Starring: Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy), Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help), Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket), Ty Simpkins (Iron Man 3), Nick Robinson (The Kings of Summer), Omar Sy (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Jake Johnson (Let’s Be Cops), Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire)
Director: Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed)
Writers: Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and Derek Connolly (Safety Not Guaranteed) & Colin Trevorrow
Runtime: 2 hours 4 minutes
Release Date: 11 June (UK), 12 June (US)
For kids of my generation, Jurassic Park still stands as one of the Holy Grail films of our childhood. It made dinosaurs cool again, it’s immensely quotable, and the story and effects still stand up to this day. It’s a pity then that The Lost World and Jurassic Park III never lived up to the original’s standards; even as a kid, I found them lacklustre. A fourth film has been bandied about ever since the third instalment, but now 22 years after the original (wow, that makes me feel old) they’ve finally delivered on that promise with Jurassic World.
Picking up in real time since the first film (and sidestepping any acknowledgment of the others, so don’t worry), the park is now fully operational and packed full of tourists ready to become dino-chow. This is such a strong idea for a sequel that you almost wonder why they never did it before, as it majorly raises the stakes of the story by adding a much greater potential body count. This sequel is also much bigger on action, with far more elaborate chases and dinosaur battles that border on insane by the film’s intense climax. It’s well paced, full of solid action and comedy bits, plenty of fun references to the original film and, most importantly, retains the heart of the original film that the sequels often lacked. However, there are unfortunately a fair few problems. Firstly, the whole “fully-operational park” idea feels undercut when, other than one particularly cool bit involving pterodactyls, the story never takes too much advantage of this and instead remains focused on a small set of characters again. Not that I was asking for a Roland Emmerich-style cast of thousands film, but it’s hard to ignore considering that the place is packed with all these innocent lives and yet we still spend most of the time just following a handful of people through the jungle again. But even with that narrow focus, the story feels a little cluttered, especially considering the film never really decides who the film belongs to: Owen (Pratt), Claire (Howard) or Zach and Gray (Robinson and Simpkins). This results in the narrative being thinly spread and some subplots that don’t end up going anywhere, like Zach and Grey’s parents’ divorce or Zach’s girlfriend for example. But the story’s main problem is that it deals with a lot of clichéd themes and ideas, some held over from the previous films (risking lives in the name of money, “some things should be left to nature”) and others new here but still tired in films generally (government/military wanting to weaponise feral creatures). Ultimately, the film doesn’t have anything new to say about the series on a thematic level that hasn’t already been hammered into our head, instead relying on the same “science is cool but also dangerous” message as all the others, and after such a long wait it’s disappointing that the franchise hasn’t matured on this level more.
With Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt showed that he had potential as a leading man and he affirms that with his role in Jurassic World. Sure, it’d be nice to see him play something other than a wisecracking, womanising manchild in the body of a badass, but he’s just too darn good at it to not take advantage. Bryce Dallas Howard’s role is a little clichéd at first as the “workaholic who thinks of everything unemotionally and ignores family for work”, but she does evolve over the film into a tougher character and her chemistry with Pratt is strong (if a little sporadic). The rest of the cast doesn’t stand out as much, though I found this was more down to writing than acting. Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson are pretty good as Howard’s nephews, but the film doesn’t give them enough to do and their relationship with each other, Howard and their parents is a bit undercooked. Vincent D’Onofrio is always great and he gives it his all, but he’s stuck with the old “military man obsessed with exploiting tragedy for his own benefit” routine and he ends up feeling like a walking cliché, whilst Omar Sy and Jake Johnson get their fun moments but are ultimately pretty disposable.
On a technical level, Jurassic World perfectly captures the feel of the Spielberg original. Whilst a lot sleeker than its forbearer, the fingerprints of Jurassic Park are clear in the film’s aesthetic design. The cinematography is vivid and engrossing, picking up intensity in the action sequences with some impressive long takes that enlarge the experience. Michael Giacchino does a great job of picking up John Williams’ themes and making them his own, crafting a score that is both familiar but different, and the sound design on all the dinosaurs is as imposing as ever. Whilst there are some uses of animatronics here and there, Jurassic World definitely relies far more on CGI than the original. Luckily, technology is now up the task of doing things like extended close-ups on dinosaurs and the effect is ultimately pretty seamless, though some more practicality may have upped the nostalgia factor.
Jurassic World is ultimately a fun summer blockbuster ride and certainly a far more worthy successor to Jurassic Park than the other sequels, but still pales in comparison to the original. The core idea of the movie is great and it’s backed up by strong performances by Pratt and Howard along with some good action beats and a nice handful of nostalgia, but the somewhat unfocused narrative and hackneyed themes do dampen the fun. However, whilst certainly not as good as the original, it’s also good to bear in mind that it’s a different film; what makes it different doesn’t necessarily make it worse, it just makes it its own movie. Colin Trevorrow’s passion for the material certainly comes through and I continue to be interested in his career, but compared to his debut feature (the criminally underseen Safety Not Guaranteed) it’s a step up in scale but a step back in originality. There’s certainly a lot to like in it and a less discerning audience can probably get over a lot of its problems, but it’s just something to bear in mind. Let’s just hope it’s not another twenty years before they take another stab at the property.
FINAL VERDICT: 7/10