FILM REVIEW: Jurassic World

Another week, another sequel hits cinemas across the globe. With seemingly every single thing being remade, reimagined, rebooted and exploited, it’s no surprise that we finally get to see the fourth instalment of Steven Spielberg’s last flagship franchise. It took fourteen years and several different approaches to finally realise this latest chapter with 38-year old Colin Trevorrow at the helm. John Hammond’s original dream finally came to pass and millions of people from around the world get to experience it on a daily basis. By the time the plot of Jurassic World kicks in, the park itself is a bit of a tired attraction that’s struggling to sustain itself financially. New generations are hardly impressed by old school dinosaurs and that’s why new genetic experiments take place in order to create a more scary and entertaining creatures. That’s how the formidable Indominus Rex is born. And yes, we already know how it goes...

Aside from a new monster to drive the show, there’s no moving away from the used formula. Many action beats and character moments are direct nods to existing sequences from this franchise, as expected. There are no big surprises in store for jaded audiences; we know pretty much exactly what’s going to happen and who might survive this ordeal. The script itself is based on a very Spielbergian construction of setpieces, in which certain things need to happen at specific points in films like this. Colin Trevorrow’s direction is not exactly fresh at any point but it does the job nicely. In this sense, it very much recalls J.J. Abrams’ efforts on Super 8 from 2011. A large group of characters is introduced in this new chapter and one can’t help but feel many of those feel slightly short-changed in an incredibly overcrowded script. They’re mostly reduced to simple variations on different characters we’ve already met with one or two traits that should distinguish them among the crowd.

Having said that, the cast itself is likeable. Bryce Dallas Howard gets the most screen time and gets the hardest job. Her Claire Dearing is a cold businesswoman, John Hammond’s successor and main female action protagonist – all at the same time. Her transformation is the most visible arc in this story and, as such, the most likeable. Chris Pratt is a convincing enough as Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady but his part is also more predictable and not quite as developed. Not that there is any opportunity for that; he mostly fulfils the role alpha male in a big production (also quite literally). Two young brothers, played by Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson, are not as annoying as one might expect, even if they’re journey is another cynical recapitulation of things we’ve already seen in Lex and Tim storyline from the 1993 film. We also get to meet a large group of supporting characters and, among those, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus stand out the most. No Jurassic Park film can do without an arrogant corporate type and/or military type and Colin Trevorrow gives us both in Vincent D’Onofrio’s Vic Hoskins.

It’s a good thing that Trevorrow manages to inject a lot of humour and irony into this otherwise calculated summer romp. When several technicians discuss among themselves the concept of Indominus Rex, one character points out how lame the concept of genetically enhanced dinosaur sounds next to “old-school Jurassic Park”. Here, filmmakers successfully predicted reactions to early trailers. While all previous films contained humour and one-liners, Jurassic World is more self-conscious about it. And that’s largely a successful attempt to win over cinema audiences.

One of the key elements are creatures themselves. Indominus Rex itself isn’t quite as interesting visually; even Spinoraurus from Joe Johnston’s Jurassic Park III had a bit more personality that separated it from other beasts. This one, by its very hybrid nature, doesn’t linger in mind as much. It’s interesting that the fakeness and accuracy of resurrected dinosaurs is also addressed in the film by the returning character Dr. Henry Wu (played by B.D. Wong). He points out that they are essentially fictional creations, a result of educated guesswork. This one, almost throwaway, element neatly resolves much of a conflict between rigorous scientists and dreaming filmmakers and it also plays nicely into the ethical angle of this concept.

One of the spectacular selling points of Steven Spielberg’s film was the visual idea itself: seeing man and dinosaur together in a realistic fashion. Since then, technology has moved forward. There’s no more need for excessive use of physical puppets that played such a crucial part 22 years ago. But one truly misses the great artistry of Stan Winston’s animatronics. As sophisticated and convincing as computer graphics can be, it’s still not the same. Nobody is impressed by CGI anymore. That aspect itself forms an interesting parallel to the story in which many kids are hardly impressed by what they’re seeing, not matter how breathtaking.

The films puts in a lot of references to the original one, of course. That cannot be avoided. But it does so with relative restraint. It’s a clever idea that John Hammond’s Jurassic Park is a relic of its time, not unlike the animals themselves. Along the ride, we get to see some familiar elements, overgrown by jungle and completely forgotten by modern caretakers. John Williams’ iconic music is also treated as creation from another era, almost completely forgotten in modern digital world. His two primary themes (along with a cameo of The Lost World tune) bring back the element of nostalgia, without overstating the point too much.

In the world of sequels and reboots, latest Jurassic Park film certainly doesn’t feel like an event anymore. The original was a gimmick, true, but it managed to turn this disadvantage into a truly dazzling spectacle. It gave its generation a classic that comes along every now and then. It’s worth pointing out that Jurassic World isn’t that. Not even close. But filmmakers are also smart enough to address that head on. They recapitulate a lot of elements with new twists, as it happens with continuations like this, but also manage to look at thus franchise from certain distance. While it might feel slightly cynical in its self-conscious resurrection, Jurassic World still manages to entertain. And that’s more than can be said about its two predecessors.

- Karol

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