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Review: Jurassic World (2015)

Jurassic World (2015)

Directed by: Colin Trevorrow

Premise: Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, the island of Isla Nublar has been turned into a fully functioning theme park featuring genetically engineered dinosaurs. In an effort to boost attendance a new dinosaur is created through genetic crossbreeding with disastrous results.

What Works: The appeal of the Jurassic Park series is simultaneously primal and intellectual. Like a theme park, the main allure of the Jurassic Park films is the spectacle. Audiences line up to see giant creatures with big teeth eat people and break things. Underneath the carnage are philosophical ideas about scientific ethics and the confluence of technology, entertainment, and nature. This combination of action and intellect was done best in the original Jurassic Park with The Lost World and Jurassic Park III discarding the ideas in favor of monster movie terror. Jurassic World restores that balance and it is the best of the sequels in this series. It provides the thrills that audiences expect and it pulls them off with a great deal of showmanship. Director Colin Trevorrow demonstrates a talent for staging the action scenes; as in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and the original Jurassic Park, this film possesses the right amount of restraint. The new killer dinosaur is gradually revealed over the course of the film and the action scenes are cut together to imply more blood than is actually shown. The set pieces and special effects of Jurassic World consistently look great and the detail of the dinosaurs is impressive, especially a quiet moment between a dying Apatosaurus and two park employees. The makers of Jurassic World have also found a way to give the audience a relatively fresh approach to the material and justify a sequel by elevating the scale and the stakes of the story. While delivering the action, Jurassic World inserts some interesting ideas. In this installment a dangerous new dinosaur has been created in order to appease a capitalist notion of growth and the filmmakers get a little self-reflexive, lightly commenting on the need to expand and escalate in order to keep up with the fickle crowd. The movie also includes a subplot of a security contractor wanting to weaponize the dinosaurs; he intends to train them in the same way law enforcement and the military have enlisted canines and marine mammals. These elements give Jurassic World a little bit more going on amid all the carnage.

What Doesn’t: Jurassic World has the ideas and the spectacle but the story is haphazard. In many respects this feels like two scripts mashed together: one based on a Westworld-style theme park malfunction and the other a militaristic story like Alien Resurrection. There is too much plot getting in the way of the story and both concepts are dealt with superficially. But the biggest problem of Jurassic World is its characters. There is no coherent protagonist in this film. Everyone is the same person at the end that they were at the beginning and no one is interesting or particularly sympathetic. Two brothers wander the park and their scenes are tonally all over the place. The boys have no distinguishing characteristics except for the older brother who keeps staring at other teenage girls despite having a girlfriend at home. Chris Pratt plays an animal wrangler who is at odd with the park director played by Bryce Dallas Howard. The film’s treatment of Howard’s character, as well as most of the other women in the movie, is rather sexist; all the women are helpless and whenever they begin to assert themselves the movie undermines them. Virtually everybody in Jurassic World makes stupid or irrational decisions. The character work even suffers amid the dinosaurs. In an early scene a pack of velociraptors nearly eat Chris Pratt’s character but their allegiance switches back and forth for no reason.

Bottom Line: Jurassic World is a satisfying piece of popcorn filmmaking. It is far better than any of the other Jurassic Park sequels and it’s got plenty of monster movie action but Jurassic World is merely okay when it could have been great.

Episode: #547 (June 21, 2015)