It may be hard to believe that 22 years have gone by since Steven Spielberg directed Jurassic Park, which gave the T-Rex renewed sex appeal. Two further instalments followed in 1997 and 2001, before the dinosaurs went into hibernation. Now they are well and truly out there again.
Two decades ago it was Dr John Hammond’s (played by Richard Attenborough in the original Jurassic Park movies) dream to open a theme park where visitors could experience the thrill and awe of seeing actual dinosaurs. In Jurassic World, his vision has become a reality.
Situated on an island off the coast of Costa Rica is a fully operational luxury resort where tens of thousands of guests explore the wonder and brilliance of the earth’s most magnificent living prehistoric marvels. Kids can even get up close and personal in a petting zoo. Overseeing every corner of Jurassic World is “control freak” Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard – The Help). She finds herself unexpectedly saddled with the arrival of her nephews aged 11 and 16, Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson), whom she hasn’t seen in years. They’ve been sent by their mum, Karen (Judy Greer), to spend a few days at the park. But Claire has no time for the distraction of two visiting kids and loads them up with passes, sending them off to explore.
The park’s miraculous animals are created by Dr Henry Wu (BD Wong – Jurassic Park), a geneticist who once worked for the company behind John Hammond’s first park. Now he is in the employ of larger-than-life billionaire benefactor Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan – Life of Pi). The commercial prosperity of the park demands regular innovations to keep guests returning. So it is that Wu is pushed beyond the bounds of ethical science, manipulating genetics to engineer a genetically modified dinosaur that never walked the planet. The most secretive new breed developed by him and yet to be debuted in the park is the massive and mysterious Indominus Rex. Raised in isolation after devouring its only sibling, Indominus (whose genetic makeup has been classified) is reaching maturity. To help assess the creature and the security of its containment, Claire visits Owen (Chris Pratt – Guardians of the Galaxy), an ex-military expert in animal behavior. Pratt is years into a study with a pack of aggressive velociraptors, over whom he has established an alpha relationship. When the Indominus Rex, whose capacities for savagery and intelligence are unknown, stages an escape and disappears into the jungle, every creature in Jurassic World, both dinosaur and human, is threatened.
The film is directed and co-written by Colin Trevorrow, who was responsible for Safety Not Guaranteed, which came out in 2012.
Before entering the cinema, I had a great sense of expectation and excitement given that I was a fan of the original. I had the good fortune to see the movie in IMAX 3D and the sights and sounds of the dinosaurs were truly impressive. So, too the theme park itself. It is mighty appealing and I, for one, would want to visit. Technology has moved forward in leaps and bounds since Jurassic Park.
I also found the back-story regarding the artificial manufacture of “mutant” dinosaurs to serve the ever-growing public appetite for bigger and better and more thrilling highly plausible. Then there are issues of greed and making money for investors, plus, on the flip side, animal conservation, all of which are dealt with here. An extra dimension was the intelligence, not to overlook the predatory instincts and camouflage characteristics, of the frightening Indominus Rex.
Jurassic World is genuinely scary in parts and it is not for nought that it has an M rating, because little kids would undoubtedly be fearful, whether they are into dinosaurs or not. Yes, there is a body count and blood on the walls here as the beast goes on the rampage, flinging his pursuers aside as if they were rag dolls.
I liked the fact that as with the recent Mad Max: Fury Road we have two leads – a male and a female – and neither takes a backward step. In other words, each holds their own.
As far as reservations are concerned, as usual with these blockbusters, it comes down to some of the individual characters and what they are asked to do. For example, Judy Greer’s role (she is the mum of the two children) was cheesy, while her husband was virtually a non-entity. So, what I am saying is that a number of characters were single dimensional and stereotypical. To that extent, I felt what was lacking was original vision. When you can’t think of anything new you end up reverting to type. Of course, you have to suspend belief when you are asked to swallow (no pun intended) that in spite of the numerous interactions Dallas Howard, Pratt and the two children have with the voracious creatures they are not quick and easy prey. But it is an age-old cinematic device to allow an audience to build a rapport with and care for the key characters.
Jurassic World also has its ultimate “fight night” where the two heavyweights just go at it, but there is a surprise, which I am not about to reveal.
In summary then, I am happy to be able to report that there is more than enough in Jurassic World to make it a worthy and worthwhile successor to the original Jurassic Park films. Rated M, it scores a 7½ out of 10.
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Judy Greer, Vincent D’Onofrio and Jake Johnson
Release Date: 11 June 2015
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television