“An Adventure 65 Million Years in the Making” – that’s a hook. Two installments, or 22 years later, “The Park Is Open” – now that’s an even bigger hook. Returning to cinema’s most spectacular landmark guarantees ecstatic faces upon entry, but will they be the same getting out?
It did take a while, but in the end all of John Hammond’s wishes come true: his groundbreaking theme park is now up and running, visitors flooding in from everywhere and by the thousands, no attractions pull a “no-show” and a ride now has a celebrity as a guide. “Spared no expense,” the world’s friendliest billionaire once said, and that is what his “heir” Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) has taken to heart. But like many actions in the Jurassic Park universe, they bear harmful consequences. Worried about dwindling numbers of late, a bigger, meaner and toothier dinosaur – the Indominus rex – is required… and soon enough it is on the loose. It’s up to park manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and raptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to contain the chaos and make sure no guests – especially Claire’s nephews Gray (Ty Sympkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) – become casualties.
As the imminent second downfall of the park has shown here, bigger isn’t necessarily better. By being louder, faster and having more spectacle, Jurassic World identifies itself as another modern blockbuster as opposed to the modern blockbuster, a feat the 1993 film accomplished. The scenery and dinosaurs are emphasized over story and characters; elements Spielberg considers as entreé are seen as desserts under Trevorrow’s helm. Non-subtle writing render the laughs non-charming, feeble characterization prevents any adult or kid an entry to viewers’ hearts, and stoic editing lessens the impact the dinosaurs have more than it should. But the screenplay is the major fault, and looking back it’s a shame because those involved have the skills to give World that spectacle-substance balance Park has – Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly could provide grounded charm amidst the weird seen in Safety Not Guaranteed, plus Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver skillfully demonstrate scope as they have done in the two Apes reboot.
That being said, though not able to (or not meant to?) anchor the film, Pratt and Howard make a charismatic duo on-screen and go through a well-developed arc amidst potholes caused by the writing. The kids this time remain annoying, but unlike Tim and Lex they aren’t endearing because they are detached from our main characters and too many details are applied in the process of defining them. And while the dinosaurs have never looked better thanks to Industrial Light & Magic, plus for the first time ever motion capture for the raptors, to favor CGI over animatronics will place a considerable wall blocking viewers from embracing Isla Nublar 2.0.
The lumps, however, don’t stop Jurassic World in amazing viewers like its predecessor did. Similar to Gareth Edwards with Godzilla, Colin Trevorrow directs with outstanding verve despite having only one film, in fact a very different kind of film, under his belt. The set pieces that don’t pay homage to the first Jurassic Park, albeit few, are the definition of entertaining. Recruiting Michael Giacchino to do the music and John Schwartzman for photography duties are as perfect as can be – the adaptive nature of the string-heavy score bonds with the outright epic and vibrant camerawork from the frequent collaborator of Michael Bay. Memories will flood back (and tears may appear) the moment when the John Williams’ forever iconic theme exhales from the speakers and reveals the entirety of Jurassic World.
Like the hybrid dinosaur inGen has made to draw in more visitors, Jurassic World fails to possess a distinct roar and behaves like nowadays visually-dazzling tentpole films. Sometimes it’s not a bad thing as viewers will see what they want to see, but to realize that Park has humans interacting with dinosaurs and World is all about the creatures, one can’t help feeling rather incomplete despite being constantly entertained.