It has been 22 years since the release of Jurassic Park in 1993 (yes, let’s just let that sink in for a second). Directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the bestseller by author Michael Crichton, it went on to become one of the highest box office grossing films of all time and inspired a generation to see the cinema as a place where magic truly can happen, where dinosaurs can come to life. Two sequels followed in 1997 and 2001, both of which were considered largely inferior to the original. It looked as though the age of the cinematic dinosaurs was truly over… That was until newcomer director Colin Treverrow impressed Spielberg and Universal Studios with his indie feature film Safety Not Guaranteed in 2012, leading to him being recruited to helm our 2015 visit to the Park with Jurassic World.
The dinosaur theme park originally envisioned by the late John Hammond is now fully operational, owned by billionaire Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), Jurassic World is situated on Isla Nublar, near Costa Rica. While the theme park and resort still brings in over 20,000 people daily, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the operations manager, is concerned that interest in these previously extinct creatures is waning. This sparks the creation of a hybrid dinosaur Indominus Rex, which escapes from its enclosure and creates a dangerous chain-reaction of events that puts all of the park’s visitors in mortal danger. It is up to headstrong Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to work with Claire to rescue her missing nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) and try to contain this new deadly creature.
Let’s be honest here, the human characters (with the possible exception being Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm) in the Jurassic Park franchise have never been the reason we have gone to see the films. The characters are merely there to facilitate the tension, not necessarily create it. There is a strong cast at play here, with Chris Pratt’s dinosaur trainer Owen Grady being badass with just the right amount of humour. Bryce Dallas Howard as the uptight operations manager who is looking for her nephews and eventually learns to feel. Vincent D’Onofrio as the slimy security head for InGen, who has evil intentions for the dinosaurs that Owen is training. There are some great scenes with Jake Johnson as the geeky tech-expect in the park’s control booth. But ultimately it is the dinosaurs that are the main stars here. Sure, some characters would have benefited from delving into their backstory and some of the lines are cheesy but we also get to see dinosaurs, people!
Treverrow’s last film Safety Not Guaranteed, a delightful indie speculative fiction film, was made on a budget of $700,000. Jurassic World has a budget of over $150 million. Universal has taken a risk giving such a large franchise film to a relative newcomer and their decision mostly pays off. There’s a nice balance of new material and throwback nostalgia to the original film to please fans; we finally get a good look at the large scale of the island that these creatures inhabit and how the human’s interact with them. It is obvious that Treverrow has a large amount of respect for the original material and uses visual motifs from the original, as well as music, to pay homage to one of Spielberg’s master works. The CGI, much like the direction, works best in the second half of the film. The digital effects certainly shine in the climactic final act and it becomes clear that Jurassic World works best in a night setting. This is the darkest and bloodiest of the franchise by far, yet even then the film is quite accessible for most ages.
Is this a perfect film? No, of course not. But it is a very fun and thrilling one if you let it be. Do not get bogged down in the minimal character development, forget that you are a grownup for a couple of hours. Go with it. Do not be one of those people who leaves the cinema saying how unbelievable it is for Dallas Howard’s character to be in heels for the entire film. If you cannot believe that, then I am not entirely sure how you are to believe dinosaurs can come to life either.