In the opening moments of The Lost World, the first Jurassic Park sequel from 1997, Steven Spielberg included a wonderfully self-deprecating piece of cynicism by cutting from a screaming girl to a yawning Jeff Goldblum. Essentially the edit was an admission that yes, you are about to watch more of the same, and don’t expect groundbreaking, iconic cinema this time. A similar, albeit far less subtly amusing moment occurs near the beginning of Jurassic World when a character says that no-one is impressed with a dinosaur anymore.
Well, count me unimpressed. Jurassic World isn’t a bad film by any means, but there is nothing of great interest here, beyond a decently assembled monster movie. Colin Trevorrow picks up the directorial reins from Spielberg, and does a fair job at emulating the great man, but despite his noble attempts at jumpstarting a moribund franchise, Jurassic World fails to top The Lost World (in retrospect, a somewhat underrated film), let alone the peerless original. To his credit however, Trevorrow does surpass the waste of celluloid that was Jurassic Park III.
Trevorrow and his various screenwriters ask the question what would happen if Jurassic Park had actually opened to the public. Would they end up under pressure to genetically engineer new species to keep things fresh? It would appear the public has become bored with plain old dinosaurs, and wants something extra scary. Therefore the In-Gen company, under the leadership of Operations Manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), decide to engineer the Indomitus Rex – a hideously dangerous hybrid creature that represents new levels of weapons grade stupidity, even for the let’s-play-God-because-we-can crowd. Speaking of stupidity, there’s also a half-baked subplot involving an ill-conceived attempt at weaponising velociraptors.
Amid this mire of hubris and greed we also get the inevitable characters-talking-common-sense-that-are-ignored-until-it’s-too-late, including pseudo-velociraptor whisperer Owen (Chris Pratt – fun, but not as fun as he is in Guardians of the Galaxy). We also get the regulation pair of imperilled kids, and a lot of obvious dino-bait that would be wearing red shirts if this was Star Trek.
Trevorrow clearly loves the franchise, and does his best to try and recreate the sense of thrilling wonder inherent in the original. Many set-pieces essentially act as variations on those in the first Jurassic Park – for example children are attacked in a vehicle, and the finale has a real sense of deja-vu. Yet despite the fact that one can hardly leave the cinema feeling short changed on dinosaur action, Jurassic World feels like an oddly empty experience.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh. After all, at half a billion dollars worldwide and rising, the audience clearly enjoyed the film (and there is a set-up for further sequels). There are a couple of genuinely inspired moments worthy of Spielberg himself (one involving a reflection). It also goes without saying that the special effects are spectacular, and Michael Giacchino contributes a decent score when he isn’t quoting sections of John Williams’ original themes.
In short, Jurassic World is big, loud and expensive. But you’ve seen it before, better, in the magnificent 1993 original. In the golden summer of that year, I felt compelled to revisit Jurassic Park at the cinema no less than four times. I doubt Jurassic World will inspire the same level of affection in many viewers.
Simon Dillon, June 2015.