First things first, Jurassic World is not a remake or a reboot or a reimagining, it is a continuation, some 20 years down the line, of events post the original Jurassic Park. In the ensuing years let’s just say that the Park, now World a la Disney, Sea and er Peppa Pig, has evolved somewhat in the last two decades to become a giant tourism monster which now needs even bigger monsters to ensure the return of punters.
Jurassic World, like the two sequels to the original before was never ever going to be able to play the sense of wonder card of the original Spielberg blockbuster, but it knows it and that actually forms part of the plot. In a sense, in part, it is a love letter to the original and perhaps that is why it has struck such a chord and made more money than expected, After all it is 14 years since the last Jurassic Park and that is a whole generation that has only grown up with it on TV.
And the ethos of the park: having bigger and newer monsters to pull in the punters, is something not lost on the writers and filmmakers for that exact reason, Not only have there been three previous Park movies but we’ve also seen the return of Godzilla (twice) and King Kong take on a pair of T-Rex, not to mention a whole plethora of creatures in the likes of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, so the film has to pull something out of the bag that we haven’t seen before either…with a brand new dinosaur.
The scope and scale of this entry into the series practically makes the original look like a small independent film, the original in comparison was a more intimate affair on a smaller scale,if such a thing could ever be said about the still impressive Jurassic Park. World certainly ups the spectacle with a fully operational park with nods aplenty to SeaWorld with its Mosasaurs attraction (nice touch with it essentially eating Bruce the Great White), DisneyWorld with its take on Main Street – where at one point it’s as if we hear echoes of Dr Ian Malcolm’s laconic wit from the first film when he says ‘but the pirates of the Caribbean don’t start eating the public’ when things start to go very, very wrong – and the giant escalators that reminded one of Universal Studios Hollywood.
It’s like the Park you dreamed of visiting as a child. And as with the original you do get the oh and ah of all the delights the new World has to offer, mostly seen through the eyes of Gray (Ty Simpkins), whose excitement we readily share. And because we know the dinosaurs the wonderful Jurassic Park theme reprise, amazing work by Giacchino, is utilised not for the introduction of a dinosaur but fr the wonder of the very park itself. And there is wonder and wow factor to be had as we see the park in all its splendour, even though we know it is going to end way out Westworld.
Of course the musical theme is as much a part of the Jurassic series as the dinosaurs, I couldn’t get it out of my head for at least the next day, but that isn’t the only footprint of Jurassic Park. Story wise it is essentially a retelling of sorts, writ large in every single way imaginable, but then so has pretty much every James Bond film. There are plenty of nods and winks to the first film though, that really celebrate and embrace it with confidence.
Both the children in the original and World have a family that is breaking down (a Spielberg staple, here Executive Producer) and are only on the island to take their minds off it, well at least it does do that. There’s a lovely moment where the eldest son, Zach played by Nick Robinson, is in denial but the youngest, visibly upset, has googled his mum and dad’s lawyers and discovered they are divorce lawyers. it was very well handled on a monorail, where one of the passengers is reading a Dr Ian Malcolm book, Jeff Goldblum’s character. Later it is nice to see glimpses of a John Hammond statue, as well as cameos by Mr DNA (voiced by the film’s director Colin Trevorrow) and also a delightful moment from a Dilophosaurus, the spitting dino that killed Dennis Nedry.
And then there’s the more obvious, in a wonderful sequence, where the boys find the old Jurassic Park centre and the auditorium which housed the ‘when dinosaurs ruled the earth exhibition’, even coming across the infrared goggles that get discarded, a fantastic example of the audience knowing more than the characters. It was a genius idea that the boys find the original JP jeeps and get one of them working, In a way it was Jurassic World: Parks of Future Past.
There is also some fabulous juxtaposition in the scene where there is a field of decimated dinosaurs, there’s a real sense of dystopia and negative as opposed to the hope and positivity of when we first glimpse the vista of Jurassic Park after Dr Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) see their first dinosaur. It’s also the scene where these aren’t just dinosaurs (or CG or animatronics for that matter) you care for them and you are sad when the dinosaur breathes its last. It evoked memories of Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend and the death of Littlefoot’s mum in The Land Before Time, the latter also executive produced by Spielberg.
Empathy built we also start to care and have feelings for other dinosaurs, especially when it comes to a major scene with the raptors where they are given their moment to shine as man’s beast friend.
For all its boom and bang, of which there is plenty and often, the film also relishes its smaller moments of focus or dialogue that also reminds one of the cleverness of the original and makes it just more than a bloated summer blockbuster lurching from one set piece to another. That Spielberg dust has clearly been strewn to ensure some of those little moments and nuances are just as remembered as the big and noisy ones.
The only returning character we get from the original series is Dr Wu, who is clearly as rubbish as he was in the first film but is played with relish by BD Wong, best known for being good on Law and Order: SVU, although he really does think what he is doing is not wrong. Last seen with an attaché case of specimens he will surely feature in any sequel, and at some point will end up being devoured by one of his creations.
Chris Pratt cements his position as a viable A-lister, and it is perhaps his biggest calling card for the part of one Dr. Jones, certainly he has the presence, likability and delivery. Pratt is a man of action in this, with a neat touch being that he is essentially a velociraptor whisperer and despite all the dinosaurs the ‘money shot’ of the film is definitely Pratt on his motorbike flanked by raptors. It works, is delightful and just brings joy. It may as well be us up on that bike exuding McQueen like cool.
He doesn’t really grow as a character, he’s been right all along like Charlton Heston in Earthquake, but he is something of a loner, he’s friendlier with dinosaurs than people but does become part of a family unit, with Claire, Gray and Zach by the climax.
Bryce Dallas Howard also impressed, as Claire, she saw the biggest change in terms of (limited) development of character and effortlessly switched from almost robotic towing the party line to all out Lara Croft protective Aunt.
There was lots of nice interplay between Pratt and Howard and they really fizzed, the sort of polar opposite dislike that you get in Raiders between Marion and Indy and original chalk and cheese, Hannay and Pamela, in The 39 Steps.
It’s Jurassic World, it was never going to be a deep and meaningful character study and to be honest we didn’t want it to be. We want a roaring dino romp and on that it delivers.
Ultimately this film is about working together as one, as a team, on several levels, as will become apparent to anyone seeing it. And ultimately that message is a deeply satisfying one, both from a human and dinosaur point of view.
I did miss Grant or Malcolm, perhaps next time we’ll get to see Pratt call on their services, and after a $500 million opening weekend, and the world’s fastest film to smash the $1 billion barrier, we won’t be waiting 14 years for the next instalment.
Jurassic Park ended with the roar of the T-Rex as the banner proclaiming ‘When dinosaurs ruled the earth’ drops to the floor. With that opening weekend, the biggest in history, and it being the number one film in the 66 countries it was released in and the fastest film past the $1 billion barrier, that time is now.