The original Jurassic Park easily stands as one of the most beloved movies of all time, as well as one of the movies that’s most synonymous with the catalogue of superstar director, Steven Spielberg. Its sequels however are much less beloved, with The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III both widely failing to strike a chord with audiences. After Jurassic Park III was met with rejection by fans and scorn from critics, the franchise appeared to more or less go as extinct as its dinosaur subjects, despite snail-paced movement on a potential fourth movie.
After an arduous fourteen years since Jurassic Park III however, demand has not cooled for the kind of sequel that Jurassic Park actually deserves. When Jurassic World finally got off of the ground, all eyes were on it, and excitement over the movie’s potential was at an all-time high! In fact, Jurassic World easily stands alongside Avengers: Age of Ultron as arguably this Summer movie season’s biggest blockbuster of all in terms of hype, with some analysts claiming that Jurassic World could indeed rival Avengers: Age of Ultron as this Summer’s biggest box office smash.
With all of this hype around the movie, disappointment seems inevitable… And yet, it never comes. Against the odds of so many years since a new Jurassic Park movie, virtually none of the original actors returning, Spielberg not directing (though he does executive produce, for what that’s worth), and the late Michael Crichton having now passed on, Jurassic World has the franchise come together under a new banner of talent and inspiration.
The result is another contender for one of this Summer’s best overall movies, and a can’t-miss offering for fans of Jurassic Park, general blockbuster enthusiasts, or even just fans of great movies, in any form! How Jurassic World compares to the original Jurassic Park is up for debate, even if it wipes the floor with the two previous ill-fated sequels, but the mere fact that Jurassic World manages to rival the original Jurassic Park at all is something that definitely demands to be embraced and celebrated!
Jurassic World stars something of an ensemble cast as events unfold in the titular theme park, Jurassic World. This includes Jurassic World’s Operations Manager, Claire Dearing, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, Velociraptor trainer and former military man, Owen Grady, played by Chris Pratt, the two young nephews of Claire, brooding teenager, Zach and child genius, Gray, played by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins, respectively, head of security for the dinosaur production company, InGen, Vic Hoskins, played by Vincent D’Onofrio, and the park’s owner, Simon Masrani, played by Irrfan Khan.
Each of these characters strikes a wonderful balance between necessary development, and restrained development. The dialogue in the movie is excellently written, giving audiences the ability to know the characters through actions and mannerisms, rather than by bogging everything down in needless exposition. This allows the spotlight to stay where it should, namely on the movie’s real stars, the dinosaurs.
On this note, it’s wonderful to see that Jurassic World avoids one of the biggest problems with both The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III, which pretty much turned the dinosaurs into vicious monsters, and nothing else. Once again, the sense of wonder and amazement from the first movie is brought back, with the dinosaurs feeling like dangerous, yet strangely majestic wild animals. They’re imposing and larger-than-life, but many of them also feel likable and genuinely cool to watch, even for people who have been watching and re-watching Jurassic Park for over two decades!
Obviously though, we need to have a bad dinosaur to get things going, and that comes from the Indominus Rex, a genetically engineered T-Rex hybrid with the genes of other animals thrown into its biological make-up, which turns it into a ruthlessly effective and dangerously intelligent killing machine! That would be well and good if it stayed in its cage, but, well, we wouldn’t have a movie if it did.
The setup and execution of the Indominus Rex as a threat is superb. This is because the true danger behind everything in the movie is caused not by the dinosaurs themselves, but by mankind’s own hubris. Owen Grady even points out in an Ian Malcolm-esque speech that the Indominus Rex doesn’t know what she is, and has been raised in captivity her whole life, so she’s seeing everything outside of the cage for the first time. It’s the pre-programmed predatory instincts and her dangerous ability to learn at an accelerated rate that turn her into a lethal disaster for the park. Sure, you could take the Indominus Rex, an unnatural bastardization of prehistoric nature, to still be the baddie of Jurassic World, but that’s just it. It’s not natural. No matter how you slice it, everything that goes wrong in this movie is still ultimately the fault of the careless corporation that created the deadly dino, for the sheer purpose of driving up profits.
This corporate satire is something that feels ingeniously implemented amongst the cast of Jurassic World as well. Characters whip out corporate products and roll their eyes at corporate badgering routinely, with older characters lamenting that the younger generation can’t be impressed by anything anymore, since everything is rendered so quickly disposable. This also proves to be a very clever way to make Jurassic World feel connected to the original wow factor of Jurassic Park, with Jurassic Park only needing base dinosaurs to wow people, not genetic hybrids. Owen Grady perfectly points this out in another great scene when he’s sticking it to the corporate man, responding to complaints that the park needs more of a wow factor by saying, “They’re dinosaurs. Wow enough.” He’s right.
This sense of old-school blockbuster value creates a new batch of likable, charming personalities, even with Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum nowhere to be found. In fact, the only character reprising his role from a previous movie in this franchise is B.D. Wong, who plays Dr. Henry Wu, still the chief geneticist at Jurassic World, after his initial appearance in Jurassic Park. It’s a loose connection, but it’s the only one that Jurassic World needs. Beyond that, this sequel feels like as much of a reboot as it is a follow-up, taking place twenty years after the conclusion of the original Jurassic Park, the events of which are sometimes mentioned in passing, but never truly made a focus. Again though, the movie doesn’t suffer for this, wisely not getting bogged down in nostalgia.
This allows us to enjoy all-new character arcs, even if some of them tread familiar territory. Chris Pratt plays your typical, but reliable action man in Owen Grady, while Bryce Dallas Howard provides a nice foil to him with Claire’s corporate neuroses and repressed sexual tension. On this note, it’s very much appreciated that Claire is not a useless damsel-in-distress too, nor is she a devil-may-care corporate lapdog, making her a far better personality in Jurassic World than you would imagine. Likewise, even Zach and Grey have some fun moments, as does Vic Hoskins, with Vincent D’Onofrio exceptionally making him the arrogant military prick that you’ll love to hate. Irrfan Khan does pretty well as the park’s owner, who is apparently working to get a helicopter flying license, but that just feels like a predictable plot element for later on, especially given that Simon is otherwise a bit of an inconsistent corporate figurehead who seems to change his personality and beliefs as the script demands.
The only major drawback to what’s otherwise a great cast in Jurassic World is that some of them feel tossed in to the movie with extraneous arcs that don’t go anywhere. Judy Greer and Andy Buckley have glorified cameos as the parents of Zach and Gray, with Judy Greer’s character also being Claire’s sister… Oh, and they’re getting divorced apparently. This doesn’t go anywhere however, and it feels like a half-hearted way to try and give Zach and Gray more developed personalities, to mixed effect. Another example is Claire pawning off her self-absorbed British assistant, Zara to watch the two boys, whom she can’t even remember the ages of, let alone actual details about them. Zara simply exists as fodder to be outwitted, and feels like a waste of a character.
This is small potatoes when you consider that audiences are coming for the dinosaurs though. Even so, it helps that Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard headline a mixed ensemble cast that are at least easy to watch and enjoy.
Despite its grand scale, Jurassic World has a pretty simple storyline. Even with its simplicity however, the story is ingeniously executed, both as a direct follow-up to the original that wisely ignores the sequels (they are still canon according to Universal, though none of their events, nor Isla Sorna, are ever mentioned in this movie), and as an inspired new direction for a dormant franchise that makes it feel fun and relevant again in its latest offering.
The movie begins with Zach and Gray, the young nephews of Operations Manager, Claire Dearing, coming to her theme park, Jurassic World, which is essentially the completion of the vision that John Hammond had for the concept of Jurassic Park way back in the first movie. Jurassic World is fully operational, filled with guests, and also happens to be on Isla Nublar, the Central American location where the original Jurassic Park movie largely took place. It’s since become one of the most successful and lucrative theme parks in the world, thanks to its dinosaur attractions, with Zach and Gray being sent there as their parents sort out divorce proceedings.
This happens to occur right as the park is planning to unveil its newest attraction, the Indominus Rex, a genetically-engineered hybrid dinosaur that the corporate number-crunchers believe will have attendance spiking, and profits rolling in… That is, until the Indominus Rex manages to escape confinement, subsequently going on a rampage and killing spree as it heads toward Jurassic World proper from its distant containment site. The rest of the movie then unfolds from the panicked efforts to try and recapture or kill the Indominus Rex, as the threat to the guests continually elevates.
Jurassic World sets up its new location with just the right amount of a foundation, and also happens to be the first movie in the series that doesn’t begin with some manner of dinosaur attack. It beautifully builds up to the inevitable escape of the Indominus Rex, and its pacing continually ramps up all the way up to the climax, making the story do a wonderful job of keeping things even more interesting and engaging with every passing minute. The movie doesn’t let up until the credits roll, even though everything centers around the rampage of a single, albeit highly dangerous mutant dinosaur.
This helps Jurassic World recapture that feeling of old-school blockbuster appeal that the original Jurassic Park delivers so well. Jurassic World borrows enough pages from the original Jurassic Park to feel like the true sequel that it always deserved, yet also takes enough liberties with the plot progression to still feel like its own thing, with its own fresh and exciting new direction. This makes it one of the most satisfying Summer blockbusters yet for 2015, with a story that feels like both the best of the old and the best of the new in one excellent package!
It’s hard not to miss that beautifully executed Steven Spielberg direction from Jurassic Park, if we put aside that Spielberg also directed the misfire follow-up, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, but fortunately, you actually won’t miss Spielberg all that much in Jurassic World. This is all the more amazing when you consider that Jurassic World is directed by Colin Trevorrow of all people, whose only major film credit is the indie comedy, Safety Not Guaranteed.
Despite Trevorrow’s complete lack of experience in the blockbuster space however, he delivers a sublime directing job that almost rivals that of Spielberg himself! Trevorrow beautifully allows the titular dinosaur park to come to life, with lots of sweeping, grand shots that make everything feel large and inviting. The atmosphere in the movie is truly incredible, though Trevorrow doesn’t skimp on the action either. His dino chases are very fast-paced and intense, and his brutal kills of both other humans and dinosaurs don’t disappoint either, being just squeamish enough to leave an impact, though not so squeamish as to disturb the PG-13 rating.
Even as he so easily achieves a great degree of spectacle however, Trevorrow’s focus on making impactful characters, even with their simple backstories, is what really makes Jurassic World feel worth investing in. Trevorrow seems to have a knack for making much with little, working with the actors to deliver subtle, but very effective little quirks and personality traits that allow audiences to fill in the blanks, without the script constantly interrupting things and taking the focus away from the dinosaurs to tell a backstory that the audience won’t care about. Ok, the divorce of Zach and Gray’s parents is kind of difficult to care about, but that’s a minor thing.
The fact that the direction allows the park and the dinosaurs to take center stage, without compromising the charm and humanity of the characters, makes Jurassic World feel like a stunning and perfectly balanced blockbuster directing achievement, especially for a guy with only one major film credit to his name, and an indie film at that! I dare say that Colin Trevorrow has a bright future of blockbuster filmmaking ahead of him, if Jurassic World is any indication!
John Williams unfortunately doesn’t return to compose the score for Jurassic World, but don’t worry, because Michael Giacchino is certainly up to the task! Giacchino ironically got his start from composing the music for the PlayStation video game tie-in for The Lost World: Jurassic Park back in the 90’s, so he’s actually an inspired fit for Jurassic World. Giacchino’s score does contain some instances of the classic John Williams theme, but they’re nicely blended with a score that beautifully ties in to the atmosphere of the movie, giving it the same sense of majesty and blockbuster charm that the original boasted under Spielberg’s watch. This feels like a very authentic Jurassic Park experience thanks to the lively score, which still knows how to punctuate action scenes with more intense composition, even if it does primarily focus on a sense of fun over dread.
As for the soundtrack, it also very undeniably feels like Jurassic Park. The vicious roar of the Indominus Rex is enough to shake the theatre, especially if you’re lucky enough to attend an IMAX 3D screening! Everything from the screeches of the Velociraptors to the moan of the Apatosaurus to the shaking of trees and stomping of imminent doom all feels very much rooted in classic Jurassic Park sensibilities, feeling very familiar for fans, yet still striking and fresh for those who have never seen the former three movies.
As much as the landscape of Jurassic World itself wonderfully leaps to life with the inviting and immersive soundtrack, it’s the dinosaurs that will most get audiences’ attention. They feel as mighty and powerful as they ever did, and the Indominus Rex especially truly feels like a force to be reckoned with, effortlessly keeping audiences on the edge of their seats throughout the runtime!
The original effects artist, the late Stan Winston, is obviously not present for Jurassic World. Even so, the effects studio, Legacy Effects, which Stan Winston helped build, took on the duty of creating effects for Jurassic World, and they definitely don’t disappoint!
Now, granted, recent dinosaur discoveries and theories from paleontologists have been ignored in Jurassic World, with the dinosaurs retaining a more ‘classic’ look that falls in line with how they appeared in Jurassic Park. Still, it would be foolhardy to get bent out of shape about this, since the movie does explain that none of the dinosaurs’ genetics are pure, and they’ve all had gaps filled in from separate reptiles and amphibians, so they won’t look like dinosaurs should anyway (hell, even the original Jurassic Park explained this!), but even beyond that, remember as well that this is the Jurassic Park franchise, not a documentary. It’s supposed to be a little fantastical.
Putting that aside though, the dinosaur animatronics are still outstanding, with each of the dinos being a practical effect that truly feels alive and captivating. True, there are some sparing uses of CGI here and there, especially when it comes to the destruction, but CGI is only implemented when necessary, with practical effects still ruling the portrayal of the dinosaurs for the most part. Since the sets and animatronics are so real and functional, it helps create the sense that Jurassic World is a real place that the audience can feel like they’re actually visiting, contributing to making the movie about it feel all the more engrossing.
The immersion is heightened all the more if you see Jurassic World in 3D as well, with the 3D presentation being pretty excellently done. The 3D helps to make the movie’s setting come to life all the more, with things like debris and chomping dinosaur jaws occasionally poking out of the screen to give audiences a sense of old-school 3D movie satisfaction. Like the story itself, the 3D feels like a great mix of new and old, with the corny 3D money shots actually working pretty nicely with the general sense of immersion and ferocity that modern 3D filmmaking has learned to pull off so well these days.
That said however, the best way to view Jurassic World is in IMAX 3D, with my screening being in that format. In IMAX 3D, Jurassic World is at its biggest and most exciting, not just thanks to the increased power of the IMAX speakers bolstering the soundtrack, but also because the sense of scale and immersion is incredibly heightened on the IMAX screen. Jurassic World’s IMAX optimization is fantastic, especially since it bolsters the 3D even further, fully making audiences feel like they’re actually a part of the movie. Nine times out of ten, IMAX is exaggerating when it claims you can live your movies, but in the case of Jurassic World, it’s definitely pretty accurate. If you have the means, you’ll definitely want to spring for the IMAX 3D cut, since you’ll easily get your money’s worth with it!
Even if your best option is a regular digital 3D showing however, Jurassic World at least must be seen in 3D, if you have any tolerance for 3D movies. The movie may still be a visual marvel in 2D, but there is a bit of atmosphere and intensity lost when you just watch the movie flat.
Regardless of your choice however, rest assured that Jurassic World looks not only stunning, but also massive. It may not have some of the flash factor of something like Avengers: Age of Ultron, but it nonetheless creates a world that audiences will have no trouble wanting to get lost in.
Jurassic World is the kind of worthy sequel that fans have spent decades dreaming of. It’s an excellent fusion of classic Jurassic Park sensibilities, with new and cutting-edge story material and production values, and it’s all brought together by a fresh and engaging cast that, surprisingly, easily gets by without trying to include the veteran actors from the older movies. Even with changes in directors, composers, effects artists and the like, Jurassic World feels even more like a Jurassic Park sequel than the prior two ever did!
The movie also feels surprisingly witty and novel, despite digging up an aborted movie franchise that’s been gone for over a decade. Jurassic World places the idea of genetically revived dinosaurs firmly in the 21st Century though, re-tooling the series as a parable of the responsibilities and vigilance that humanity must exercise when it comes to progress, and what kind of dangers can result when people waive caution in the name of progress. It’s a message that gives Jurassic Park an awesome new lease on life, making it feel more relevant than ever in our age of technological arms races and rapid online expansion.
Naturally, fans of Jurassic Park will be absolutely thrilled with Jurassic World, which is finally the sequel that they’ve been waiting for. Even if you’ve never seen a Jurassic Park movie though, or wouldn’t consider yourself a fan, Jurassic World demands to be seen on the sheer basis that it’s just an outstanding blockbuster! It’s inspired, action-packed, entertaining, and a huge amount of fun! It actually feels like it brings back a lot of that same appeal from 1993, when the original Jurassic Park first hit theatres.
Jurassic World’s massive hype could have easily left it as a huge disappointment, especially after such a long wait since Jurassic Park III from 2001, but fortunately, it’s a movie that actually does manage to live up to the hype in every way! The result is one of this Summer’s best and highest-recommended blockbusters, right alongside Mad Max: Fury Road.
I sort of can’t believe that I’m saying it, but, Jurassic Park is back, and it’s better than ever with Jurassic World!