Jurassic World delivers plenty of ginormous CGI thrills, spills and dinosaur action, but wooden acting and a lame script make for an unengaging and formulaic drama. Fans of Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) will miss the magic of the original film.
22 years after Jurassic Park closed down two brothers, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) take a vacation to Jurassic World in Costa Rica, a dinosaur theme park, to visit their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park’s operations manager. In her power-suit, bob and high-heels Claire is business-friendly, rather than child-friendly. The kids soon lose the assistant delegated to look after them and explore the park for themselves, their wonder turning to terror when there is a ‘containment anomaly’ and a genetically-modified brute of a dinosaur – Indomitus Rex – breaks out and goes on the rampage.
This is the film’s big idea: the theme park corporation has admitted that ‘no one is impressed with a dinosaur anymore’, so, in response to consumer demand for ‘bigger, louder, faster, more thrilling, more teeth’ it has designed a synthetic hybrid dinosaur. Alas, its designers haven’t done their scientific homework, creating a violent monster who kills for fun, rather than food. ‘Animals raised in isolation are not always the most functional,’ says velociraptor handler Owen (Chris Pratt).
Director and co-writer Colin Trevorrow has said that the Indomitus Rex is symbolic of consumer and corporate success, intended to embody humanity’s worst excesses: ‘we’re surrounded by wonder and yet we want more.’ The good guys in the film, led by Owen, are the ones who respect nature and love the dinosaurs as animals. The bad guy in the film, Hoskins, is a warmongering maniac who sees an opportunity for the military to benefit from this killing machine: ‘imagine if we’d had these puppies in Tora Bora’ (Osama Bin Laden’s Afghan hideout), he enthuses.
There are several jaw-dropping chase sequences and dinosaur fights, especially the titanic finale with its satisfying twist, but, as in the original Jurassic Park, it is the small details that can be the most enjoyable. There is nothing here to match the brilliance of Spielberg’s close-up of the trembling surface of a glass of water to herald an approaching T Rex, but I loved the theme park’s version of a ‘petting zoo’ for the little ones – bonsai versions of Triceratops and Brontosaurus. I also enjoyed the doleful teenage ride assistant who repeated joylessly, ‘enjoy the ride’.
Steven Spielberg acted as executive producer on Jurassic World and fans will enjoy spotting references to his work here – Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET and Jaws – as well as Hitchcock’s The Birds.
Overall, though, the film’s acting and script are curiously off-mark. I was expecting much more from Chris Pratt, so engaging in Guardians of the Galaxy. Here he seems to have been told to be ‘serious’, so he frowns a lot and loses his freshness. There’s zero chemistry between him and Howard, who strips down to her vest when the action kicks in, like Bruce Willis in high heels. As for the kids, they’re just annoying.