Director: Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, dinosaurs!
You know your franchise reboot is in trouble when its best moments are explicit references to the much, much better original. And when even those moments are empty, ultimately. But hey, who can argue with a billion dollars at the box office? They should have called this Jurassic World: Who’d have thought this could happen a fourth time?
Set 22 years after the original Jurassic Park, the island of Isla Nublar has been successfully reopened by the Masrani Corporation, and retitled Jurassic World. How exactly they managed to regain control of the island is never really made clear, but who cares? Dinosaurs! Thousands of yuppies flock to gawp at the miracle of cloned prehistoric animals, but apparently this isn’t enough. The park needs bigger, scarier attractions to meet consumer demands. So they concoct a genetic hybrid: the super intelligent Indominus Rex. The movie’s own trailer points out that this is “probably not a good idea”. Surprise, surprise, the new dino busts out and runs amok, leaving it up to the park’s manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Velociraptor trainer/resident hunk Owen (Chris Pratt) to save the day. Throw in a forced romance, a pair of incredibly annoying kids, and an utterly preposterous plan to use raptors to fight the Indominus, and you have your movie.
Jurassic World’s problem isn’t its ridiculousness. It’s bland. What made the original Jurassic Park a great summer blockbuster was that Spielberg used the technological restrictions of making a live action dinosaur film in 1993 to his advantage, namely to create tension and develop its characters. Note that in the original, dinosaurs actually only show up for maybe 15-20 minutes. This is something Spielberg learned from the logistical nightmare of making Jaws with an animatronic shark, 40 years ago. The remainder of the gaps were used to illuminate Michael Crichton’s source material, an accessible interpretation of chaos theory via a vintage Jeff Goldblum performance.
Of course Jurassic World is troubled by no such restrictions whatsoever. CGI allows filmmakers to do whatever they want. To its credit, the movie spends a commendable amount of time establishing cursory themes of animal psychology, and a broader theme of control vs. chaos. It’s just a little ironic that once the dinosaurs are set loose, the movie throws all that out the window and craps the bed with a sensory overload of consequence-less CGI. It’s just stuff for the sake of stuff. Meanwhile, the best JW can offer in response to Goldblum is New Girl’s Jake Johnson, whose sole purpose apparently is to comment on how ridiculous the whole scenario is. You and me both, brother.
Review by Matt Green