Published on June 15th, 2015 | by Brad0
Jurassic World Review By A Huge Fan
To the chiming of cash registers the world over, Jurassic World opened this weekend in cinemas. Its $511m opening weekend is smashing box office records left, right and centre, clearing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2’s record for the biggest opening weekend ever by $28m and making it the first movie ever to clear half a billion dollars worldwide in its opening weekend. Directed by Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed), Jurassic World picks up 22 years after the events of Jurassic Park, largely ignoring the events of The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III without explicitly wiping them from the canon. The park in Jurassic World has been open for about ten years and Jurassic Park III was twelve years ago, so they’re workable together.
I actually missed the original Jurassic Park in cinemas the first time, on the grounds of being, well, four years old at the time. I saw it on video when I was six, and it blew my mind. To this day it remains my favourite Steven Spielberg movie, and I will fight anyone who tells me Jaws is better! I managed to catch a screening of it in 2013 for the 20th anniversary, and it was an absolute joy. The Lost World and Jurassic Park III I saw in cinemas at the time, and I’ve always enjoyed both films. They’re not as good as the original, by any means, but they’re very good fun. So, despite the troubled production history of Jurassic World, I was genuinely looking forward to this. My optimism took a bit of a hit when the first trailer dropped last November, and we got our first look at Chris Pratt and his troop of trained raptors. The central thrust of the plot regarding a genetically modified hybrid dinosaur bothered me, too – as Pratt points out in the trailer, they’re dinosaurs – wow enough! That said, there’s an entertaining movie to be made about dinosaurs getting on the loose in a theme park which has 20,000+ people in at the time, so I went in fairly open-minded. So how was it?
The movie opens with a fully CGI shot of a dinosaur hatching from its egg. Me being me, this immediately set alarm bells ringing. I’m a firm believer that CGI only works to augment a physical effect captured in shot, and if you can’t even be bothered making an animatronic for the hatching baby dinosaurs, we’re going to disagree on a lot. The scene itself is supposed to create a parallel with the raptor hatching scene from Jurassic Park, and give us a bit of foreshadowing about our new creature, the Indominus Rex. Pro tip – don’t name your new hybrid creature the untameable king. You’re just asking for trouble!
As tradition and necessity dictate, we spend the next half an hour after this little dino-tease getting to know our human characters. These roles are filled by brothers Zach and Gray Mitchell (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins), sent to spend a weekend with their aunt, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) while their parents quietly get divorced. Meaning that in future they will always associate Jurassic World with their parents’ divorce. Smooth work. Simpkins is one of the most annoying kids I’ve seen in a movie for a while. Robinson is solid enough, albeit his character does something so stupid that, had an adult character done it, they would have been immediately marked for death. Claire is the park’s operations manager, and one scene with her is enough to tell that she will be going through the always popular “frigid bitch too lost in her career when what she really wants is the right man to warm her up and put a baby in her” character arc over the course of the film. We spend pretty much the opening half-hour with these people, as the kids travel to and arrive at the park whilst Claire shows some potential sponsors the new Indominus Rex (I-Rex from here) and meets with the park’s owner, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan). Khan is the kind of actor who can really light up the screen by virtue of his presence alone, and the movie gets better whenever his character shows up.
Concerned by how aggressive and frightening I-Rex is, Masrani instructs Claire to bring Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to have a look at its enclosure, see if he can spot any potential weaknesses their engineers haven’t. Claire and Owen have a little history in the form of a failed first date, entered into in spite of the fact that these two clearly don’t like each other. Pratt is probably the film’s biggest disappointment. Cast before his profile exploded last year with The Lego Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, I can’t help but feel he would have had a better role if those movies had been out. He’s a very charming, likable actor playing a completely unlikable arse whose role is to spout trailer lines and strike poses. Owen is beginning to be able to train the velociraptors to follow his instructions, which catches the attention of InGen security man Vic Hoskins (the always awesome Vincent D’Onofrio), who immediately wants to weaponise them for use in the war on terror.
Yeah, I didn’t make that up. This is where the stupid really starts to lay in thick. D’Onofrio is working with Jurassic World’s chief geneticist Henry Wu (B. D. Wong, the only returning actor from a previous Jurassic Park movie) to create weaponised dinosaurs for use in combat operations in the Middle East. Why? Why is that in this movie? The hybrid work which created the I-Rex is part of the plan, as they want to develop different dinosaurs with different applications for different types of warzones. I don’t get it. All this needed to be was “dinosaur theme park with thousands of people in it. Something goes wrong, dangerous dinosaurs get loose and start killing.” It doesn’t need to be this convoluted, or this stupid.
So the plot’s stupid to the point of being really annoying, and with the exception of Khan, D’Onofrio and Wong, the human cast are basically worthless. It doesn’t work as a movie. This can be allowed to slide somewhat if the spectacle works. The real stars of the Jurassic Park series are the dinosaurs, and as The Lost World and particularly Jurassic Park III prove, as long as there’s enough to have fun with on the dinosaur front, the plot being dumb can be forgiven. And in the case of Jurassic World, the dinosaurs and the park are very much this movie’s strength. The early sequences before I-Rex escapes where we get to see the workings of the park are quite cool, despite the presence of the kids. I particularly liked the petting zoo with small children riding around on baby Triceratopses and the viewing arena for the aquatic Mosasaurus, complete with splash zone. The four velociraptors are pretty fantastic, and their scenes with Pratt are way better than any he has with most of the human cast. The I-Rex is a cool-looking beastie, although anyone who’s seen one of these movies should immediately figure out what they’re trying to hide when they say that “the base genome is T-Rex, and the rest is classified”. The action sequences are largely a lot of fun, albeit there’s one character’s death which feels undeservedly brutal, with a level of creative lunacy which should only be reserved for the likes of Vincent D’Onofrio’s character.
The other big thing that Jurassic World has going for it is the nostalgia factor. Every chance it gets, it’s throwing out another reference to one of its predecessors. This leads happily to the best two scenes in the movie, neither of which I’m going to spoil here but you’ll know them both as soon as you see them. The latter of these does lead to a couple of particularly laughable moments in the filmmaking, one involving a slow-motion hero shot and one involving the soundtrack practically bellowing “Here I come to save the day!” as a particular dinosaur is finally unveiled. It leads to a delightfully silly showdown with the I-Rex, which is almost fun enough to redeem the rubbish in the film completely – indeed, most people I talk to seem to have completely overlooked how bad the majority of Jurassic World is because the ending battle is so entertaining.
Yeah, Jurassic World is quite bad. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy myself watching it, but a lot of that came from how laughably poor the film is at times. The script is atrocious. You can tell it went through at least a dozen writers over the ten years it was in development, and it’s an absolute mess of half-baked ideas, gaping plot-holes and characters who can barely be described as two-dimensional. The spectacle and its playing of the audience’s nostalgia save it from being a complete disaster, but there’s really no reason to pay full price for this. If you can see it for free or at a discount, maybe check it out, but otherwise you can wait for this to hit TV or Netflix. Really disappointing, Jurassic World is comfortably the weakest Jurassic Park film so far. That said, it’s already made more money than the entire theatrical run of Jurassic Park III, so I don’t doubt there’ll be a sequel in the offing before too long.