Film Review: Jurassic World (M, USA, 2015)

It’s been 22 years since Jurassic Park, and long have us fans of that very first film waited for a sequel that was worthy and lo we finally have it in Jurassic World. We can now safely relegate those other two films into extinction and rest assured that this is now an honourable contender for a follow up.
I don’t think it’s possible or fair to think that Jurassic World could outshine its predecessor. So many aspects of that film were brilliant, even ahead of its time; not to mention the timing of its release was perfect. In an era when science still had some mystery to it, the debate ran real and red hot surrounding the ethics. Fast forward to now and we are less in awe of the magic of science, we’ve mapped the human genome in its entirety, we’ve conquered cloning and now we move into stem cell research and genetic modification. Herein lies Jurassic World’s take, it shares some similarities with the first, but it also manages to be a reflection of where we are at now and in doing so feels current.

The park is open, 20 years after the disaster of the original theme park John Hammond’s vision has been realised and brought to fully functioning life courtesy of eccentric billionaire Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan). With help of course from InGen geneticist Dr Henry Wu (BD Wong) and park manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is methodical in her overseeing of all the statistics and minutiae of running a theme park. However as with all theme parks/zoos, without new attractions audiences grow weary of the same old thing, so in the infinite wisdom of corporate progression and placating of shareholders they decide to literally create a new dinosaur “with more teeth and more wow and to be more cool”. But before they can show off their Indominus Rex (a name completely coined for the sake of kids who can’t pronounce most dino names) they need Owen (Chris Pratt) ex Navy veteran now velociraptor trainer/keeper to give it the check off. To add to Claire’s already hectic plate, her two nephews Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) are visiting the park. Things of course go horribly wrong when the extremely intelligent camouflage enabled Indominus Rex breaks loose, cue the running and the screaming and the people being eaten and all kinds of badness.

So let me get some of the negatives out of the way first since generally they’re minor and nitpicky. Yes the film does share some similarities to the first. The moral and ethical debate over whether we should or shouldn’t play God, particularly when that involves creating a rampaging killing machine of a monster. Can we all just agree that it’s a really bad thing? Or the fact that there’s zero backstory for our hero Owen, how did he go from working in the Navy to suddenly being a Raptor Whisperer? Then there’s the kinda hokey theme park style novelty moments, like kids riding baby Triceratops’ like they’re ponies. Or how about the completely unbelievable notion of them not evacuating all the patrons to safety once they realise things are going very wrong? In this day and age of high terror alerts, I’m pretty sure out of control dinosaurs who eat people would warrant some sort of assistance from the National Guard. Then there’s the military/private security arm of InGen and their involvement as they try to manipulate Owen’s raptor training for warfare purposes. That whole subplot was unnecessary. But these are minor glitches that in the grand scheme of the film don’t really matter.

On the upside though director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) with the writing team of Amanda Silver, Rick Jaffa, and Derek Connolly have managed to instil that sense of wonder and awe again, as well as touches of nostalgia that a fan of the first film will appreciate. We don’t get to fully see our deadly Indominus Rex until around half way into the film, plus we also get to see some new dino species like the Mosasaur and Dimorphodon. There are the favourites like the Triceratops and the Gallimimus and of course the Velociraptors and if you’d missed the memo yes the original Tyrannosaurus Rex from the first movie makes a comeback. Then there are the nostalgic nods like the bronze statue of John Hammond in the Innovation Centre foyer, both a nod to Hammond and a tribute to Sir Richard Attenborough who passed away last year. Or the moment when Gray and Zach stumble upon the abandoned and overgrown original Atrium complete with torn up ‘When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth’ banner that they ironically turn into a makeshift torch (passing the torch eh?). Nor can we ever forget John Williams’ spine tingling score, and even though this time it’s performed by Michael Giacchino it will still illicit shivers. And for once all the blatant product placement in the film is actually the writers satirical take on the corporatisation of popular entertainment rather than a money grab by the studio. And even though the warfare subplot was stupid, it did give us an excuse to have Chris Pratt riding a motorbike through the jungle with his raptor attack squad. Just seeing that bit in the trailer alone got me pumped for this film.

Both our leads are actually well rounded and shaped characters. Claire in particular gets the most progression going from an almost robotic workaholic to actually kicking ass and appreciating her family. Owen is a genuine badass, and even though he’s a bit more on the serious side (compared to Pratt’s spell in Guardians of the Galaxy) he still manages to crack the odd quick quip every now and then particularly in the presence of or directed at Claire. Our two kids Gray and Zach are actually surprisingly realistic and accessible while Vincent D’Onofrio has a spell as bad guy Hoskins who gets his come-uppance twice. But unlike in the other sequel films where the dinos were always the villains, this time around it’s only the Indominus that’s wreacking havoc whilst all the others just want to get on with their dino lives. Even though we know in our minds they’re fake, in our hearts they’re real and nothing makes you shed a little tear than seeing an Apatosaurus breathe its last or fist pump hard when the raptors try to take down Indominus. And that last battle scene, it will have you cheering and rooting for the good dinos all the way.

Unlike its precursor, Jurassic World is not breaking any new ground here and nor do we expect it to. What it does do is manage to reinvigorate that sense of awe and feeling of magic that we had when we saw the first film as well as up the ante on the action and horror. The pacing is great and it rarely feels like there’s excess fat on the story or any of the scenes. With characters both human and dino alike to root for, hold onto your butts, coz this is going to be a fun and crazy ride.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 124 minutes

Jurassic World screens in Australian cinemas from 11th June 2015 through Universal Pictures Australia