The very fact Colin Trevorrow’s mammoth monster movie has replaced the noun ‘park’ with ‘world’ in the title should give a pretty clear indication of the gargantuan aspirations of this latest entry in the dino franchise.
It hasn’t quite been 65 million years, but the wait for the fourth film built on the foundations of Michael Crichton’s novel has been long indeed, having been stuck in development hell like an insect trapped in amber for over a decade.
Now that it is finally here courtesy of Safety Not Guaranteed director Trevorrow, Jurassic World emerges as an occasionally thrilling, but ultimately flimsy exercise in 21st century blockbuster filmmaking.
With the odd exception, modern day tent pole releases trade-off on what went before whilst repackaging themselves in the hope that a big enough audience will simply shrug their shoulders and swallow what’s being served to them. Although Jurassic World isn’t as egregiously cynical as the likes of Transformers, it’s hard to ignore the suspicion the film is constantly apologising for bowing down at the altar of Steven Spielberg and stealing so shamelessly from the bearded one’s 1993 original.
Trevorrow and co may have felt that having frigid company mouthpiece Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) informing rugged-but-nice Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) that the genetically modified Indominus Rex has been cooked up in the lab because audiences expect the latest iteration to be bigger and better is self-referentially winking at the viewer, but it doesn’t excuse the fact Jurassic World is having its cake and eating it.
There are other examples. The film makes a corporate sponsorship joke about naming its prize exhibit “Verizon Wireless Presents the Indominus Rex”, whilst having outrageous levels of product placement throughout. Furthermore, an incredulous Owen points out to Claire the foolishness running around a swampy rainforest in heels, but she somehow manages to anyway, even managing to outrun a T-Rex while holding a flare in a near carbon-copy rehash of Jurassic Park‘s most memorable scene (Trevorrow also employs Spielberg’s trademark camera zoom to someone’s face on numerous occasions).
Other aspects simply don’t make any sense. Why on earth, for instance, would the Indominus enclosure be guarded by a comically inept guard who’s more interested in throwing snacks down his gullet than checking on the whereabouts of probably the most dangerous animal on the planet? Also, if the Indominus somehow managed to jump over a 50ft fence, how the hell did no-one see it?
As for InGen security chief Vic Hoskins’ (Vincent D’Onofrio) hair-brained plan to turn Owen’s raptor pack into supersoldiers, the least said about that one the better.
Compounded, these moments become increasingly frustrating and overshadow the parts of Jurassic World that do work. The dive-bombing pterosaur attack on the thousands of visitors herded into the resort is the highlight of the film and features its nastiest scene involving a character being dunked in and out of the water by a hungry pterosaur, only to become lunch for the Mosasaurus, a giant aquatic lizard that normally provides SeaWorld-style shows for guests.
A furious stampede of guests aping a herd of dinos is also a nice touch, as is a moment early in the film when a dramatic footprint is revealed to be that of a small bird – one that links us to the introduction of hapless brothers Zach and Gray (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins).
Meanwhile, the final dino-tastic standoff is admittedly well handled and features a particularly satisfying denouement, but too much of what has come before involving the Indominus is either nicked from Aliens (1986) or Spielberg’s original.
The film’s box office stampede means a further installment is inevitable; one can only hope that engaging characters and a solid script aren’t as extinct as in Jurassic World.