With Jurassic World coming out this weekend, it was hard to NOT find the time and money to go and see it. The third sequel to the film that changed my childhood and young-adult life, and what appeared to be a promise to redeem the wonder, suspense, and quality of the original.
As more and more trailers were released for the film, my excitement, and my hope, began to dwindle. The great fire that once burned within me to see the film faded and faded until it was now more of a small flare; it shown brightly, but lost much of its volume and size. However, now having seen the film and gotten over my theater shock, I can give a more level-headed overview on my thoughts and feelings of the film.
Jurassic World is an exciting, shocking, and delightfully self-aware film (almost too self-aware in some situations). It is definitely worth a theater visit, and likely even deserves your money to purchase and own once it releases. It introduces us to more dinosaurs than the other films, and while it hits many of the same beats as the original film, has enough that has changed to keep us excited from start to finish.
As can be seen from the trailers, the film opens with a couple of young boys (one around 16ish and one around 10) being shipped off to Jurassic World, the revisionist version of the original dinosaur park, to enjoy the themed zoo with it's manager, their aunt, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). While the kids are off on the various rides and exploring what the island has to offer, Owen's (Chris Pratt) raptor-training exercises are interrupted so that he can go and examine the park's newest attraction, a genetically engineered hybrid dinosaur called the Indominus Rex. The Indy-Rex hasn't been integrated into the park as a whole yet, and has its own private, small pen. During Owen's inspection, Indominus pulls a fast one on its handlers and breaks free. The park falls into chaos and it comes down to Owen and Claire, along with a few other park workers and some 'helpers' from InGen, to track down Indy-Rex and end his reign of terror on the park.
The premise is loose, and definitely won't be making anybody's jaws drop with shock, but it's about all it needs to be. You have the over-confident business-person who runs the park, Claire, who sees numbers and graphs where others see park guests and animals. There's also the dino-sympathizer, Owen, who favors relationships instead of control, and the number of side characters present. The kids are decent enough actors and sell the digital dinosaurs well, and it's hard to have a problem with Chris Pratt (even if all of his best one-liners were in the trailer).
With all of that out of the way, I will basically split this review into a series of questions and how I would answer them. These questions are the ones that I have been met with the most after people know that I have seen the film.
Is it better than Jurassic Park III?
This is a difficult one to answer, and obviously there is no definitive answer. How much you liked or disliked Jurassic Park III is your concern. Did I, personally, enjoy Jurassic World more than it's most recent predecessor? Hell yes. Hands down.
Two of my biggest issues with JP3 were the following; the Spinosaurus, while a cool dinosaur, was crammed down our throats as "LOOK AT THIS NEW BIG BAD DINOSAUR" to the point of ridiculousness, and the Velociraptors were treated more like a primitive, tribal culture than as intelligent animals. And Jurassic World looked to be heading towards those two same issues, with the Indominus replacing the Spinosaurus and Chris Pratt's Raptor Pack becoming an unbelievable tale of friendship. After actually seeing the film, I can say with confidence that neither are the case.
The Indominus, while obviously taking the role as the film's monstrous antagonist, is never pretending to be more than it is. Where the spinosaur rampaged across the island, terrorizing our protagonists for no other reason than the script said to, the Indominus is an adult raised in seclusion and captivity, who takes the opportunity to explore beyond the confines of it's small paddock. As Owen puts it in the film, "the only relationship she has is with that crane, and at least she knows it gives her food". This film is about an animal created by science who is experiencing other life forms after it already knows it possesses immense size, strength, powerful claws and teeth. "She's learning where she fits in the food chain."
As for the raptors, the trailers led me to believe that Chris Pratt effectively had a team of attack dogs, four loyal animals ready to follow his beck and call. The reality of this, however, is much more tenuous and threatening than I originally thought. Jurassic World wastes no time in reminding us that these are animals, primal hunters. They are intelligent, and they can learn, but there is no loyalty there other than that they know that Owen provides them with food and doesn't attempt to control them. There is a respect present in their eyes, but it is hanging by a thin thread ready to snap if the opportunity presents itself.
The motivations of the characters in the film are believable and easy to relate to. Claire's arc shows the most growth and development throughout the film, and the argument could be made that she is the film's primary protagonist, even if all the other characters sandbag her until the absolute end.
Is it as good as Jurassic Park?
Again, this is another difficult question. The majesty of the original film is as much a testament to its quality as it is a sign of its time of release. The movie itself was wonderful, memorable, charming and awe-inspiring, but you can't hold its sequels to that same standard. Jurassic Park was ground-breaking, an almost seamless mixture of lifelike animatronics and mind-blowing special effects, but the effect it had on us was so profound because it was the first of its kind. Now, big-budget science fiction films and CGI are expected to go hand in hand, and rather than be blown away by good effects, we're disgusted by poor ones. We've been desensitized to their magic, and so that level of resonance, of finally seeing a man and a dinosaur on screen together in a believable fashion, will never be found again. And so to expect it is to immediately sell the film in question short.
Jurassic World hits closer to that mark than the other two sequels. Jurassic Park III was more of a family-friendly adventure with dinosaurs, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park was an attempt to step up every aspect of the original in every way. Jurassic World is truly a new vision born of a love for the old vision, and everybody in the film knows it.
The only criticism that really stands out to me is that this film is almost too self-aware. From the countless references to the original, to characters straight-up talking at length about the first park, to the film always reminding us "hey everyone, don't forget, we got Hollywood's new lovable badass Chris Pratt", to the original theme music showing up at every scene transition, it's almost as if the actual events of the film itself weren't enough to prove to us that Colin Trevorrow and his team love the first film. If those elements had been downplayed a bit more, such as the subtle glimpse we get of Mr. DNA, I think I would've been more pleased with Jurassic World's place in the series.
That being said, I'd place it as the second best film in the whole series, a true sequel to the masterpiece of the original.
Can I bring my kids to see Jurassic World?
Oftentimes parents assume that because it has dinosaurs, it is automatically kid-friendly. Yet this isn't necessarily true for Jurassic World. My fiancee and I discussed this as we left the theater, about whether or not our five year old should be brought to it, and we both agreed that this film was just too violent for her. Maybe she could watch it at home in a few years, but not yet.
While the other films had no shortage of violence, from Ray Arnold's arm in Jurassic Park to Eddie Carr being ripped in half in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Jurassic World has the highest body count by far. This is largely due to two factors: one is that the park is now open, and two is that the pterosaurs of the aviary are set loose and, for some inexplicable reason, go on a killing spree down the park's main drag.
Of all the dinosaur-versus-human scenes in the movie, that was the most difficult for me to watch. I felt my anxiety welling up as a sea of people were picked off and lifted into the air one by one. It was an effective scene, undoubtedly, but I was happy when it was over.
From the Indominus to the dimorphodons to the mosasaurus, there is no shortage of people getting chomped by dinosaurs. Yet probably the most shocking moment is when the dinosaurs get blasted by the people. Without giving anything away, this film works to establish emotional connections with a number of animals, and not all of those make it to the end of the film. While I am probably the odd-man-out, simply because of my undying love for these prehistoric reptiles, I am okay not bringing my daughter to this one quite yet.
All in all, Jurassic World is far and away the best sequel to the original, yet if it is good enough to still be referenced and thought of warmly in another 23 years, I'm not entirely sure. At the very least, if all future Jurassic directors take as much care as Colin Trevorrow did, I am excited for where they take the franchise from here.
Also, the ending of Jurassic World tickled me with its similarity to the ending of Cybersaurus.