Right then. After all the buildup, how was Jurassic World? I wasn’t sure what to expect, particularly after reading a few reviews – but what I got was a fun, worthwhile film overall.
Two decades after the failure of the original Jurassic Park, InGen has actually succeeded in setting up an operational dinosaur theme park – known as Jurassic World – on Isla Nublar. We open with teenagers Zach and Gray (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) as they head for a vacation at Jurassic World, where their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) works as the operations manager. Despite the obvious popularity of the park, the owner Mr Masrani (Irrfan Khan) wants to ensure that visitors remain interested, and so has ordered the creation of a new hybrid dinosaur, a super-predator called the Indominus rex. This turns out about as well as you’d expect: the I-Rex turns out to be highly intelligent and equipped with a range of deadly abilities. It soon goes on the rampage, leaving Claire and dinosaur trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) trying to stop it, with Zach and Gray caught in the thick of things.
I was a bit unsure as the film started up, mainly because of the characters, who weren’t terribly likeable at first. Zach and Gray are the typical antagonistic teenage brothers, with Zach preferring to stare meaingfully at attractive girls than babysit his younger sibling, and showing little sympathy at Gray’s distress over their parents’ likely divorce. Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire is the equally typical serious businesswoman with no time for a personal life or even to meet with her nephews. Chris Pratt’s Owen is a bit more charismatic, but not enough to make up for the others at the beginning. Fortunately, this does improve as the situation escalates and the characters develop positively while trying to cope: Zach and Gray are able to gel, Claire gets her priorities straight, and Owen gets to show off his cooler skills.
As I’d hoped after watching the trailer, there is a bit more to the whole film than just stopping the I-Rex, though that is at the heart of things: the I-Rex is very much the central antagonist. There’s also the matter of rescuing Zach and Gray from the wilderness, and dealing with security people who are interested in the military applications of Owen’s trained raptors. All these things are brought together nice and neatly: in particular, we are able to see how the park works through Zach and Gray’s tourist experience, not by having it all dumped at the beginning as the trailer seems to indicate, but having these scenes interspersed with the other sub-plots even when things have already started going to hell. I liked how Jurassic World feels just like an actual big-budget American theme park: there’s sponsor logos everywhere, music playing inside all the buildings and transports, and even an information video with Jimmy Fallon on one of the rides. There’s a great sense of scale throughout, such as the mosasaur attraction with its seats that lower spectators to the underwater viewing area; it all feels like a very impressive setting onscreen. And there are some nice callbacks to the first movie, such as a brief appearance by Mr DNA, and a couple more significant ones I don’t want to spoil.
What about the action? If you’re interested in seeing dinosaurs smashing things, chasing people and fighting each other, then of course this is the film for you. The I-Rex may look slightly generic, but there’s still some excellent use of suspense when it’s stalking its victims. The CGI is no better or worse than most films these days. One thing has occurred to me since my last post on Jurassic Park, where I talked about how the original made me believe the dinosaurs were really there: perhaps that reflects what audiences wanted at the time. CGI was still fairly new then, and Steven Spielberg wanted audiences to think his dinosaurs were real. But these days, we’re so used to it that it just has to look good rather than be truly realistic – and if that’s true, it actually parallels with the thought processes within the film that lead to the creation of the I-Rex, to impress visitors who “look at a Stegosaurus like it’s an elephant” in Claire’s words.
In the months before the film came out, I heard some comments from speculating people who were worried that the Velociraptors would lose their intimidation factor if they had been trained – but that’s not the case. It’s made very clear that even in Owen’s hands, the raptors are on the very edge of control, creating appropriate tension when they’re around. As in previous films, it’s in the third act that the raptors are let out to do their thing, and it’s at this point that we get the best of the film’s action sequences. The climax builds to a huge fight scene that feels very indulgent but is also undeniably awesome: when it was over, I wanted to start applauding – but nobody else in the theatre did so I had to hold myself back for fear of looking like a fool.
Jurassic World is probably the best of the Jurassic Park sequels; it brings the central concept into modern times, and if you’re just looking for fun, excitement and dinosaurs, you’re in safe hands with this one. Rating: 4/5.