A film review by Craig J. Koban June 17, 2015


2015, PG-13, 130 mins.


Chris Pratt as Owen  /  Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire  /  Jake M. Johnson as Lowery  /  Judy Greer as Karen Mitchell  /  Vincent D'Onofrio as Morton  /  Nick Robinson as Zach  /  Lauren Lapkus as Vivian  /  Omar Sy as Barry  /  B.D. Wong as Henry Wu  /  Irrfan Khan as Masrani

Directed by Colin Trevorrow  /  Written by Derek Connolly, Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa


There’s simply no overstating the seismic impact that Steven Spielberg’s original JURASSIC PARK from 1993 had on the film industry.  

His dinosaurs run amok thriller – based on the novel by Michael Crichton – emerged as one of the great populist entertainments of its decade, but its then pioneering usage of untested CGI visual effects also left an imprint on the whole movie world that can still be felt to this day.  Sequels seemed positively inevitable, which lead to the decidedly mediocre THE LOST WORLD in 1997 (one of Spielberg’s most phoned in efforts) and the even worse and unnecessary follow-up JURASSIC PARK III in 2001.  After the third film’s release it appeared that the once watershed series was on life support.  That, and how much more mileage could a series like this gain from its ever increasingly scant premise? 

More than a decade has past and it only seemed preordained that another JURASSIC PARK film would arrive, now in the form of JURASSIC WORLD.  Gone again is Spielberg from the director’s chair (serving as producer) and in is Colin Trevorrow, a wonderfully atypical choice to helm a studio tentpole franchise like this, especially considering that his last film was the low budget indie effort SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED.  On a positive, Trevorrow manages to pay respectful homage to the first JURASSIC PARK picture in tone and feel, hitting all of the requisite beats required in order to do so (while, from a narrative point of view, kind of ignoring the last two films altogether).  Unfortunately, the directorial good will from him is lost on a script that wallows in artificial and cliché-riddled characters that become pathetic puppets at the expense of the film’s spectacle.  That, and the whole logic of this new film’s premise feels wonky at best. 



For those very few that never saw the original JURASSIC PARK it concerned a noble minded, but ethically questionable billionaire that wanted to create a theme park filled with genetically engineered dinosaurs.  John Hammond’s dream never came through to successful fruition, seeing as his creations began to evolve in unexpected ways, leading to a series of tragic events and multiple deaths.  Flashforward twenty years and Hammond’s initial concept has now become a reality with Jurassic World opening on the same island where unleashed dinosaurs caused mayhem and destruction all those years ago.  The park, resembling Disneyland on steroids in many respects, has been a huge draw for families for years and has been a financial goldmine.  Now, how a park like this received funding and acquired insurance considering the litany of death and destruction caused by the dinos in the last three collective films is never once adequately addressed in JURASSIC WORLD, not to mention how public opinion was swayed to the point of perceiving a zoo like this to be safe and secure to attend. 

Yet, these dinosaurs seem controlled to the point where thousands of visitors do feel safe.  However, problems arise when the public’s initial wow-factor in attending the park have begun to wane.  Amazingly, seeing living, breathing dinosaurs has become blasé, leaving the people behind Jurassic World desperate to find new ways to make their park relevant and cutting edge again.  The all-business Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is tasked with overseeing the park and coming up with new attractions, which results in the creation of the ridiculously named Indominus Rex, a genetically cooked up new dino made up of spare DNA parts of other dinos.  Of course, news of this bothers the park’s raptor wrangler Owen (Christ Pratt), who respects his animals and has found a way to tame them (which, as far as the precedent that the previous films have set, seems like a ludicrous impossibility).  Complicating Claire’s work life is the appearance of her two nephews at the park, leaving her stressed to ensure their safety.  Hmmmm…I wonder if that new fangled Indominus Rex will get loose and ravage his way out of captivity and risk the lives of twenty thousand-plus visitors at the park? 

Predictably, JURASSIC WORLD is a visual dynamo and powerhouse.  No expense has been spared to conjure up endless fantastical imagery of the film’s real attractions.  It’s could easily be said that this new film could never capture the initial shock and awestruck value of audience members seeing fully realized dinosaurs come magnificently to life in the first film, but Trevorrow seems to understand this conundrum and doesn’t dwell on it.  Even as the film careens towards its fairly exhilarating climax – featuring multiple dino-on-dino-on-human action – Trevorrow intuitively knows how to shape these staggering sequences for maximum impact.  Like a circus ringmaster, there’s a sense here that he's having fun in his state of the art toy box and is taking great joy in waking up Spielberg’s original vision for these films from artistic lethargy. 

Alas, for as eye-poppingly stupendous as JURASSIC WORLD is on a pure level of visual immersion, the film’s script is a lazily cobbled together affair on the level of character dynamics.  There’s simply no one persona here to really latch on to and care about.  Claire’s sulky teenage nephew and his wide-eyed and inquisitive younger brother are distracting to the point of being irritating.  Claire herself is like a walking movie cliché of a humorless career-minded woman that will (sigh) learn to care about others through her maddening ordeal in dealing with the park’s attractions getting loose.  Pratt – a bit more unsatisfyingly muted and stoic than he should have been here – shares flirtatious banter with Claire that feels like it’s on autopilot.  Then there’s a silly subplot involving Vincent D’Onofrio playing a ruthless InGen man that wants to use Owen’s trained raptors in the military; he’s a one-note militaristic/power thirsty villain without any genuine dramatic interest. 

Yeah…yeah…characters have always taken a backseat in these films, but is it too much to ask for more credible and/or involving personalities to populate JURASSIC WORLD?  Then there are some real missed opportunities that Trevorrow and his writers missed in the central thematic irony of their film.  The story here is ostensibly about a high tech corporately run theme park trying to make bored and apathetic fans excited again to return, thereby upsizing their attraction in order to do so.  In many ways, JURASSIC WORLD could have attained a level of sly meta film industry satire in the ways that the whole JURASSIC PARK franchise – like Claire’s operational plans for her business – is trying to methodically scale up a new summer popcorn blockbuster entry to lure people back into the multiplexes after years of series dormancy.  Ironically, Claire’s plans to bring attendance up using questionable methods sort of mirrors that of JURASSIC WORLD’s makers; this resulting film is assuredly a glossy theme park ride, but at a risk of being dramatically negligible at its core. 

Spielberg also payed more respect to dinosaurs as misunderstood animals driven by instinctive evolutionary impulses.  By his own admission, he never saw his dinos as monsters in the original JURASSIC PARK.  This is something that JURASSIC WORLD misses altogether; its dinosaurs are standard-order movie monsters that should just be exterminated with extreme prejudice when they run rampant.  There was a level of simultaneous admiration and fear of Spielberg’s dinosaurs, but JURASSIC WORLD sort of robs these creatures of their grandeur and magnificence, leaving them reduced to simplistically hostile beasts designed to generate obligatory “boo!” moments.  There are very little actual scares to be had in JURASSIC WORLD, mostly because the moments of terror here feel more dutifully mechanical than genuinely frightening. 

JURASSIC WORLD leaves things open ended for more sequels, which left me feeing hollow inside.  Where could they possibly take this series next?  No one character in this film (with the possible exception of Pratt’s pragmatic Owen) has learned anything from the ill deeds of past characters in JURASSIC PARK I through III.  At one point in the film Owen sheepishly states, “These people never learn.”  That’s telling not only of the scientists and theme park managers residing in the film, but also of the larger film industry as a whole.  More JURASSIC PARK films will be made in this entry’s wake, even at a risk of straining premise credulity and artistic necessity.  JURASSIC WORLD is the most competent entry in this franchise since the ’93 original, but considering the diminishing returns of its last two predecessors…that’s not saying much. 

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