As a famous chaos theorist one stammered, “Life, uh, finds a way” – and here we are, over twenty years later, still learning from man’s lack of humility. We just love playing God – we can’t help it. Why waste time on mundane dinosaurs when we can splice together a mighty behemoth that’s crafted from the nastiest, gnarliest DNA molecules that time forgot? Life doesn’t HAVE to find a way when man accelerates the evolution process for personal gain. Chaos, chomping and Cretaceous throwdowns ensue, all because we egoistically believe that the world around us can easily be controlled. Spoiler alert: we’re far lower on the food chain than we’d like to admit. See the last three Jurassic Park movies as shining examples.
Colin Trevorrow’s fourth and latest dino-thriller gets back to the basics of John Hammond’s vision – a fully-functioning theme park that brings visitors face-to-face with extinct beasts from a primitive era. Enter Jurassic World, a testament to everything that Hammond spared no expense to create. Families can land on Isla Nublar and forget about the disastrous events that first sparked man’s greatest technological advancement, entranced by the many rides and attractions that shot-caller Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) now oversees for the park’s owner, Masrani (Irrfan Khan).
But with attendance dipping, visitors are demanding something new, which Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong) willingly supplies in a hybrid dinosaur labeled Indominus Rex. She’s clever, crafty and menacing enough to give both children and adults nightmares, which she proves by promptly escaping into the jungle. With the asset out of containment, velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) is called in to track the beast with InGen’s Asset Containment Unit, save Claire’s nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) and protect the thousands of innocent guests who are taking refuge in the park’s main grounds.
Jurassic World is a culmination of ideas that have been introduced over the various stages of the franchise’s existence, most obviously criticizing man’s immense hubris. Each film has seen some greedy “villain” mistake test-tube dinosaurs for manageable experiments, despite foreshadowing warnings. Here, Masrani assures Claire that the “key to a happy life is to accept you are never in control,” which is something InGen’s chief blow-hard, Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), ignorantly ignores in favor of a completely militarized division of dino-corps. Yes, you heard that correctly.
Jurassic World gets back to the wondrous world of dinosaur-themed thrill rides and exotic merchandising, but an underlying theme of militarized raptors and T-Rexes steers the film into strange territory that’s both cartoonish and a bit preposterous. Remember all those INSANE early concept teases about half-dino-half-people mercenaries? That’s exactly where Jurassic World feels like it’s heading, with D’Onofrio’s Hoskins playing the mad scientist behind it all.
But from a theme-park-gone-bad standpoint, like a zoo being overrun with prehistoric animals, Jurassic World sends shockwaves through audiences that hit upon a level of nostalgic excitement akin to seeing Spielberg’s original as a child (my experience, at least). Trevorrow and his writing core pay proper respect to Jurassic Park, from Lowery’s (Jake Johnson) vintage logo tee to plenty of dino cameos, yet the expansive universe of Jurassic World is a marvel that even John Hammond himself couldn’t comprehend.
A holographic informational terminal welcomes guests in the new-and-improved visitor’s center, which leads to the Hammond Creation Lab where old friends showcase the latest and greatest in gene-splicing technology. There’s spinning gyrospheres that are safe enough to zip riders through herds of veggi-saruses, descending bleachers that bring audiences underwater, and baby dinos that children can ride in the park’s adorable petting zoo. Trevorrow’s world is lush, vibrant, and ripe with a creative wonder that mashes futuristic technology together with Earth’s oldest inhabitants, similar to the same ingenuity that sparked Michael Crichton’s very first Jurassic Park.
The dinosaurs themselves actually score some of the film’s most emotional moments, especially Owen’s team of pseudo-obedient raptors. Jurassic World is all about respecting the balance of nature, and it’s Pratt’s character who strives to strike relationships with the scaly creations. Echo, Delta, Charlie and Blue are like super-vicious house pets who respect Owen enough not to tear his face off, but there’s a visual bond displayed by each raptor’s cocked-head glare. The particular dynamic between Owen and Blue is rather sweet and works to further the treatment of animals with an almost PETA-like charm, though there are many other dinosaurs present. Like the ferocious Indominus Rex.
The T-Rex, for me, will always be Jurassic Park‘s most iconic symbol – nay, the whole franchise’s most iconic symbol. Stan Winston’s greatest creation will always be remembered for munching goats, eating lavatory users and fighting velociraptors. Jurassic World‘s Indominus Rex is surely an evil son-of-a-bitch, and the animation is rather fluid, but some of the magic is lost by using 99% CGI in favor of going bigger. The raptors are all CGI, the T-Rex is CGI and every dinosaur is CGI, sans a brief Brachiosaurus who is gasping its last breaths, which makes Jurassic World feel like just another overly-glossy blockbuster and not the Spielbergian adventure that it deserves to be.
Yet, in that same mentality, animation permits for some of the summer’s most tantalizing cinematic artistry in the form of dashing raptors, chaotic aerial assaults and a prehistoric throwdown that’s been millions of years in the making. Take Owen’s high-speed cycling alongside his trusted raptor soldiers, as the dinos dash towards the Indominus Rex while surrounding their human alpha. Or the vast destruction of every branded storefront that Jurassic World has to offer, from Brookstone to Starbucks, while Pterodactyls dive-bomb unsuspecting tourists. You certainly can’t have that snappy Mosasaurus kill without any digital help. And that ending – THAT ENDING.
When Indominus Rex butts heads with Owen and his assault-raptor squad, we gasp in disbelief, but it’s not until Claire calls upon an old friend for tag-team help that Jurassic World becomes gushy Jurassic Park fan-fiction that you might find populating some off-color blog on the internet. Still, if you’re going to blast my senses with CGI dinosaurs, I’ll take it in the form of a hulking heavyweight throwdown complete with a raptor riding a bigger freakin’ dinosaur (name withheld), like a steed charging into battle (it happens for a brief moment, I swear). In the grand scheme of things, Jurassic World is my kind of big-budget summer fodder, especially one that’s more understanding than both previous sequels combined.
On an even happier note, Trevorrow’s comments about an ill-advised marketing clip being completely out of context were right. Claire is no hunk of meat for the rugged Owen to claim like a caveman, and they find themselves in an equal battle against a witty, stealthy, and incredibly deadly dino, with no (or little) time for romance.
Speaking of Owen, Pratt struts his leading man chops once again, giving us a continuation of Star-Lord’s snarky Guardians Of The Galaxy charms, and that’s perfectly alright. Howard does trudge along as the film’s female companion, but eventually she comes into her own as a badass chick not for her actions but solely because she can run away from towering dinosaurs while still wearing her posh, stylish heels.
As for the supporting cast, Robinson and Simpkins chime in when needed as Claire’s adventurous nephews, who deal with their own emotional dilemma (a huge stress on family this time around), Omar Sy helps Pratt contain the hopefully-not-too-feral raptors, and Jake Johnson is the nerdy computer wiz that Jurassic World deserves – complete with the film’s most uproarious moment when he courageously volunteers to stay behind.
Jurassic World is for the child in us all. Think back to the wacky Saturday morning cartoons that used to pollute your mind along with sugary cereal, and those are the emotions Trevorrow unearths. Hell, he’s even able to include a heaping helping of product placement to mimic commercial breaks, but when the action kicks in, we’re reminded of the wizardry that Hollywood at its best is able to accomplish. For an hour and a half, we’re convinced that dinosaurs are commonplace, reminded that there’s a reason why it’s called “playing” God, and we’re treated to tooth-and-claw battles that our wildest imagination couldn’t dream up.
Not everything works, from Hoskin’s exhausting attempts to weaponize Owen’s creatures to an unfortunate reliance on animated dinosaurs, but CGI opens doors that practicality just can’t. It’s a double-edged sword. And while Jurassic Park is a far superior, deeply brooding and incomparably more thrilling movie, Jurassic World is like its hyper, zanier and more fun-loving sibling.
The things I would have done for an Ian Malcolm cameo, though…
Jurassic World has more heart than both previous sequels spliced together, and while some subplot material doesn't stick, at least there's no gymnast daughters this time around to distract from the heavy-hitting dino action.