I didn’t see Jurassic Park in theatres back in 1993. I was too young. Apparently it was something to behold. It was a benchmark in cinema and set a new standard in special effects. But most of all, it imprinted a pop culture notion of what dinosaurs were. Real Palaeontologists no doubt lament the inaccuracies, but Jurassic Park was likely made for the same reason they took that career: the love of dinosaurs. We love the mystery of them. The fact that they were once real and alive, but no human has seen a live one appeals to the kid in all of us. That’s why kids are much more fascinated by dinosaurs than say, dragons. Of course you can love dragons, but they aren’t nearly as interesting as something real.
Jurassic Park was the love child of Steven Spielberg and Michael Crichton, director and author of the novel, respectively. No one crafts a blockbuster quite like Spielberg in his prime. We could chat about that more, but we already did in our first podcast episode. So, check that out. But there were two sequels because Hollywood knows when there is still money to be made on an idea. I actually liked (but not loved) The Lost World. Jurassic Park III, on the other hand, was puzzlingly pointless and paper thin. After that it seemed like the concept was tapped out, with continued talks about a fourth movie, which never quite materialized.
Which brings us to present day, 14 years since a Jurassic Park movie hit the big screens. Jurassic World plays off of the fact that it’s been so long since John Hammond tried to open the original park and shows a shiny, technologically superior new park called Jurassic World which is fully functional and open to the public. Of course, the public wants more bang for their buck because, after some years, dinosaurs just aren’t as cool as they used to be. So, now they’re genetically engineering some super dinosaurs to be bigger and scarier than the real thing. That brings us to Indominus Rex, a big ol’ dangerous super-dino that ate her sister and doesn’t want to be your friend. The good news is that it escapes so we can have a story line. All hell breaks loose in the park and it’s up to Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas-Howard), to save some kids and stop the dinos from doing what dinos do in every Jurassic Park movie.
The good news is that this may be the best Jurassic Park sequel… though I’m not sure. I’d have to see The Lost World again, but I can definitely say that this is many times better than the stinker of Jurassic Park III. But you know, not hitting a really low bar isn’t exactly high praise. The point is that nothing got the balance of wonder, horror, and adventure quite right since the original and the same goes for this one. Spielberg is not back to direct this, but serves as executive producer, which doesn’t mean that much at the end of the day because he sits in that chair for the Transformers movies.
Hmm… this review isn’t showing much promise. So far all I’ve said is basically “it’s not the worst thing ever!” Director Colin Trevorrow is competent enough, despite this being his first major feature film. He does manage to build up some excitement and spectacle, but the direction wasn’t the problem with this film. There is something bigger at work here to undermine what should have been a home run. And I think the main problem is there is a synthetic feel to the film. It feels very much like the script was written to death, delivering point by point what studio executives think audiences want to see. It doesn’t feel like a labour of love, but a well calculated fan service machine. It’s kind of ironic actually because in some ways it feels like the story of the film was essentially speaking out against that. Perhaps that’s a clever writer working out his frustrations with the system he’s caught in, but who really knows.
The film opens up some discussions involving meeting expectations of the masses and the growing need of excess for consumers. Perhaps the Indominus Rex is a literal interpretation of consumerism destroying us or at the very least, undoing itself. I appreciate that the film brings these questions to the table, but again, the irony of the real life blockbuster is too thick. I mean, mostly it just feels like the Indominus Rex is replacing the Spinosaurus as the new bigger, badder dinosaur because that one sucked. But hey, they were trying to open the dialogue about messing with nature, not unlike the first Jurassic Park, though this time the focus is more on if it’s ethical to invent new dinosaurs. I guess the chapter is closed on whether or not they should bring back dinosaurs at all, but yeah, it’s been 20 years.
Then most of the discussion is left on the table because all hell breaks loose and people start getting eaten so who has time for philosophy? But I guess that was how it went down in the first Jurassic Park film. Have some discussion then get into the conflict and action. Now either I’m holding the first movie on an undeserved pedestal or this one just doesn’t transition as well. But the first one did seem to have the cause and effect down; the conflict was consequence. And I guess that’s the case here, but it seems more contrived.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that the human stories don’t work. The kids here shouldn’t survive, nor do they deserve to. They openly put themselves in danger and blatantly ignore all warnings of danger. One of the reasons we felt for the kids in the first film was because they were victims of the carelessness of John Hammond. He thought he could control these forces of nature, but could not. Here, nature made it’s choice by them being stupid and these kids should have died. It’s just luck (the script) that kept them alive. Now you’re saying that I should stop comparing everything to the first movie, right? Well, fine, except this film follows the same basic formula of story, but with blatant references to the first movie. It basically compares itself. Say what you will about The Lost World, at least the story went through different motions.
But I don’t even mean to lambaste the film. Would you believe I enjoyed it? There are a few films which are fun to watch at the time, but once you step away for a little bit, the stitching of the plot begins to unravel. You start picking at things easy like Claire outrunning a Tyrannosaurus Rex with high heels on. Then you move to bigger things like the Indominus Rex communicating with the raptors despite being bred and raised in complete isolation. Then next thing you know, the whole story begins to feel more and more forced. But hey, while you’re in the theatre you get to see dinosaurs! And and and Chris Pratt riding a motorcycle with trained raptors at his side! I mean come on guys! That’s awesome! And hey, at the very least it had a point and progressed the overall Jurassic Park story, unlike the third movie. I mean, we all kinda wondered what it would have been like if the park actually opened. Now we know. Turns out that dinosaurs are dangerous. Huh.