Jurassic World (dir. Colin Trevorrow, 2015) – Isla Nublar re-opens to massive crowds, two decades after the failure of Jurassic Park, but things are about to go awry.
Hold onto your butts. Here comes a rant on a Jurassic Park sequel that clearly needs more Jeff Goldblum.
Jurassic Park first opened in 1993 when I was two and illiterate. It was only a decade later when I watched the movie on television and became a fan. Nothing comes close to the IMAX 3D re-release just two years ago; long-time fans and first-time viewers left the cinema audibly thrilled, a stark contrast with the lukewarm reactions that Jurassic World met.
Still, nostalgia greets as Isla Nublar re-opens its gates. Decades have passed since InGen’s savage failure of the themed attraction Jurassic Park. Actual dinosaurs on display fails to prevent the falling visitor rates at the park. Greed, pride and scientific ambition respond, soon driving fatally exponential artificial evolution.
65 million years of gut instinct cannot be tamed and life, uh, finds a way. The new attraction inevitably launches into her deadly hunt. Where is Ian Malcolm when we need him? Did no one invite Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler too – or are they just smart enough to keep away?
One familiar face never learns. BD Wong returns as shifty chief geneticist Dr Henry Wu. The sole returning human cast member sadly remains in the backdrop with a few unmemorable lines. Instead, we spend most time with Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach Mitchell (Nick Robinson), who need child services more than Ian Malcolm on speed dial.
Watch as their parents leave them in the care of their aunt Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who in turn abandons them in the care of her personal assistant Zara Young (Katie McGrath). Amidst a dinosaur rampage, Zara loses the kids, Claire momentarily forgets about them, and it takes Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) – a total stranger – to rescue the kids.
Owen is not much of a hero either. Showing more respect for raptors than people, he holds a bitter grudge for a woman who had rejected his advances on a first date ages ago. Gray and Zach show equal disregard for their Aunt Claire, immediately dismissing her importance just minutes after she prevents a fatal assault.
Claire makes this rankling problem easy to accept, showing signs of sociopathy when met with a child’s hug. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Claire’s sister Karen (Judy Greer), who weeps every moment the clapstick shuts on the slate board. Whether one considers these tropes sexist is an inessential debate, when the writing falls woefully short no matter.
Unlikable personalities and minimal backstory are but two of myriad issues with poor characterisation, barely mitigated by the cast. It is infuriating to see Owen’s best friend Barry (Omar Sy), so underutilised in his purposeless appearances. Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) and Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) make do with constant exposition of their dull pecuniary and military motivations.
More missed opportunities lie in the striking lack of repercussions from the events of its predecessors, making this universe more removed from the real world. How can the park re-open with so little opposition? Has the cloning technique brought back the dodos? Where is Jeff Goldblum, really?
It is clear that both fictional park operators and real-life movie studio moguls share the disastrous desire of something bigger, scarier and cooler. The push backfires, removing our willing suspension of disbelief. If the absence of a kill-switch for the Gyrosphere fails to sound the alarm, surely the Syfy-esque finale will.
So, we fall back on the world-building that delivers on their promise to awe. Parallels to real-world amusement parks make the stunning universe immersive in all its grand possibility. A dinosaur petting zoo? Watching a mosasaurus feed up-close? How about this full-functioning Jurassic World website? Uh, a million times yes.
The dinosaurs are after all, the stars of the show. We revel in the beautiful recreation of each extinct creature, fascinated in the hybrids’ novelty though threatened by their predatory nature. Pterodactyls sweep through crowds in intimidating numbers, while newcomer Indominus Rex initiates neat chases.
Atop great blockbuster action, a killer score contributes to our contentment. Accomplished composer Michael Giacchino takes cue from John Williams’ indelible theme and revives the familiar notes for a new generation.
Even so, we do miss the inimitable tension of the iconic kitchen Velociraptors in Jurassic Park and hope for a better sequel. In fact, we may not settle for anything less than evolved and speaking dinosaurs, riding horses and armed with machine guns… You are welcome, Mr Trevorrow.