In the twenty five years since its release, Jurassic Park has still remained a staple for 1990’s cinema because of its innovative visual effects and to this day, it’s astonishing that it still happens to look every bit as beautiful as it does. But as the franchise had only grown to become as big as it did, the meaning behind Crichton’s original creation had slowly been fading away. Surely enough, it’s hard to deny that the original Jurassic Park still remains a spectacle for the eyes because of what it had taken in order to make you truly believe that you were seeing actual dinosaurs on the screen through the film’s innovative use of both computer-generated imagery and animatronics. But there comes a point to which one can only get too caught up by the image of the spectacle that Jurassic Park had set into place and Jurassic World only emphasizes that danger all the more, because it cynically exploits that nostalgia one would have had for the original film without ever finding its own way to carry itself through. It cynically boils down what Crichton would have wanted to say about the eventual spectacle of nature’s own ways only to what audiences would buy in as “dumb fun,” and to me, that never felt right – it just felt ugly.
Set twenty-two years after the events of the initial Jurassic Park trilogy, the focus shifts on a raptor trainer named Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and the park’s operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) whose nephews come along to the revamped Jurassic Park, now called Jurassic World – which has been operational for years on the same site. But of course while the dinosaurs have become the spectacle of Jurassic World in the same way that we remember them to be, other people who work on the island end up having different plans regarding how the revived dinosaurs should be used. Of course, with the park having been operational for years, everything was thought to have worked perfectly – but not until the carelessness of the employees soon end up letting a new form of cloned dinosaur to run amok. Surely enough, it would have already been thought that people had learned after the ways of John Hammond have gone wrong as they did, but was a second time really supposed to be a charm? If you were also asking that in regards to how the actual film is, the answer would be a resounding no.
The original Jurassic Park was a film that was made as a commentary about what happens when people try to capitalize on what they cannot control properly, because what will only be inevitable out of what seems to be the smallest mistake could end up causing almost irreparable destruction. And when Steven Spielberg made Crichton’s novel into a film, we already felt the presence of danger in what we knew to be nature’s deadliest creations looming everywhere we could possibly look because he made us believe that those dinosaurs were really there. In taking the idea that Michael Crichton had set up in order to reboot the Jurassic Park franchise, what Colin Trevorrow creates is not something that understands the danger of what would come forth from trying to capitalize what cannot be controlled in nature, and every trace of that social commentary is completely gone – but it only begs the question as to why Jurassic Park had to be made into a franchise to begin with. The first film was incredibly successful, and of course people would have wanted more, but when you note that Crichton was pressured into creating a sequel so soon after Jurassic Park, it only makes the original’s message even clearer and sadly it seems to have been thrown away in favour of what is just nothing more than false spectacle.
I don’t put it lightly when I say that this film is what I would call a false spectacle, because I find it hard enough to even believe that this film was made for release in 2015. It all starts from the way in which the film looks, because the visual effects are downright unpleasant to the eyesight. Going back to how the film combined the usage of animatronics with computer-generated imagery in order to make you really believe that the dinosaurs were present in the same space as a regular human being, it was a film that was also making you feel how dangerous it really is to be in that same space that they were. But I find it hard enough to believe that they are really present within the scenarios because they almost look bad enough that they can come straight out of a video game, one that you’re not even being allowed to play. But whereas the dinosaurs still appeared lifelike in the original, there’s not really much awe coming forth from what it is that you’re seeing in Jurassic World, because the creature design for the most part is uninspired and if there was anything else more infuriating on Colin Trevorrow’s end, it would be the fact that the film essentially builds itself upon the fact that it only seeks to show you dinosaurs on every turn like you were also at Jurassic World – because it almost feels like he’s proud to show you just how bad everything looks. If there was a specific scene that even reeks of that particular ugliness, you can already look at Katie McGrath’s death scene – which isn’t only both too sadistic and ridiculous for its own good but feels so out of touch with the rest of the franchise because usually the more greedy characters like Wayne Knight’s Dennis Nedry from the original are the ones who suffer such gruesome fates.
Surely enough, if you find it hard to believe the dinosaurs even look real, the humans don’t find themselves any better either because the characters never feel like personalities you can actually latch onto, they’re just bland caricatures that only have equally confusing motivations for the sake of moving the plot forward. This is a film that cashes in on how their irrationality is what causes nothing but pain and misery towards other patrons, and supposedly that’s what Trevorrow thinks can be passed as “escapist” entertainment? There’s really not so much fun that can be had when you’re watching a film like this present itself as such, because the protagonists certainly don’t make it any better either. Chris Pratt, as much as he appears like he’s having fun playing the raptor trainer, never really elevates his own charisma into his own already forgettable character and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing seems to be sidelined for then majority of the film despite her own efforts to keep people she loves safe – but this caricature she is stuck within already feels regressive on its own. The two younger boys played by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins only ring as being annoying, with Robinson’s character already showing quite an ugly side to himself with the film establishing in its opening that he has a girlfriend yet considers cheating on her the moment he and his brother enter the gyrosphere. But as if everything couldn’t be bad enough, the villain’s primary motivation is confusing enough and even Vincent D’Onofrio never feels like he has a clue what it is that he’s doing.
Something else that one of my friends had emphasized about what’s most egregious about Jurassic World would be the way in which it seems to lose touch even of its own social commentary not only for what is such a shallow definition of “mindless fun,” but also because of how clearly it seems to have trouble forming an identity of its own. With the usual product placement getting in the way then and there, what also distracts from the film’s message is its need to remind you about how great the original film is – not that it would be something we wouldn’t know by this point – but by outright lifting many moments from the original film. If you’re already creating a film based on a novel whose primary aim was to comment about what happens when you try to capitalize about what it is that you cannot control in life, it all falls woefully flat in Jurassic World’s case because it seems to establish its own identity by cashing in on everything that you would remember from Jurassic Park, but of course with the sponsors coming then and there. If anything else can be said about how it delivers itself, it wouldn’t feel much different from watching the original Jurassic Park on television where ads would be interrupting the film every now and then.
This film feels made as if it only wants to cynically deliver “escapist entertainment” by completely undermining another person’s creation which sought out for something more. Of course, I’ve already been accused of my inability to have fun when this is the sort of reaction that I have upon watching Jurassic World but I can’t help but feel this way especially when this film seems so proud of that cynicism and retroactively exploits another person’s work in the process. In every moment of Jurassic World that supposedly presents itself as wanting to pay an homage to Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, what came forth only felt nothing more than a cheap reminder that you could be watching said film instead. If you can put up with that for a little over two hours, then I suppose Jurassic World would be for you, for it only ever presents itself as just a dumbed down version of Jurassic Park that fails even at the most basic level to understand what made Jurassic Park carry the everlasting impact that it had. It all feels boiled down to just seeing dinosaurs in action and even that just feels awfully boring.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Universal.
Directed by Colin Trevorrow
Screenplay by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly, from characters created by Michael Crichton
Produced by Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley
Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Omar Sy, B. D. Wong, Irrfan Khan
Release Year: 2015
Running Time: 124 minutes