Review: Jurassic World

jurassic-world-poster-mosasaurusDistributor: Universal Studios
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Writers: Ricka Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Vincent D’Onofrio
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril)
Jurassic World is the fourth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise. Both Jurassic Park I and II were originally science-fiction novels, penned by long-time sci-fi writer, Michael Critchon. Steven Spielberg directed the first two in the series, with the third regarded as a commercial flop. Jurassic World intends to carry the flag and breathe new life into the old series.

Storyline

22 years after the failure of the original park, a new park, called Jurassic World opens. A new genetic experiment spawns a creature that cannot be held by its constraints. With countless guests at the park, a disconnected family sends their kids to meet their aunt, but they find more than anticipated.

 

Content Guide

Violence: Bloody dinosaur on dinosaur combat, people getting devoured, people being terrorized by dinos. Not as much blood as you would think. One quick scene is exceptionally dark and violent as one character is horribly thrown around by a pterodactyl, waterboarded, and then gobbled up by an enormous beast.
Language/Crude Humor: A dozen curses throughout, and a brief scene early on where characters allude to a previous sexual encounter.
Sexual Content: There is only one kiss, and it’s short.
Drug/Alcohol Use: One man holds two margaritas and bolts for his life, hoping not to spill anything as pterodactyls assault buildings.
Positive Content: As it is clear man has actually no control over things he assumes he does, neither do any scientists nor military personnel have any control over nature and the dinosaurs in the park. There is some content on divorce and sibling affection, but it’s flowery and empty and feels forced.

 

Presentation

I think we all remember the first time we saw 1993’s Jurassic Park. It feels like one of those iconic moments in our lives we won’t forget. I was born in 1990, unknowingly to one day be sadistically categorized as a self-important, cynical millennial. I enjoyed the simple things in life, like pounding food down my throat, growing a rat tail (thanks, Mom) on the back of my scalp, and popping off the heads of my sisters’ Barbie dolls.
Another fond memory of my youth was my obsession with dinosaurs. I hoped to be a paleontologist when I became an adult, and my stack of dinosaur picture books and Jurassic Park bed sheets proved it. I even staged multiple Godzilla-like battles with my stuffed, friendly T-Rex, versus my tough, plastic T-Rex I stole from a friend’s house.
You can imagine my excitement then, last night, when I heard the familiar rendition of John William’s classic horns, blasting the well-known theme from Jurassic Park. So many reminders of my delirious bewilderment from my youth of giant reptiles of old, wandering the lands, much like Dr. Grant and friends discover as they first ride through the plains, seeing dozens of long-necked beasts, an unhealthy Triceratops, and a stampede of wild Gallimimus.
Yes, it all flooded back to me in these moments and I caught myself wearing a cheeky grin, gasping in awe like a child at the pleasures on-screen. Oh, was it wonderful.
Director Colin Trevorrow clearly had a similar experience when he first saw Jurassic Park because there are so many fingerprints of Jurassic World’s predecessors here. At times, channeling camera movement from Steven Spielberg or characterization from original author Michael Crichton, and others, settling into last year’s Godzilla style warfare, or as another reviewer has noted, head cam style from Alien.
Trevorrow is deliberate in his style and complex with his sequences. There are so many nods to the previous entries of the dinosaur franchise, and upon review, countless influences from other sources in film history. It’s a spectacle. The theme park feels very real, like the violence, and somehow, none of it seems that outlandish.
I’m unfamiliar with Chris Pratt, outside of last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxybut my analysis is that he isn’t the same fellow he usually is. Here he is more a know-it-all, macho hero with good intention. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire, a high-up park operative who is more concerned with ticket sales and surveys rather than safety or how silly wearing those heels are. She stomps around the entire film without removing them, and comes off as a helpless woman who needs a manly savior, here in the form of Owen (Pratt).
Of course, it isn’t a Jurassic film without kids, and here we have brothers Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins). They are visiting the park for their Aunt Claire, but mostly so their parents can likely have some time to figure out divorce arrangements. There is some mention of this during the film, but it’s interesting to see the two interact. Zach is always on his phone, while Gray is typically enticed by whatever exciting exhibit is going on around him.
One scene of interest shows Gray jumping out of his pants in excitement as the T-Rex gobbles up a goat, and Zach is diddling away on his phone. There is a crowd between them, and we can’t even see the T-Rex do its work, like we remember previously in Jurassic Park. In another scene, Zach and Gray are both blown away by the sea-dwelling mosasaur as it leaps from the water to grab a shark, dangling like a minnow.
There is something introspective about all of these crazy exhibits with dinosaurs of all sizes flitting or bumbling about. Something is being said about American culture and its pursuit of bigger, better everything. Children watching Jurassic Park now, would likely not have the same level of excitement that I felt when I was young. Crowds flocking to an island where dozens of people were viciously torn to pieces a decade before, only to see the same genetically imagined creatures roaming freely. These people are throwing money at the sights and sounds of pleasure, without regard to the danger that could unfold before them.
The executives, park engineers, scientists, and owners all seem to be on a different page, where no one really knows what’s going on. It’s all senseless entertainment, and the people on-screen are not in any way detached from our own reality. We gobble up media and entertainment and hop onto social causes just because celebrities we respect voice their garbled opinion on issues they haven’t even thought about themselves. How foolish those people in the park are, and how stupidly we see ourselves.
Jurassic World ends with a sobering reminder of the devastation and strength of nature. We men and women are truly in control of nothing. Velociraptors changing allegiance on the flip of a switch, people being flipped around and munched by big sea beasts. Yes, I know dinosaurs don’t exist, but we might imagine we have control of our lives, but there is so much going on around us.
Many people wake up in the morning with a pretty good idea of how they want their day to go. They want to be at work at a certain time, come home to a cooked meal, enjoy their hobbies, and go to sleep feeling perfectly rested for the next repetition. When has anything gone absolutely according to plan? You at least were a minute off the time you expected to arrive at work, someone stopped to talk to you at work and you didn’t finish your project when you hoped, etc. We aren’t in control of anything.
Jurassic World finds its power in the groundwork its predecessors have laid down for it. The message of the older films reigns true here as well. What gave me the most goosebumps on my Thursday night premiere was partly the subtle thematics, but the most exciting moment was the conclusion of the late comment “we need more teeth.” This line should bear enough of a reminder to those who have seen the movie. Not only does it remind me of how awesome the climatic dino battle at the end of the film is, but I’m reminded again that all of the people in this film never maintained control of anything.

 

Conclusion

Jurassic World is stunning and memorable. It has all of the exciting elements we hoped it would and it is unflinching in its themes and convictions. The writing is good, but the characters are one-dimensional. What is lost in character development is made up for in scenery, design, and dinosaurs.

Positives

+ Emulates the awe of the original + Thoughtful integration of subtle themes + Smartly written with only a couple gag misfires

Negatives

- Mostly uninteresting characters - An unmotivated scene of violence for an undeserving character

The Bottom Line

Reminiscent of its predecessors, Jurassic World is action-packed, but lacks excitement in its first act.

 

7.9

Chris Hecox

Chris enjoys the simple things in life, like teaching his wife the newest review game, looking up Ketogenic recipes, and playing 10 hour long indie games on Steam. If he's not thinking about the oil drum components from Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, playing Player Unknown: Battlegrounds with his college buddies, or dwelling on the release of Daredevil Season Three, he's probably shooting or editing video, because that's what he does for a living.

1 Comment

  1. Charlie on June 16, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    I love reading these types of reviews an I couldn’t agree more with what you had to see about the parallels between the Jurassic World visitors and what our culture is like today. Keep up the good work!

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