More than twenty years ago, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park captivated audiences around the world, showcasing the most photorealistic depiction of dinosaurs ever realized on film, thanks to a combination of Stan Winston’s animatronic creations and state-of-the-art CGI. Now, the park is open again for Jurassic World – but does this long-awaited sequel recapture the same magic?
Not quite, although Universal Pictures and director Colin Trevorrow certainly make a valiant attempt. Wisely ignoring the events of the second and third films in the franchise, Jurassic World takes place approximately twenty years after the original. Isla Nublar is now home to a sprawling resort that has been operating successfully for years – something like a combination of Disneyland and an animal safari park, but with the giraffes and elephants replaced by lumbering herbivores like triceratops and stegosaurus. There’s even a Sea World-esque attraction where visitors can watch a mosasaurus burst out of the water to devour its dinner before splashing down and soaking the first few rows of spectators.
Jurassic World follows many of the same beats as the original film, but manages to never seem as though it’s trying to replicate its predecessor. There are numerous homages to some of the most iconic scenes from Jurassic Park – some are clever winks to the die-hard fans, and some are very blatant references – but the near-constant fan service is a very welcome detail.
Regrettably, the movies falls a bit short in some places, not the least of which is the truly awful dialogue. We got a few glimpses of this in some of the film’s trailers and TV spots, and viewers hoping that the most cringe-worthy moments were already revealed in the marketing will be in for some disappointment. Chris Pratt – so charismatic and charming in last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy – is saddled with some of the worst bits, spending most of the film as a walking exposition machine. But co-star Bryce Dallas Howard doesn’t fare much better, and most exchanges between their two characters will have eyes rolling toward the ceiling.
Another truly puzzling aspect of Jurassic World involves a bizarre subplot with an InGen employee (Vincent D’Onofrio) hoping to turn a velociraptor research study into a military training program, wherein the raptors could be conditioned to follow commands and be sent into war zones in place of ground troops. It’s a completely ludicrous notion, and everything associated with this idea could easily have been excised from the film without losing anything important.
And while I understand the theme park is modeled after real-world locations with real-world business arrangements, there is an absurd amount of product placement in this film. At one point, after Claire (Howard) shows off the facility’s research lab to a group of corporate representatives hoping to sponsor an upcoming attraction, she muses about having “Verizon Wireless presents” on the marquee. There’s also the opulent Samsung Innovation Center, towering above the resort’s hub area much like Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland, not to mention a slew of retailers and eateries that would be much more at home in a shopping mall than a theme park.
Aside from those admittedly large stumbling blocks, Jurassic World delivers pretty much everything fans could ask for. The number and variety of the dinosaurs has increased vastly over the original film, and the creatures are once again created through a combination of animatronics and CGI for a stunningly lifelike experience. And of course, there’s the Indominus Rex, the park’s first genetically engineered hybrid, which serves up most of Jurassic World‘s thrills and chills through a number of white-knuckle action scenes.
Audiences expecting Trevorrow and Universal to redefine the genre should probably temper their expectations before purchasing a ticket. The film is hampered by some major script issues that should have been addressed long before the cameras began to roll, but they’re not enough to keep the experience from being enjoyable, and fans of the original film – and even its terrible sequels – should find plenty to love about Jurassic World.