I went into Jurassic World with a sense of very, very, very, very, very cautious optimism. I am of the firm belief that Jurassic Park is one of the most perfect films ever made. Jurassic Park is art. It has everything. Excitement. Terror. Glistening, shirtless Jeff Goldblum. But previous sequel attempts have been, er, less than good, and the trailers’ emphasis on CGI effects over the practical puppetry that the original film did so well left me feeling cold.
Did this movie finally get the franchise back on track? Minor spoilers follow.
I wanted very, very much for Jurassic World not to suck. And it didn’t. It’s a really enjoyable film, if nothing that lights the world on fire. Praise Lord Goldblum!
To be fair, World has its problems. It starts out sluggish and has way more subplots than it needs. Is your answer to the question of whether a Jurassic Park sequel should address the military-industrial complex with a character who basically works for Blackwater, “What? No, of course not”? Yes? Then you did not write this movie! And while I personally thought the kerfluffle about Jurassic World‘s potential sexism got a bit overblown (that’s what happens when you mix geeks and Joss Whedon), the film does give park manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), its main female character, a motherhood-related character conflict that’s a little retrograde and gross. (Pro-tip to Hollywood: Women can choose to go childless without being angsty about it. I swear.)
As we’re told in a meta wink-wink-nudge early in the film,
audiences park attendees are no longer satisfied with what caught their attention 20 years ago. Now movies theme park attractions have to be shinier and more spectacular and bigger. Jurassic World takes that to heart, essentially re-doing Jurassic Park, but on a larger scale.
Dino wrangler Owen (Chris Pratt) is Muldoon times two (ultra-badass, ~connection~ with velociraptors) with a bit of roguish Ian Malcolm thrown in. Masrani (Irrfan Khan), the billionaire who funds the park, gives a “The wonder of nature! Spare no expense!” speech that could’ve come straight from the mouth of John Hammond. Claire’s workaholism and issues with children echo those of Dr. Grant. She wears Hammond white. There’s a helicopter-turbulence callback. Yet again, there are two kids lost in a park with scary dinos roaming around. The younger one, Gray (Iron Man 3‘s Ty Simpkins), is Tim Redux–adorable, a little goofy, obsessed with dinosaurs and willing to spout facts to anyone who will listen (and people who won’t). He and his older brother Zach (Nick Robinson) even have to jump off a cliff, a throwback to the classic Jurassic Park fence scene. Do you remember the interactive CD-ROM in the Jeep from the first film? Look! Here that is again, but updated and with a celebrity cameo!
Apologies to Jurassic World. I’m making it sound bad, when really it’s not. Initially, it’s true, the film is a bit hamstrung by its determination to be just like Jurassic Park, but bigger. But you can’t do that. Nothing can out-Jurassic Park Jurassic Park. Again, Jurassic Park is a work of art. Eventually, thank God, Jurassic World realizes that, changing course and going after its own thing instead of trying to beat its predecessor at its own game.
And Jurassic World‘s own thing is: Balls-out fun.
Jurassic World might not be a perfect film, but God dammit, it’s fun to see Chris Pratt running around as the Velociraptor Whisperer. (This film, even more than Guardians of the Galaxy, is basically his Indiana Jones audition tape.) Bryce Dallas Howard is, on balance, refreshingly non-damsel-y. If Gray is basically the exact same character as Tim–well, whatever, that’s a fun character! Jake Johnson is a standout as what is basically Nedry (schlubby, geeky, comedic relief, messy workplace), only not evil this time. Once World started on its own path, the references to Park started to be enjoyable instead of weighing the story down. And I really like Khan as Masrani–he has a sort of wide-eyed wonder about dinosaurs that really connected with my inner child, which wasn’t something I was expecting from a gazillionaire CEO character. The final fight (no spoilers) made my theatre cheer.
Sure, Jurassic World is a little sloppy, and it’s a little ridiculous, but it’s not trying to be anything grander or more profound than a fun, exciting Hollywood blockbuster where people get chased by dinosaurs. Compare that with Tomorrowland, which was sloppy and ridiculous despite all its efforts to make Grand Statements.
Does Jurassic World measure up to Jurassic Park? No. But here’s the thing: It was never, ever going to. It knows that. It didn’t try to. Instead, after a bit of a meandering start, it gave us the sort of movie where a motorcycle-riding Chris Pratt is the Alpha to a pack of velociraptors. And that’s the sort of movie I want to see.