There are a good number of times I cheered like a thirteen year old high on Dr. Pepper and movie popcorn while watching Jurassic World. Monster fans rejoice, in terms of creature feature action, this latest installment of the Jurassic Park series delivers the goods in many ways. It is indeed, a lot of fun. So, I will not question whether or not this dinosaur epic is entertaining. The real question of today’s dissection is if it is a good movie, which is a tough one to be sure.
It’s been twenty-two years since the disaster of the original Jurassic Park. The terrible lessons learned from the original three films seem a distant memory. In their place is Jurassic World, a fully functional dino-zoo and theme park as imagined by the late John Hammond. Everything seems almost idyllic, except that the public’s demand for bigger, crazier dinosaurs has led to that ol’ horror movie pratfall, MAD SCIENCE! Enter Indominus Rex, the literal embodiment of the “Jurassic” franchises fusion of King Kong and Frankenstein’s themes. A hodge podge critter, created from the parts of T-Rex, velociraptor, and a bunch of other scary animals, I-Rex is meant to drum up park attendance. Instead, she escapes her pen and merrily starts murdering her way through human and dinosaur alike.
As crackerjack of a plot set-up as that is, it does beg some major logic questions. Like why would you contain your new, possibly hostile super-dinosaur only mere miles from your already sketchy park filled with cloned, prehistoric monsters? Admittedly, I didn’t ask that looming inner question while watching the film. I was far too caught up in it.
Like the original Jurassic Park and its sequel, The Lost World, this new installment features an ensemble cast of talented actors. Current heir to Harrison Ford action movie throne, Chris Pratt leads as a sort of “dinosaur whisperer”. He retains much of the easy charm that has made him a bankable star. It’s fun watching him interact with his team of trained ‘raptors, including the film’s real star Blue, the raptor pack’s badass beta.
Much has been made about Bryce Dallas Howard’s well-coiffed and well dressed, but cold hearted career woman, Claire Dearing. And even Avengers helmer, Joss Whedon blogged about the possible sexism on display. While I won’t get too heavily into the sexual or political implications of her character, I will say she is a huge step down from Laura Dern’s Ellie Sattler in the original. That character was a capable woman, thrown into a strange situation. Dearing simply seems to be along for the ride at times. That being said, she’s not quite the awful screaming mess played by Tea Leoni in Jurassic Park III. Dearing seems to serve the purpose of giving corporate America a voice in the movie and as that, Howard does very well.
Another embodiment of corporate greed is Irrfan Khan as Simon Masrani, the current CEO of InGen, the mega-corporation that is the boogeyman at the center of the Jurassic Park universe. As boogeymans go, Masrani is actually pretty affable and at a key point in the movie, heroic. Despite being irresponsible to the point of recklessly endangering thousands of lives, Khan embues the character with the same kind of eccentric showmanship that Richard Attenborough’s John Hammond had the original.
To counterbalance this, human villainy is given a face through Vincent D’Onofrio, as a InGen hawk, who wants to use dinosaurs as biological weapons. His performance is a great ham on rye, type baddie. He chews more scenery than Indominus Rex.
My favorite cast member is the sole returning actor from the original Jurassic Park. B.D. Wong plays Dr. Henry Wu, a major character in Crichton’s novel, but only a minor character in Spielberg’s film. Wu, the mad scientist in denial, is the fascinating character on screen. He also gets his lion’s share of the movie’s juiciest lines.
The most hotly debated aspect of any Jurassic Park film is going to be the special effects. This film is sadly the reverse of the original, with very little animatronic dinosaurs being used. Instead, the monster makers opt for the oh-so trendy use of the mo-cap suit, with CGI filling in the rest. While I can’t say the effects are poorly done, I do feel like they’re ultimately a bit of a step down from the original trilogy, who masterfully created the illusion of real animals. The dinosaurs here are neat and fun to watch, but they never quite feel real, more like fantasy monsters. The result being that while I had a good time watching Jurassic World, I never quite felt scared during it’s relentless dinosaur attacks.
That being said, I have no doubt that director Colin Trevorrow and his team are fans of the original films. Jurassic World is littered with references to the earlier films in the series, including one very well timed, cinematic middle finger towards Jurassic Park III and it’s still hotly debated battle between Spinosaurus and T-Rex..
Going back to my original question of whether Jurassic World is good film or not, I’m still not a hundred percent sure I have an answer for you. I can that as a monster movie, it more or less hits all the right marks. To say, there is a little something lacking in certain aspects, is not quite an insult. To be totally fair, Jurassic World is probably the best of the many recent, reinventions of old film franchises. So for it to be a less than perfect film, is okay. It’s enjoyable and sometimes that’s more than enough.