By Thomas Simpson
Films that languish in development hell tend to stay there for good reason. A fourth entry in the Jurassic Park series was intended to start production in 2004 with a 2005 release. It would take ten years, numerous cast changes and many script rewrites before a follow-up to the dismal Jurassic Park III would be released. And it looks like it may have been worth the wait as Jurassic World has broken box office records by raking in over $500 million in its opening weekend. After careful consideration, will I decide to endorse this park?
Despite the initial attraction failing to open its gates to the public, Jurassic World presents John Hammond’s dream in all its glory. The park has been open for a decade and is popular though maybe not as much as would be expected. The park’s operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is concerned with falling attendances and that dinosaurs have lost their wow factor. After data suggests that gates spiked when a new attraction is released, the park’s owner Simon Marsani (Irrfan Khan) tasks Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong), the park’s chief geneticist, to create a hybrid dinosaur, something that will give parents nightmares. Claire and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a velociraptor expert, are instructed to assess Indominus Rex (part T-Rex, part classified) before it’s deemed suitable for public viewing. This being a Jurassic Park film, the dinosaur naturally escapes and starts eating visitors at the earliest opportunity. It’s made personal for Claire as her two nephews are missing on the island.
Whereas the first two Jurassic Park sequels were criticized for rehashing the first film, Jurassic World has its own ideas. With the exception of Wong, the film features none of the original cast, and although a cameo would have been nice, in the end it’s not needed as the new stars are more than capable of leading the charge.
There were clips in the trailer that suggested that Owen could control raptors and would lead an army of them to fight Indominus Rex. While that’s not false, it’s not as ridiculous in the final product. That’s not to say the script is bursting with believable credibility.
Jurassic World is concerned with presenting science as fact. The film has been criticized by palaeontologists for its inaccurate depiction of dinosaurs, especially in light of new discoveries. As director Colin Treverrow argues, he made a science fiction film, not a documentary. In the realm of Jurassic World, this is the science of how things work and it sticks to its own rules.
There were also accusations of sexism regarding the depiction of Claire. Again, this came about from the trailer but in context, she is the film’s hero. Owen may be the action man, but Claire is driven by the motivation to save her family and isn’t going to back down from the challenge. In the end she proves that she’s the one in charge, it’s Claire that concocts the insanely dangerous plan to save them all. The bigger the risk, the more satisfying the reward.
Jurassic World is a lot of fun. It’s big and exciting though too distressing and gory for very young audiences. The pteranodon scene is Hitchcock on steroids and has an unashamedly B movie feel to it which is incredibly thrilling.
What is disappointing is the special effects. It’s been over two decades since Steven Spielberg opened the park’s doors for the first time and it’s against this film that any sequel will be judged on. Treverrow relies too much on CGI and virtual camera angles, however he has crafted an exhilarating and intense blockbuster that is arguably the best entry to the series since the first one. Jurassic World is open for business, and business has just picked up.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter:@Simmy41.