Resurrecting the Ancient Park
Jurassic Park is such an iconic adventure film. It blends CGI with real life animatronics so perfectly that it even holds up remarkably well today; some 20+ years later. Not only that but it is a good film that is fun for all ages. So how do you follow such a cultural phenomenon?
With 2 terrible sequels as it turns out.
In steps Jurassic World with its promises to return to the films roots of mild horror, fantastical adventure and a back to basics approach to special effects. It’s easy to find this promise as believable as the England football team saying they will win the world cup, especially when you consider it’s two previous entries into the series but Jurassic World delivers on almost all fronts.
If you are still not sure it’s probably because you have seen the trailer which makes it look like a poorly conceived re-hash of the original. The trailer shows genetically modified dinosaurs that goes killing everything for shits and giggles. It has people being best buds with a pack of raptors and it has Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) with some terrifying hair. Ignore the misleading trailer because the film actually works hard to give these aspects context – except the hair. By constantly focusing on world building rather than all out spectacle you are willing to suspend your disbelief and go with the ride when you are presented with the more ridiculous scenes the films offer.
I’ll elaborate further but first let me touch on the world building. The film follows on from the events of the original film, which have now largely faded from peoples memory. The park is not only open but it is thriving thanks to the continued work of Dr Henry Wu (BD Wong) who is one of the scientists in the precursor movie.The main plot story follows Grey (TY Simpkins) a young boy who, like seemingly every little boy, knows everything about dinosaurs and his brother Zach (Nick Robinson) who, like seemingly every teenage boy, is grumpy and disinterested in everything. The brothers head to the park to meet their aunt Claire who is a stuffy business orientated working woman.
The park has been tamed in a way that makes it feel like a sea-life center or any ordinary zoo. There is the giant Mosasaur in the above picture that will be an instant favourite as it explodes out of the water to feed on a shark and splash the delighted audience. Then there is the baby triceratops petting zoo which small kids can ride around on like donkeys. There is a glass ‘gyrosphere’ that you can queue up to ride like any other theme park. Finally there are the dangerous raptors.
So let’s start with the raptors. I know it’s looks stupid in the trailer but the motorbike raptor scene was actually really awesome. Owen (Chris Pratt) is both trainer and keeper of the raptors and is stoic in his treatment of them, fervently reminding people that whilst he is trying to train them they are, and always will be, wild animals. It’s a viewpoint that is consistent throughout and actually poses a valuable lesson to all when extrapolated outwards: animals are animals, you give them respect and they may give you respect back but if you don’t you might get bitten… or worse.
By the time the raptors sprint into action the film has done enough legwork for you to accept this. The same holds true with the Indominus Rex: the parks new super-saurus. The reason the dinosaur is built is because of a desire for bigger and better attractions but it’s features are the way they are because of the animals it has been spliced with. It has this animal to assist with growth hormones and that animal to help adapt to it’s local climate and it just so happens to have acquired other unforeseen abilities because of this.
The Indominus Rex breaks free of it’s cage because it hasn’t had enough space to roam, it has been isolated and possible mistreated. It’s something that Owen spots instantly stating that it won’t play well with others – again tracking back to our theme of respecting animals. Of course the rest of the plot is quite generic, or classic perhaps, as the two brothers get lost and attacked by dinosaurs so Owen has to try to save them and cage the aforementioned freed beast.
There is a sub plot with Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), a military contractor for InGen, who has been doing some shady deals in the background of the park. Presumably to add depth to the story this plot line feels wedged in at best whilst the character role feels too forced and overacted to the extent that it actually took away from further, more interesting character narratives.
Still this doesn’t detract too much from an otherwise great film. It builds really well allowing us only glimpses of the new dinosaur for quite some time which helps build tension in a style that is very familiar to the original Jurassic Park. In each character there is something particularly relatable in their traits even if you could argue that they stick to well tested types. The park feels alive, operable and a place of excitement whilst an impending doom is layered gracefully over the top. Add a pinch of humour, a sprinkle of nostalgia and what you are left with is a bigger, but probably not better, version of Jurassic Park.
- Superb world building
- Great back to basics feel
- Cool dinosaurs
- InGen role
- Predictable story
- That hair!