lot people were rather turned off by the inclusion of Ty Simpkins, the kid from Iron Man 3. Upon viewing, he was harmless as Gray, an exact parallel to Tim from the first film. His brother Zach, played by Nick Robinson, on the other hand was kind of ridiculous. I understand he is supposed to be an apathetic teenager obsessed with his phone, but his character was so blatant it was like listening to a Linkin Park song. Vincent D’Onfrio’s villain Hoskins was also blatant, but he was more of an active character. Howard probably had the best performance as she goes from a money-hungry cooperate type to tough survivalist who realizes her mistakes. Chris Pratt brought his usual charm to Owen that fans of his will certainly appreciate and had good chemistry opposite Howard.
One complaint I have is very personal and has no correlation to the quality of JW. In a scene after the D-Rex escapes containment, a helicopter equipped with an M134 minigun is sent out to kill it. However, the man behind the gun fails to even get shots on target and instead makes a trail in the dirt. Let me be clear, no one on this planet, soldier or otherwise, could ever miss with an M134. That weapon will hit whatever you aim at, the molecules around it, and everything behind. I suspect the gunner was a Democrat or European. If Jesse Ventura were on the trigger, the D-Rex would have been dog meat.
You should see Jurassic World. Fans and ordinary moviegoers alike will find a lot to enjoy. There is no denying the use of CGI takes away the magic of the series, but it still feels like a Jurassic Park film while standing on its own. It is a noteworthy entry in a so far pretty decent summer film season.