Sometimes I think this website needs a genre titled Hubris but then I realise most of the films I’ve reviewed would have to go in it so it wouldn’t be be much help. Humankind’s extraordinary ability to push the bounds of science is a wonderful thing but it naturally goes hand in hand with an urge to overreach ourselves. Doing things not just because we should, but because we could.
I loved the first Jurassic Park and will happily still watch both initial sequels (yes even JP3). Jurassic World is, like its newest animal attraction, bigger and more sophisticated, though the plot, like most monsters, is actually quite basic.
The action takes place over 20 years since the first movie and there is now a functioning dinosaur park on the original island, run by boss Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). Her two young nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) & Gray (Ty Simpkins) are coming to visit her, but she’s so busy with work they are left with her assistant, who they quickly manage to evade so they can roam the park. Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady is chief Raptor Whisperer and pack Alpha (basically Ryder from Paw Patrol, mums and dads) though he never forgets what they are capable of and their intelligence.
Claire is super-busy and super-focussed, always aware that the customers call the shots. She’s also always perfectly groomed (one of the wonders of this film is her hair, which remains an immaculate red bob until near the end of the action. As a fellow bob owner, albeit a blonde one, it’s the least believable aspect of this movie, and yes that’s knowing it’s about reconstituted dinosaurs. And her white outfit is still mostly clean and she’s got her heels on. I know a couple of mums like that and everybody hates them).
Chris Pratt, an actor with Hollywood’s least sexy name (if you exclude Timothy Bottoms) is actually pretty hot in this, as he whizzes around on his bike getting sweatier and sweatier.
And the kids are not nearly as annoying as in the first film, so you actually want them to avoid being eaten (though one of the delights of rewatching Jurassic Park is seeing two children even more irritating than mine).
Of course the real stars are the dinosaurs, particularly the Indominus Rex, an animal created by bypassing nature’s evolution – so boring! so slow! – for quick results focus groups. There’s also the T Rex, the park’s dino Meryl Streep, still showing that she can kick the arses of any up-and-coming dinosaur newbies who think she’s past her sell-by date.
(The dinosaurs are again all female. Jurassic films must have the highest ratio of females to males outside of Bad Moms and for that I am pathetically grateful. Also as they can’t actually talk, and therefore can’t discuss men, it passes the Bechdel Test with flying colours.)
The velociraptors – the bad guys from the previous films – are, by the end of this film, the ones you’re mostly rooting for, if you work on the principle (last seen in Alien vs Predator) that your enemy’s enemy is your friend.
The general sense of ennui – from the park employees to the public who are no longer impressed with T Rexes and pterosaurs and demand bigger, better and with “more teeth” – is well played, with the smallest dinosaurs relegated to a petting zoo. (My kids would still be totally gobsmacked by even the smallest dino – but then this holiday they were, embarrassingly, super-impressed by some Guinea pigs on a farm. And I still haven’t taken them to Legoland.)
The plot is basically the same as before, where scary man-made monsters escape and wreak havoc, though there’s a nice meta touch where the two boys discover part of the park left untouched since Jurassic Park was first opened.
You’d think by now dinosaur moguls would know that a totally secure compound is never totally secure, and that before designing any security system you first check the abilities of the various animals its genes have been spliced with. Because the Indominus Rex is now so clever it was probably created by mixing a lot of dinosaur with a bit of chameleon and a dash of Stephen Hawking.
Once she’s out, the carnage begins, with carnivorous humans and vegetarian dinosaurs considered literally fair game. The two boys are also out in the park, and have to evade the creature and get back to the relative safety of the main visitor area.
There’s a subplot involving using the raptors as soldiers in warfare, which is hardly new – remember the werewolves in Dog Soldiers? Though it does at least mean a gratifyingly gruesome death for a bad guy.
The two boys are typical teenagers without being too annoying, and their brotherly relationship, at first bickering and then working together to escape, is nicely developed. Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt are also good, and though their roles are not particularly stretching, they gamely stagger on, in stilettos and sneakers, playing a rather daft story for tension not for laughs.
Jurassic World really does what is expected of it – it’s an entertaining romp that doesn’t try to be more. And the spectacle scenes are still impressive, so maybe we’re not as jaded as we think. The escaped pterosaurs swooping over panicking tourists, and the last scenes involving an ageing T Rex, Owen’s raptors and a mosasaurus tackling the enormous Indominus Rex, certainly make this worth a watch, though it doesn’t have (and could never have) the jolting disruption of the first film.