Review: Jurassic World
By Floyd Rock
Including Mad Max: Fury Road, Terminator Genisys, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2015 is a big year for studio franchise revivals. Though the third film in the franchise was not as successful as the previous two it was only a matter of time before Universal would bring the popular Jurassic Park franchise back to theaters. In fact they’ve been trying to get a fourth film into production for the last decade. Set twenty-two years after Jurassic Park, Jurassic World begins by establishing that the fully functioning dinosaur theme park has been operating for years on the same island where the original park was intended to open. Bryce Dallas Howard stars as Claire Dearing, manager of all operations at the park from financial obligations and meeting with investors to monitoring attractions and any emergency that may arise. When her two nephews, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins), arrive Claire is too busy to entertain them and assigns her assistant the task of watching them while they visit the park. She has more pressing matters. To boost park attendance the division of scientists working for the park and its owner Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) has created a genetically modified dinosaur called the Indominus rex. Masrani and Dearing call upon Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), the park’s velociraptor trainer, to evaluate the Indominus and its enclosure before they clear the attraction safe to open to the general public. Grady immediately disapproves of their work with the Indominus. He tells them that their genetic manipulation is reckless because of the unforeseeable attributes they could have bred into the hybrid dinosaur and for its isolated upbringing, both making it an unpredictable threat. As expected Grady’s misgivings are warranted when the Indominus escapes its enclosure and runs wild on the northern part of the island. Dearing orders the northern sections of the park closed to attendees, unaware that her nephews are still out there, while operations to recapture the escaped dinosaur drastically underestimate its threat.
Much of Jurassic World is presented as if to pay tribute to Jurassic Park but it leans too heavily on audience’s fondness for the iconic 1993 movie and borrows more than it contributes to the franchise. Irresponsible scientific hubris gone too far, kids related to an operator of the park visiting at the most inopportune moment, and gradually discovering that a career isn’t the most important pursuit in life due to the near death experience of surviving attacks by escaped dinosaurs are just a few of the elements ripped from Spielberg’s film. Unfortunately director Colin Trevorrow isn’t as gifted in aping Steven Spielberg as one would hope. For instance, the subplot with the two brothers, Zach and Gray, focuses on their parents’ impending divorce and though the movie may utilizes Spielberg’s attraction to sentimentality it leaves out any of the carefully constructed dramatic relationships that sell that sentimentality. The brothers address their parents’ likely split in curt fashion, one sobs over it as the other denies it, and then the movie shifts attention elsewhere, content with its cloddish establishment of their understanding of the situation. Though it’s fortunate for Jurassic World that it has such a strong foundation because when it contributes something original to its narrative, specifically the park’s head of security operations, Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), is when it reaches its harebrained peak. Hoskins keeps pressuring Grady to use his raptors for military purposes and if that seems as ridiculous as it sounds that’s because it is and he continuously talks about them like compliant creatures that would take military orders without problems. It’s doltishly absurd and the movie’s weakest point.
The picture is at its best when Pratt and Howard are on screen. After Claire discovers her nephews are still out in the park, unaware of the danger, she enlists Grady’s help in finding them. Though their characters are little more than Rugged Man and Business Woman in a desperate situation the rule of opposing character types complimenting each other plays to the movie’s favor and Pratt and Howard carry the last hour as well as anyone could. Even when Jurassic World relies heavily on thoughtless convenience, like the placement of a dinosaur enclosure during its finale, Howard and Pratt are able to assist in overlooking some of these smaller shortcomings. If only their performances could help remedy the movie’s tone deafness and especially much of its comedic timing. Like Jurassic Park there are jokes that alleviate tense moments but the best of those would comment on the moment at hand, almost in the way that an anxious person would use humor as a coping strategy. In Jurassic World much of the comedy comes in awkwardly disrupting scenes at hand and falling flat in the process.
What set Spielberg’s picture apart is that the wonder, grandeur, action, and suspense were gradually earned by his talents in building his scenes, utilizing his camera to enhance these sequences rather than merely record them. On its own Jurassic World does little to define itself independently from the first movie and owes most of its success to Jurassic Park. Though there’s still some light adventurous escapism to enjoy in the haphazard bedlam of the picture and much of its cast is likable it never fully comes together as well as it should. It avoids becoming an unmitigated disaster but the movie is like the process in designing the Indominus rex, the outcome of a committee, oblivious to the mismatched attributes of their commercially minded product.