“Welcome to Jurassic Park”, so was the iconic line uttered by the late great Richard Attenborough in Steven Spielberg’s revered adaptation of Michael Crichton’s exciting novel. Since 1993 a lot has changed; where Spielberg spellbound with his use of special effects, nowadays even costume dramas have been known to digitally fiddle and whereas before the rustling bushes of large enclosures was enough to edge audiences to the periphery of their seat, now it seems that people want to see more and see it bigger. This is one of the points picked upon in Colin Trevorrow’s (Safety Not Guaranteed) long gestating fourth film in the Jurassic Park franchise. For years, studios, directors, casts and crew have debated about the direction of the next Jurassic adventure. After Joe Johnson’s fun but throwaway Jurassic Park III the future was uncertain, but in a truly ironic turn of events this summer, dinosaurs proved to be alive and well, as Jurassic World broke box office records and became the highest grossing film of this year so far (cue ominous lightsaber swoosh sound effects).
This sequel is based 22 years after the original and set in an all-new thriving theme park, Jurassic World, on Isla Nublar. The park’s operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is too busy with the day-to-day activities to spend time with her visiting nephews. However, when the park’s soon-to-be-unveiled new attraction - the genetically-created new species, the Indominus Rex - escapes the enclosure, all hell literally breaks loose. Dearing must team up with the park’s velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to find her nephews and try and find a way to stop this ultimate predator. The plot knowingly links to all that came before. However, while similar - Michael Giacchino’s score is indebted to Williams’ iconic beats - Jurassic World is the same story of tampering with nature with a very upgraded skin.
Trevorrow’s film is all about the pursuit of profit through scale and the conflict between less is more and bigger is better. The characters and story openly acknowledges that “you can’t beat the original”, so instead Trevorrow’s film simply tries to upgrade it and mostly succeeds, albeit with some expected issues. Jurassic World, with its island-wide park and huge Disneyland-like scale, arguably is the best film of the entire series to capture the largeness of the source material and revel in the danger of enclosing so many titans of nature together. Trevorrow has an eye for chaos and building up to it, and he delivers on the ferocious reptilian set pieces. True, the film does venture into the ridiculous - raptor training, a logic defying climax - but after all, this is a film about a theme park full of dinosaurs!
The biggest single problem with the film is its characters. Dallas Howard’s lead is particularly cold, not to mention the sexual politics of her character are questionable. This in turn creates a forced chemistry with the roguish Owen that is irrational, and some may find it more than a tad patronising. Pratt and Dallas Howard are fine in their roles but the characters themselves lack the memorability of the original's - and even parts 2 and 3 - crew of leads, not to mention the likeability. Only Jake Johnson’s control room worker, Lowery Cruthers, seems to boast notable charisma. Now in a film of this kind this is not as damning a flaw as it could be, but what helped make Jurassic Park so iconic was not just the spectacle but the human faces behind it - Dr. Ian Malcolm… whatta guy.
Still, charactoral flaws aside, Jurassic World is spectacular entertainment that is ridiculous but in the right way and a very enjoyable renovation. Although one of the best things about the film is something that everybody seems to have overlooked and that makes the other issues less of a bitter pill to swallow - the ideology. The film, of course, toys with the aforementioned ideas of going bigger to satisfy the modern day consumer, but Trevorrow’s film has an understatedly contemporary animal rights backbone and this is what elevates its standing. This on-screen theme park is a constant and keen comment on animal captivity issues and abuses of parks like SeaWorld (watch Blackfish), which is a timely conservationist edge showing there’s brains behind the teeth.
Jurassic World isn’t a perfect sequel, the characters are problematical and the plot occasionally defies logic, but the grand sense of Crichton’s source novel is done justice. Plus the film’s openness to modern day trends and its gratifying pushing of present animal abuse themes adds an extra layer to the sights, nostalgia and excellent action. This film is smarter than it appears and while some may not like the approach, this is a worthy sequel and a fun night’s viewing that delivers exactly what it was expected to - dinosaurs, theme park carnage and DNA tinkerers buggering up… again!
Special Features: Chris & Colin Take On The "World" / Barbasol Content / Welcome to Jurassic World / Dinosaurs Roam Once Again / The Control Room / Innovation Center Tour with Chris Pratt and Dinosaurs Roam Once Again / Deleted Scenes
JURASSIC WORLD / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: COLIN TREVORROW / SCREENPLAY: RICK JAFFA, AMANDA SILVER, COLIN TREVOROW, DEREK CONNOLLY / STARRING: CHRIS PRATT, BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD, TY SIMPKINS, NICK ROBINSON, IRRFAN KHAN, JAKE JOHNSON / RELEASE DATE: 19TH OCTOBER