My childhood movie is Jurassic Park. It’s my Star Wars, my Harry Potter, my Spider-Man, you get it.
Like a lot of kids, I was inexplicably drawn to dinosaurs. I mean, dragon-like beasts once walked the earth. How cool is that? So along comes this film with special effects that present dinosaurs as realistically as possible. And I loved it. I think Jurassic Park (I saw Spielberg’s film first, then fell in love with Crichton’s book) was the driving force behind me wanting to become a storyteller. I mean, the first completed stories I ever wrote were Jurassic Park fanfiction. There’s a sense of wonder to Jurassic Park that I just responded to. Now I’ve seen the film countless times and I still feel that same wonder, that same sense of adventure, which to me makes it a very rare sort of film.
It occurs to me now as I am writing this that I will never know a movie better than Jurassic Park. I watched that thing so many times, I know it by heart. And recognizing my viewing habits of today, I know that I will never watch another film so religiously as I did Jurassic Park. I fully recognize that there are better films, but I’ll never have that same connection with a film again.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park gets a lot of crap from critics and filmgoers alike but I’ve always enjoyed the film. It’s a step down from Jurassic Park, to be sure, and it has some downright silly moments… but I like it. I watched it again recently and was struck by how much darker the film was compared to Jurassic Park. I’d heard people call it the ‘dark’ sequel before but I never got that until now. Weird. The story’s not darker, but the dinosaur attacks are considerably more vicious. Like when Eddie Carr gets torn in half? Holy shit. That’s still a striking sequence.
I think I prefer Crichton’s The Lost World to the film. They share some of the same scenes and characters, but it’s a very different story. Like the film, Crichton’s Lost World is considerably darker than the first film. Of course, Crichton’s Jurassic Park book is also darker than its adaptation. There’s a part where compies kill a baby, if I remember correctly. So, yeah.
But as far as sequels go, I really think The Lost World is underrated. In a lot of ways, it is Spielberg’s King Kong. I mean, you’re bypassing the theme park stuff and just having an adventure on an island with dinosaurs. Like King Kong, a dinosaur is brought to the mainland where it causes wanton destruction before the heroes intervene. Unlike King Kong, Spielberg lets the rex go back home alive.
I think Spielberg understood that while the human characters mattered (and I maintain that Malcolm, Grant, Ellie Sattler, and John Hammond are strong characters), the major appeal of the films was the dinosaurs. We love the T-Rex, Triceratops, and Stegosaurus. Joe Johnston apparently didn’t understand the viewers love for the old favorites. In Jurassic Park 3, director Johnston and crew give the viewers the Spinosaurus, believing you'll think it's so cool that you'll forget all about your old favorites. So determined to prove the Spino’s badassery they had it kill a rex just moments after rex’s initial arrival.
There’s a lot wrong with Jurassic Park 3. It’s a bad film, full of awkward dialogue, lame characters, talking raptors, digging through poop for a phone, and a boring visual style. But I think that kind of disrespect for what the viewers were wanting or expecting ended up hurting them the most in the end. We liked the raptors – JP3 makes them talk! We liked rex as the island’s big bad – JP3 kills it off in seconds! We liked smart, relatable characters – JP3 gives you the noisy Kirby family and a very grumpy Alan Grant! I do like the aviary sequence, though. And the plane crash ain’t bad, I guess. But if every film fan has that favorite childhood movie, then they must also have that other film that sort of pulls the heart out of their chest and stomps on it. That’s what Jurassic Park 3 is for me.
There was a new Jurassic Park every four years until Jurassic Park 3 came along. It’s been almost 14 years since that film. A long time to wait.
During that wait, I’d come to terms with the fact that we may never get a JP4. And if we did, it would be wise not to expect much. There were rumors of doing a Jurassic Park prequel… which might’ve worked, but really, why? Then there was the infamous leaked script from John Sayles that featured half-dino/half-man hybrids being created in the Swiss Alps to be used as super soldiers. The script also featured pteranadons stealing hot dogs at a baseball game. It’s a weird screenplay. There’s even concept art for this abandoned JP4 which can be found on the internet.
Supposedly Spielberg and the studio were high on this idea, but internet people/fans were not convinced. Fan backlash was so severe that I think the internet probably had a good deal to do with putting the kibosh on that idea.
Then in 2008 we lost author Michael Crichton and animatronic effects master Stan Winston, two of the most important people behind the making of the Jurassic Park series. Producer Kathleen Kennedy even supposed that with their passing, perhaps it was time to put JP4 to bed.
It took much longer than expected, but we finally got our JP4 in the form of 2015’s Jurassic World.
So, after 14 years, was Jurassic World worth the wait?
Short answer: Yes. Probably. I think so… Well, I liked it.
Long answer: MOVIE REVIEW!
In Jurassic World, John Hammond’s dream of an island resort filled with prehistoric beasts is finally realized. John Hammond simply did not live to see that dream come to fruition. The island and the dinosaur breeding patents have been bought up by the Masrani Global corporation, who set about turning Jurassic Park/World into the destination resort it always should have been. And apparently things are running smoothly this time because there’s no Dennis Nedry to muck things up.
Jurassic World is open for business and sees thousands of visitors daily. In fact, things are running so smoothly that the idea of dinosaurs walking the earth has (somehow) become commonplace. In a desperate attempt to attract new and returning visitors, they ask geneticist Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong, the only returning human cast member) to create a dinosaur that’s bigger, meaner, and cooler than all the other creatures in the park.
Meet Indominus Rex. It’s a ‘classified’ hybrid of multiple dinosaurs and other species. Perhaps taking notes from the anti-Sea World documentary Blackfish, the Indominus has gone a bit insane from being raised in complete isolation. The only things it knows are its feeding routines and the walls that keep it locked away from the rest of the world. The movie kicks off when the Indominus breaks free of its cage and begins a violent rampage across the park, killing both dinosaurs and humans alike.
It’s easy to say that the Indominus Rex represents corporate greed with teeth. But we could also say that the monster perhaps represents a bit of criticism aimed at Hollywood blockbusters (Jurassic World included). The geneticists create this monster that’s meant to be bigger and scarier than its natural born counterparts all based around the idea that tourists no longer care for normal dinosaurs. One could suppose that this was the idea being passed around Universal, as they worried filmgoers would not attend yet another Jurassic Park without a strange new concept to bring them in. The Indominus Rex could almost be the mascot for blockbusters (especially sequels) that are always concerned about being bigger and louder than the competition.
As mentioned above, earlier abandoned concepts for JP4 included dinosaur hybrids designed for combat. The Indominus feels like a bit of a leftover of that idea, reshaped into something more acceptable to audience expectations. The other side of that abandoned concept seems to have been adapted into Jurassic World’s raptor pack, who are trained to obey human commands. As a kid who grew up respecting paleontologists long before he fell in love with science fiction, I was not automatically convinced by either of these two ideas in the trailers. But the film sells both the Indominus and the somewhat obedient Velociraptors solely because of the mythology built up in previous films. In Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton came up with a genius idea for how to recreate dinosaurs with genetics. And because we know genetics has already dabbled with hybrid modifications, the idea of a hybrid monster dinosaur is believable enough. Similarly, the raptors have been depicted as thinking animals in the previous films (smart as a dolphin or primate). So when their human trainer (Chris Pratt) starts issuing commands, we’re willing to believe it. Without the backbone of the previous films, these concepts could not have worked.
Stepping into the director’s chair for Jurassic World is Colin Trevorrow. Jurassic World is only his second feature film. I enjoyed his debut feature, the indie comedy Safety Not Guaranteed. That film was made for less than a million dollars. Jurassic World cost approximately $150 million. Universal and Spielberg took a big gamble by picking Trevorrow to make the film, but for the most part I think that gamble paid off. The film looks impressive and it feels like both a respectful nod to the original film and a natural continuation of the story.
The cast is pretty good. Upon first viewing I’m not sure that any of them are going to become fan favorites, though. It’s interesting to note that while Chris Pratt is the film’s hero, Bryce Dallas Howard is the true protagonist. Both do some good work with the roles they’re given, but these are not complex characters. And because you apparently can’t have a Jurassic Park movie without kids, Jurassic World gives us Gray and Zach (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson), the nephews of Howard’s character who are on a weeklong stay at the island while their parents sort out a divorce (interestingly that is pretty much the same backstory behind the kids Tim and Lex in the original film). The young actors are actually pretty decent, and we’re thankfully spared any silly heroics that kids in the previous movies performed to defeat the dinosaurs (the gymnastics kill in The Lost World remains my least favorite part of that film). My favorite character was actually Mr. Masrani, the man in charge of the park, as played by Life of Pi’s Irrfan Khan. Masrani seems to have the most dramatic depth of the characters, as he realizes the errors that have been made and sets about fixing them himself.
Oscar winner Michael Giacchino (Up) takes John Williams’ place as the film’s composer. The score makes good use of Williams’ Jurassic Park themes while also providing some nice new tracks. I really like this score.
I would have liked to have seen more animatronics work in the film. The previous Jurassic Park films switched between CGI and animatronics whenever they could, giving you a blend that you could believe in. Jurassic World’s dinosaurs are 99% CGI. Only a dying Apatosaurus is done with practical effects and it’s actually the film’s most dramatic scene. The actors play off the dinosaur well and one can’t help but think that other scenes could’ve been improved if they’d done more animatronics throughout the film.
The film’s biggest flaw is the character Hoskins as played by Vincent D’Onofrio. Hoskins is essentially the film’s human antagonist, but the character is not the least bit interesting, mainly because he’s really only there to set up one of the film’s action sequences. Hoskins sees potential to turn the raptors into an asset for the military and sees the crisis on Jurassic World as an opportunity to field test the raptor pack in combat. The character and the setup for this subplot are the most political parts of the film, but it’s not entirely clear what the film is trying to say with them. What’s most disappointing about this character and subplot is how long it takes to come together. After the first scene with Hoskins we understood his motivations, then the film keeps reminding us over and over until finally opportunity presents him with a chance to act. The end result is a boring character that slows down the film every time he walks on screen. Vincent D’Onofrio is a fine actor but he can’t save the poorly written character.
The film works once the action gets going and the thousands of guests come under attack, but it takes a frustratingly long time to reach that point. And please don’t think that all I want from the film was action. That’s not the case. The original Jurassic Park took its time getting to the action-adventure parts of the story, but until then we were given enough interesting scenes to hold us over. Jurassic World actually gets to the action faster than Jurassic Park does, but the scenes leading up to that point are not that special.
We’re also given some some blatant product placement. A note on the product placement: I usually do not mind it. However, I think it went a bit overboard with showing off the Mercedes cars. Basically every vehicle in the movie is a Mercedes and the film makes sure to show them off any chance it gets. Occasionally it looks like a car commercial set in the jungle. It got to the point where I seriously wondered how much of the film’s budget was covered by Mercedes-Benz. It’s not something I really want to hold against the film, but it is a bit distracting now and then.
Considering that Jurassic World’s primary intention was to be an entertaining monster-attack adventure movie, I think it succeeded. There’s enough chaos and cool dinosaur action here to satisfy most moviegoers. I don’t think the film manages to tap into that sense of wonder that the first film had, but it does present enough iconic sequences to make it stand out from the usual summer movie action heroics. The finale, which some have criticized as being over-the-top, made this Jurassic Park fan very happy. A good deal of the film assumes you love Jurassic Park and the fan favorite dinos, and in no part is that more obvious than in the final 15 minutes.
So in closing, was it worth the 14 year wait since the last Jurassic Park film? Well… 14 years is a long time. Maybe? I don't know. But it's fun. It’s a film with many flaws, some of which seemed so painfully easy to fix, but the good outweighs the bad this time around. Jurassic World doesn’t hold a candle to the original film. But did anyone really expect it would? It’s a far better sequel than Jurassic Park 3 and I think some viewers will also prefer it to The Lost World (not me, but I think more highly of The Lost World than most others). As far as the sequels go, The Lost World and Jurassic Park 3 were pretty basic adventure stories set on an island that time forgot. The motivations for the heroes of those two films are both to rescue someone that’s alone on the island. In that way, The Lost World and Jurassic Park 3 follow a blueprint closer to King Kong than the original Jurassic Park. Jurassic World is more similar to the original JP. It’s a high-concept adventure movie about people trying to capitalize on bringing extinct animals back to life, and the venture ending very badly for everyone involved. (It's worth noting that TLW and JP3 are set on Isla Sorna while JP and JW are set on Isla Nublar. Different islands, different story molds?) Jurassic World does manage to set itself apart from the other movies by moving into sci-fi/horror territory thanks to the Indominus Rex, making it probably the scariest and most violent entry in the series. It’s far from perfect and I'd be lying if I said wasn’t hoping for something more polished, but I enjoyed myself and I’ll be happy to welcome this new Jurassic Park film into my collection.
I give Jurassic World a 7/10.
*JURASSIC WORLD the film, logo, and poster are all owned by Universal Pictures*
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of fiction and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
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