Review: Typical Jolts Barely Make 'Jurassic World' a Worthy Revival
by Jeremy Kirk
June 11, 2015
Just as the dinosaurs dominated the planet until 66 million years ago, the Jurassic Park series is king when it comes to putting these extinct creatures on film. This has been the case ever since 1993 when Steven Spielberg's original film swept through that Summer's box office. It only took two sequels before the bloom was decidedly knocked off the rose, but don't think a few missteps will put a heavy-hitter such as this on the franchise endangered species list. With the latest, Jurassic World directed by Colin Trevorrow, the park is back open, the dinosaurs are roaming once again, and the fodder park vacationers are getting lined up for lunch having the time of their lives. What could possibly go wrong that hasn't gone wrong already?
That may be the question you're all asking yourselves in regards to a fourth entry in the Jurassic Park franchise, but there may be a more direct way of asking it. What more could this series possibly have to offer that we haven't already seen before? For the most part, not a whole lot, but the setup for Jurassic World may have you second guessing those doubts. Just the setup, though.
When the film opens, the park, now renamed "Jurassic World", is already opened and has been running smooth operations on a daily basis. Tens of thousands flock to the park to gawk and awe at the massive creatures nature wiped out long ago. Like any big-budget endeavor, though, the basic attractions just don't cut the mustard for very long. Audience members want bigger teeth, scarier beasts, and more awe-inspiring acts of nature. It's here where the new company in charge of park operations, Masrani Global, makes the same mistake John Hammond's InGen made with the initial Jurassic Park idea and where they all should have listened more closely to Ian Malcolm's screams of chaos theory.
With park patrons growing tired of the same old T. Rex/goat game, this new corporation decides to create their own species of dinosaurs. A hybrid of all the most terrifying aspects the dinosaur world has to offer is genetically created, a possible game-changer when it comes to the way the park introduces its newest attractions. Once again, what could possibly go wrong?
There's an obvious end-game at work with Jurassic World, the same end-game we've experienced three times before. Dinosaurs who shouldn't exist are roaming an island. Humans who are in way over their heads decide it's a good idea to travel to that island. Much screaming, running, and gnashing of teeth come soon after. Repeat that formula three or four times. It's the reason the franchise, itself, was nearly wiped out after Jurassic Park III, but time and a little fresh paint can revitalize any familiar idea.
The screenwriting team behind Jurassic World certainly don't want to disappoint fans, so that prerequisite chaos is sure to break out somewhere between opening and closing credits. The most interesting new additions to this film, though, are in the setup. We've never seen a fully functional dinosaur theme park, John Hammond's dream, come to life in this world. Sure, this is due to the tragedies that came from that initial attempt, but this current world is either unaware of the unexpected dangers or it just doesn't care. To see how casually human beings get torn up and eaten in Jurassic World, you may start to lean towards the latter. The clueless decisions made by the new owners might make you lean towards the former, though.
This awkwardness is strewn throughout Jurassic World. There's a frustration that builds as we watch Masrani Global, more importantly the company's CEO (played by Irrfan Khan) and Manager of Park Operations (played by Bryce Dallas Howard), stumbling through the exact same mistakes. Without them, we wouldn't have dinosaurs chasing after humans for a quick bite, and that's kind of the point here. The only person on the island who has the slightest sense of real-world survival instincts is a trainer (Chris Pratt) who spends his free hours training a pack of Velociraptors, you know, in case that inevitable disaster ever actually happens. Thank God for that genetic hybrid, or Jurassic World's excitement would peak at the line of people waiting to get into the T. Rex pen.
Training the Velociraptors is the other, interesting element Jurassic World adds to this universe, though it definitely adds to the silliness of it all, as well. Vincent D'Onofrio plays the head of security for InGen, and his military aspirations and idea of using the dinosaurs as a weapon is another intriguing aspect but one that's never developed to its fullest extent. A lot of Jurassic World's ideas are half-baked, at least the ones that include anything other than dinosaurs devouring humans. These ideas could have been developed into a stronger reboot of the series, but Jurassic World's obligation to its predecessors is evident from scene one.
Director Colin Trevorrow broke onto the scene with the Sundance, indie comedy hit, Safety Not Guaranteed, and it explains why the humor in Jurassic World is working overtime. It also explains Jake Johnson's presence as one of the park's tech operators, who, along with Lauren Lapkus as another tech, makes up yet another subplot gone awry. While the humor clicks better than average for this franchise, Trevorrow's eye brings a brightly-lit, rather colorful sheen to all the familiar proceedings.
The level of digital effects is also off the reigns this time around, as the dinosaurs in Jurassic World have the same, weightless look most CG creations take on these days. There's nothing visually stunning here that isn't obviously made up of 1s and 0s, and what vague drama Jurassic World is going for ends up loose, short-changed, and overall weak. Howard's character has a pair of nephews visiting the park, and you just know their inability to follow the rules is going to put them right in the path of destruction.
The film's humor definitely makes good use of its lead actor's charisma. Pratt's charm is almost as strong as his dopiness, and Jurassic World allows the actor to utilize both characteristics. His character needs to be rugged, as well, to follow through on the whole training-the-Velociraptors aspect, but this is an aspect Pratt has difficulty with. His two, former attributes make up for a lot, but you're left wondering whether the Guardians of the Galaxy star was the best choice or just the most popular. At the very least, it makes you question the decision to have him fill the vacant Indiana Jones spot.
The rest of the cast falls under the typical scream-in-peril-and-run-like-hell performances with which the Jurassic Park franchise has become synonymous. Howard and Khan play their parts to the corporate T. D'Onofrio's performance is exactly what you would expect from a military-loving security head. Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins have definitely watched the child performances in the franchise's previous entries, and they play their respective parts in turn.
There's very little surprise with Jurassic World, a film whose existence is motivated by the continuation of a franchise and whose heart is stuck impressing us with what we've already seen before. It's an entry that will entertain die-hard fans of Spielberg's original, but even those fans understood, when Spielberg returned for The Lost World, there was only so much growth this series could take. Aside from the interesting world the park at the center of this franchise helped build, there isn't much else you can do when it comes to humans and dinosaurs coexisting. Jurassic World doesn't strive for much more than the shallow, flat entertainment we're now getting, and it's growing increasingly stale. Unless they know how to genetically modify a hybrid of all the movies in this franchise, maybe it's time to let the Jurassic Park series go extinct once and for all.