Well, it’s been 14 years since the mess that was Jurassic Park 3, and 22 years since the original. Now, Steven Speilberg is back as executive producer for a new Jurassic movie. It’s 2015 and now we’ve got Jurassic World. It’s got Rising SuperStar Chris Pratt on board, too, which bodes well. The big question is, of course, can it compare to the first movie? Is it worthy?
The answer is FUCKING YES. This is the only movie that I feel deserves the “Jurassic Park” name since the first one. You should go see it. You should go see it in IMAX, if only for the sound. Hearing the roar of the T-Rex with IMAX sound is something you need to experience. The 3D used in Jurassic World is the immersive style of 3D, rather than the “RAAR I’M POPPING OUT OF THE SCREEN AT YOU” and is used very minimally. While I appreciate this, it does make the 3D completely optional to the experience.
But, let’s be honest. You came to this review for more than just that. So without further ado, let’s get into it. WARNING: THAR MAY BE SPOILERS AHEAD.
An extinct franchise walks the Earth again?
It’s been 22 years since the first Jurassic Park brought back dinosaurs, and 14 years since Jurassic Park 3 made us wish they’d stayed extinct. That’s the first thing this movie does right: it retcons the SHIT out of JP3. Jurassic World is set up as almost a reboot of the first movie, rather than a sequel. The story is very much the same: Park with dinosaurs, two kids with family issues (and related to a park official) in peril, dinosaurs break loose, velociraptors eat people, you know the drill. There are two things that Jurassic World does well that really sets it apart from the first movie.
The first is the sense of time. The first Jurassic Park was all new. Everything was untested and in the prototype phase and no one knew how this theme park was going to work. Jurassic World takes everything forward. The park has been open for a few years now, and the magic has worn off. Commercialism and corporate sponsorship are the bread and butter of daily operations. Hell, everything goes wrong in the first place because they’re trying to build a bigger, better, meaner dinosaur to increase park attendance.
The second thing Jurassic World does well is how it portrays the dinosaurs. In the first movie, the dinosaurs are portrayed as either completely harmless or as villains/antagonists. Those raptors are ACTIVELY OUT TO EAT THOSE KIDS. Jurassic World takes a different approach: these dinosaurs are animals. They aren’t good or evil, they just are. When you see the T-Rex in Jurassic World you’re like “Oh thank god” or “wait IS THIS HAPPENING? THIS IS TOTALLY HAPPENING SWEET ZOMBIE CHRIST.” The Mosasaurus ends up saving the day in the end, but earlier on finishes the most brutal death in the film (though, maybe by that point, getting chomped by Mosasaurus was a mercy. More on that later.) They go into this most often with Chris Pratt’s character and his raptor team, to the point of getting blatant.
Digging up the past
Jurassic World is, at its heart, a love story to the first Jurassic Park. There are nods and homages to “Jurassic Park” everywhere. Some of these are very obvious. It takes place on the original island. They have the original gates from the first park. The geeky tech guy comes into work wearing an original Jurassic Park T-Shirt that he got off eBay and they talk about it. The two brothers find an old-school JP Jeep and binoculars in the original visitor’s center. My favorite references, however, are the more obscure ones. When the younger brother first enters the new visitor’s center he plays with one of the interactive displays and we can briefly see the animated DNA-Helix character from the first movie pop up. The T-Rex in Jurassic World is the same T-Rex from Jurassic Park. How can you tell? Well, first it’s being kept in Paddock #9, which (I believe, please let me know if I’m wrong about this) is the same number as the one used in Jurassic Park. But the biggest tell is that you can see the scars on its side from when it fought the velociraptors in the visitors center in the first movie. My absolute favorite reference is a very small one. The same geeky tech-guy has, on his desk, a book titled “God Creates Dinosaurs” by Dr. Malcom Reynolds. This references one of Jeff Goldblum’s character’s monologues from Jurassic Park: “God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates Man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.”
First, the little stuff. They get a little hamfisted with the whole “dinosaurs are animals” bit with Chris Pratt’s character. He is also the most enjoyable part of the film, but he’s not the main focus. The main focus is on the two kids, who have so little character development that I completely forgot their names half-way through the film and didn’t care. The sequel set-up was terribly obvious. They also never address what happened to all the Pteranodons after the park attack. I’m a little sad to see the animatronics go away, but the quality of the cg makes up for it. The tone shift in this movie is BRUTAL. It starts very family friendly, but goes grimdark really fast once shit starts going down. Speaking of brutal…
That death scene. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. It’s the first time in the franchise that a female character gets killed by dinosaurs and it is just MEAN. It goes on and on and, just when you think its over, some new fresh hell opens up. It is an undeservedly cruel death for a character (who isn’t even a villain), and its inclusion feels… wrong. Why even include it? my guess is this:
There are two reasons to include this scene. The first is, simply, to show Mosasaurus doing something bad to contrast with doing something good later, again to drive home the point that “these creatures aren’t good or evil, they’re just acting as instinct tells them to.” The second reason would be to give all of the quick, one-off deaths more gravitas and to make them more horrific. That guy who just got chomped by a raptor? Guess what: he’s going through something very similar, just off-screen. All those people picked off by Pteranodons? Ditto. Most of the deaths in the Jurassic Park series are either fast (dude just got swallowed whole by a T-Rex) or are appropriately mean because the character deserved it. Hell, there are a ton of deaths we don’t even see. Spielberg loves having terrible things happen to characters while the audience is looking at something else (for reference: The clever girl scene and Nedry’s death in the first movie). I believe this scene is included to show that getting killed by dinosaurs (if you’re a villain or not) is a terrible, horrific experience.
Now for rampant hype.
DUDE. Chris Pratt and his raptor squad hunting together? That sequence was AWESOME. Made me want to be a velociraptor running 50 mph though a jungle. “We need more teeth.” Then she opens the paddock and grabs the flare and you’re like “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUHHH!” That showdown between T-Rex, Blue and Indominus was SICK. Ankylosaurus finally makes an appearance! They were my favorite dinosaur growing up, and it always made me a little sad they weren’t in any of the other movies. Plus, they’re the first dinosaurs who actually put up a fight against Indominus, so mad props there. Indominus Rex is such a badass name for, well, anything really. It’s the sort of name you would give a giant robot.
Ultimately, this movie was made to get a whole new generation hyped up about dinosaurs again, and I feel it definitely succeeds there. But it doesn’t stop at that. It’s also a fantastic homage to a movie that still holds up well today. For anyone who grew up with the first movie, this is a nostalgic thrill ride that won’t let you down. See this movie. See this movie in IMAX. Not necessarily in 3D, but DEFINITELY IN IMAX.