Twenty-two years after the failure of the first Jurassic Park, a new park called Jurassic World has been established on Isla Nublar to continue the vision of the late John Hammond. But in order to get visitors to come back each year, they need to keep introducing new dinosaurs, which leads the park’s scientists to create a genetically-enhanced, super-intelligent hybrid called the Indominus Rex.
Jurassic Park was a goddamn vision, one that ushered film into a new era of computer graphics and science-fiction storytelling. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time and easily my favorite sci-fi movie of all time because it combines action, science, and commentary on humanity, nature, and the consequences of playing god. Basically, it is untouchable. Which makes Jurassic World‘s job a lot harder.
On the surface, Jurassic World is a good film. We were finally able to see what a working theme park with resurrected dinosaurs would look like (I want to ride a baby triceratops in a petting zoo). We also get a formidable villain, the genetically-engineered Indominus Rex, who can camouflage herself, moderate her body temperature, communicate with other dinosaurs (Read: make them her bitches), threaten small children, and eat nameless extras with guns. She’s basically Tyrannosaurus Rex on steroids (raptor steroids, that is).
Of course, there are throwbacks to Jurassic Park, too. Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong) is still working for InGen and being an affront to nature with his genetic engineering. We also catch a glimpse of the old park buried in jungle forestation when Zach and Gray (I call them Tim and Lex 2.0) hide out from the I-Rex. Then there’s control room worker Lowery (Jake Johnson), who wears t-shirts from the old park because the “original was better” (*cough* dino hipster). But really, the most important throwback is the cameo by the T-Rex from the first film (who’s now a geriatric member of the new park but still holds a grudge against road flares). And yes, she teams up with the raptors to duke it out with the I-Rex. So all in all, it’s pretty awesome.
But beyond its “louder, bigger, more teeth” approach, Jurassic World is a hot mess. It just didn’t have the same gravitas of Jurassic Park.
We start by meeting Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), who are on their way to spend time with their aunt, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who oversees Jurassic World. There’s a half-assed sob story about them not getting along, their parents’ divorce, and Claire never seeing them, but who cares? The kids are plot devices to get the adult characters moving. But even the adult characters were useless. Unlike Jurassic Park, which put the focus on a single character (Dr. Alan Grant) with the other characters working with him or against him, Jurassic World just threw a bunch of characters at us in hopes that one of them would stick and we’d care about them.
Worse, we didn’t have scientists as our main characters to stand in as the voices of reason when the corporations and military groups start to dig themselves into a cretaceous-sized hole. Nope, we had two characters who’d be better as stereotypes in a rom-com: Owen Grady (Macho Chill Guy) and Claire (Uptight Business Woman).
Owen is the “chill guy” who can macho his way out of any situation and solve all of Uptight Business Woman’s problems with his penis (God, that sex dialogue was lame). While he is charming and a dino-whisperer, he’s a hypocritical character from a writing standpoint. He’s supposed to be the voice of reason here, always saying, “Yeah, that’s probably not a good idea” whenever the corporate big-wigs try to control the dinosaurs. But then he turns around and tries to control the raptors with some hypermasculine bullshit excuse like “I’m the alpha, and it’s about respecting the pack.” And guess what? It hilariously backfires when the raptors turn on him. BECAUSE THEY’RE F***ING DINOSAURS. You can’t train them to not be murder machines. That’s why they’re dinosaurs, not show poodles!
Claire is even more infuriating because she isn’t even a whole person. She’s just another wasted female character (Yet again, I blame bad writing because I know Bryce Dallas Howard is better than this). Uptight Business Woman? Really? Claire thrives on control (if you couldn’t tell by her sharp bob, white dress-suit, and heels), and she doesn’t have time for feelings because she’s a very busy adult who has to worry about money and running theme parks and forget about family and relationships blah blah blah. When a computer-generated apatosaurus emotes more than your female character, she’s not a good character (She makes me miss Ellie).
But somehow even Claire isn’t as offensive as the human villain, Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio). He’s the red-blooded male who wants to use the velociraptors for military operations. No, I’m not making this idiotic shit up. This is an actual conversation in the movie. He wants to weaponize the raptors and “drop ’em on Afghanistan.” Third graders could write better villains than this. It’s as if the writers were like, “Should we remove his twirling mustache and I Heart Military Privatization t-shirt so he’s less obvious?”
And even though the story followed Jurassic Park‘s original points about man vs. nature and using science for discovery vs. profit, Jurassic World didn’t actually discuss any of those things. Instead, we got a two-hour monster chase. Yeah, it’s fun to watch dinosaurs destroy shit and eat people. I’m down for that. But when there isn’t any depth or tension behind that destruction and chaos—and your only reason for why genetic engineering is bad is “Well, it’s going to hurt the park’s profits if the dinosaur eats people”—it’s not a good story. Where’s the science? Where’s the existentialism? Where’s the humility before nature? Where’s f***ing Ian Malcolm?!
Overall, Jurassic World is a total blast…if you don’t mind turning your brain off. Unlike Jurassic Park, which was a great action flick and a serious philosophic and scientific discussion about man versus nature, this movie is little more than a giant monster chase with stereotypical characters. But it’s still a fun monster chase (with lots of blood and shark-eating and raptor squad goals). And hey, if you love deus ex machina in the form of a T-Rex, this is your shit.
Jurassic World: B
For my radio review of Jurassic World on “Pat & JT in the Morning,” visit this link (starts around the 19:22 mark).