Seven years after Jurassic World revived the franchise, we are approaching the end of Colin Trevorrow’s trilogy. With that in mind, we’re rewinding the tape to look back over the franchise. The new trilogy has introduced dozens of new characters of questionable quality, but the undeniable success of Jurassic World brought audiences back to Isla Nublar. The action-adventure comedy still has its fair share of missteps, but in the context of the Jurassic Park saga, it remains one of the few popcorn films to deliver on its blockbuster promise.
In Jurassic World, we are introduced to brothers Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) when they make a Christmas trip to the latest Jurassic Park in Costa Rica. The theme park has found success decades after the original park, thanks to one Claire Dearing’s (Bryce Dallas Howard) efforts. While her nephews have come to visit her, Claire finds herself busy with one of the newest dinos in the park, the Indominus Rex. After showing the creature to the park’s new owner, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) requests that Navy Seal Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) observe the animal. When Owen and Claire arrive to observe Indominus, the creature appears to have escaped into the park, setting off a full-blown lockdown and struggle for survival.
The film relies on Trevorrow’s eye for two things: spectacle and action. He half delivers on both, but when the sequences are working, they are undeniably effective. The Indominus creates some truly terrifying moments, especially during the gyroball attack. Utilizing the camouflage aspects of the creature adds an element of surprise that complements the creature’s immense size. In the lineage of the Spinosaurus, Indominus poses a physical threat that adds to the spectacle of Jurassic World.
Trevorrow insists there were more puppets being used than he’s given credit for, but bad CGI gives the game away. There are simply too many moments that do not work on this front. Sequences with Indominus, Velociraptors, and the herbivores that become fodder for violent kills, and many suffer with much of the film occurring in the day. He livens up the sequences with some fun fight choreography that allows the dangerous creatures to showcase their many talents. The aviary attack is particularly thrilling, even as it inspires some genuine hate for the death of side character Zara (Katie McGrath). While this author does not see death by dino as a condemnation of her attitudes or irrational hate toward a character, the criticism certainly feels brutal.
For the most part, Trevorrow succeeds in delivering a bloodier monster film with a significantly higher body count than the original film or Jurassic Park III from 2001. This, and better special effects than the previous entry, helps the entertainment factor soar. Trevorrow successfully creates the dichotomy of wonder and violence, making the film a visual spectacle that devolves into chaos at a moments notice. He raises the stakes with the fully functioning theme park, create a visual cornecopia that not only felt fitting at the time of release, but has only become more apt with recent Disney and Universal theme park expansions. For a brief moment, Trevorrow gives us the vision of a working Jurassic Park, all before the inevitable collapse brought on by human hubris.
The ensemble does their duty, but rarely pops off the page. Arguably the most interesting characters come for supporting roles. Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkis pepper in humor throughout their time on screen, and their witty banter makes their scenes more than just exposition dumps. Vincent D’Onofrio goes full mustache twirling villain with bravado and arrogance. In terms of the franchise’s antagonists, he stands out.
Perhaps the most underrated turn comes from Omar Sy, who delivers passionate dialogue with skill and grace. He makes it clear someone on the island actually cares for the animals, and when he’s in danger, its one of the only characters that we fear for. Finally, Khan blows away the rest of the cast in terms of charisma, making his smaller role all-the-more frustrating. Khan easily dominates the screen in his scenes, and makes this venture capitalist far more compelling than one would assume.
Where Jurassic World struggles is the obnoxious “more teeth” recurring dialogue. The meta-narrative of having to create new dinos to bring audiences back is a silly concept on its face. The idea that humans would grow weary of this highly specialized experience when many travel around the world for one-of-a-kind adventures, hurts the overall argument. Characters seem to make mental jumps off the non-sense phrase that continually gets thrown around in the film, making the concept even more unbearable. Trevorrow and the film make a point that “we’re on our phones too much,” a tired and truly lazy argument.
There’s some validity to the argument in the blockbuster world, where simply going bigger and bigger has become the norm. However, as a result, the film does suffer from bloat and the franchise has helped usher in a new era of IP-driven films dominating the box office. While Jurassic World and Trevorrow seem to indicate that the strive to go bigger comes at the detriment to the industry, the years since this film’s release have undermined the message. Instead, this franchise keeps searching for bigger and more complex creatures, rather than redefining the ones that helped launch the world.
The criticism of Jurassic World over the past decade have a place, but as a piece of prototypical blockbuster entertainment, we can do far worse than an adventure on an island. While filled with nostalgia, this film features a single legacy character with a small role, and tries to get our buy-in on these heroes independently. There are some legitimately fun sequences (the Raptor motorcycle sequence, the Mosasaur sequences, and the Indominus Gyrosphere battle). With plenty of action and even more dinosaurs, Jurassic World makes for a good time.
Alan’s Grade – 7/10