David’s Review: JURASSIC WORLD

David Reddish
Image source: Screenshot from Trailer.

Twenty years ago, Steven Spielberg introduced audiences to geneticists who cloned dinosaurs for a theme park.  Now, he introduces us to studio executives who have cloned his earlier movie to do the same.

Jurassic Park is a latter-day classic because it reminded us all how the movies can show us things we’ve never seen before.  With groundbreaking special effects and a thoughtful script by David Koepp and novelist Michael Crichton, the film made the impossible plausible, while evoking the Saturday Morning fun of a Ray Harryhausen creature feature with dinosaurs run amok causing wanton destruction.

Jurassic World, the fourth entry in the series provides more of the destruction, but none of the joy or wonder of the original.  In the cinematic universe, in the ensuing twenty years after the events of the first film, the park has been bought by another zillionaire, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Kahn) and made into a worldwide destination for tourists.  Park attendance is sagging, though, which prompts genetic expert Dr. Henry Wu (a welcome appearance by BD Wong, the only veteran cast member of the original film) to start playing around with gene splicing, once again raising serious question: If these characters are smart enough to clone dinosaurs, how can they be so dang stupid?

Stupid is a major problem for both the park and the film Jurassic World.  For all the loss of life and billions of dollars worth of damage caused in the previous movies, the operators of the theme park ignore basic safety concerns like how to keep tourists from wandering off in a giant hamster ball.  Indeed, the Jurassic World theme park seems populated only by idiots, including COO Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and a bunch of dumb American teenagers who operate the park.  Why untrained teenagers would be working with some of the most dangerous animals in history raises one set of questions; why dumb white American teenagers would be running a theme park in Costa Rica raises more.

Howard, an appealing actress with an awful track record for popping up in franchise (Spider-Man 3, Terminator: Salvation) or career killing (The Village, Lady in the Water) movies, seems more like a theme park animatronic than a human being, knowing virtually nothing of park security protocols and making just about every bad judgment call imaginable.  There again, idiocy plagues Jurassic World, especially in the form of Security Chief Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) who commands a Blackwater-style private army and wants to use the dinos as a secret weapon.  Only former Navy good-ole-boy Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, again sporting his de-chubbed body) sees the recklessness around him, but he’s too busy playing raptor whisperer to even care.  Yes, the villainous raptors from the previous films are back again, this time as trained pets in a sort of hero role.  The new baddie this time out is the Indominus Rex, less a genetically enhanced dinosaur than a souped-up plot device, able to withstand electroshocks, gunfire, mask it’s thermal signature, make itself invisible, or speak raptor as the movie requires it to do.

Because the film is a Jurassic Park entry, we know the Indominus Rex will get loose, the park will descend into mayhem, and countless lives will be lost.  To his credit, director Colin Treverrow provides some fun action, lifted from better sci-fi and action movies from the 1980s & 1990s, like Aliens and Mission: Impossible.  An homage to Deep Blue Sea provides the second biggest laugh in the film, after the hilarity of realizing Howard has been running from dinosaurs in the jungle wearing six inch heels for the better part of two hours.  And therein lies the fundamental problem with Jurassic World: for all its silly dreck fun, the rest of the plot is far too sloppy to digest: characters are introduced only to disappear.  Two teenage boys happen upon an abandoned jeep from the first movie, and are able to get it running after A) it’s sat unmaintained in a jungle for 20 years, B) neither has a license but can drive a manual shift, and C) any fuel in the jeep would have destroyed the engine or crystallized and become unusable.  At one point, one character asks a child if he “still has the matches…” not that anyone mentioned matches before.

The Jurassic Park films have always packed themselves full of product placement, advertising the movie tie-in merchandise by using it as set dressing and props.  Jurassic World continues that tradition by including the vintage merchandise of the original film, the product tie-ins for this one, and displaying corporate logos in mall on the theme park’s main promenade.  You’ll be happy to know that though the promenade is destroyed, all the corporate logos remain unscathed, save for Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.  Parrotheads shouldn’t lament, however; the real Margaritaville is safe and sound outside the Universal Orlando theme parks, which–surprise, surprise–have broken ground on a real-life replica of Jurassic World.  Indeed, corporate mentality is rife in the film, not just in product placement, but in the character of Masrani, the lovable zillionaire who had no idea that Dr. Wu had gene spliced a new dinosaur, despite ordering him to do so!  Both Masrani and the film place the blame on mad scientist Wu, allowing the latter to escape with his abominable research as the corporate magnate dies in a heroic blaze of glory!  If Spielberg in the original film identified with Hammond, the gentle showman who wanted to give park guests the thrill of their lives, Trevorrow and the corporate behemoth behind this latest entry identify more with the oblivious Masrani, going out of their way to absolve him of any culpability for the park’s failure, blaming instead the brilliant scientist who did as he was ordered, and the peon upper level management and their assistants.  Welcome to Ayn Rand’s Jurassic World.

Though bogged down by a slapdash script, corporate meddling, and general dumbness, Jurassic World is impossible to hate.  The movie is beautifully photographed by veteran cinematographer John Schwartzman and the dino-action sequences are fun.  If Howard is about as lifelike as something from The Hall of Presidents, Pratt takes on his role with utter sincerity, a quality which made the original Jurassic Park so endearing, and which makes the bloat of this sequel all the more obvious.  Corporate greed and bloat almost kill the film, but those dinosaurs are a tenacious lot, and manage to evade extinction yet again.  At the rate they’re going though, the dinosaurs’ next outing might well be called Jurassic Infomercial.


Directed by Colin Trevorrow
Produced by
  • Frank Marshall
  • Patrick Crowley
Screenplay by
  • Rick Jaffa
    Amanda Silver
  • Derek Connolly
  • Colin Trevorrow
Story by
  • Rick Jaffa
  • Amanda Silver
Based on Characters created
by Michael Crichton
  • Chris Pratt
  • Bryce Dallas Howard
  • Vincent D’Onofrio
  • Ty Simpkins
  • Nick Robinson
  • Omar Sy
  • B. D. Wong
  • Irrfan Khan
Music by Michael Giacchino
Cinematography John Schwartzman
Edited by Kevin Stitt
  • Amblin Entertainment
  • Legendary Pictures
Distributed by Universal Pictures