Release date: 11 June 2015
Running time: 124 min
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Vincent D’Onofrio
It’s with restrained excitement, and a reasonable amount of trepidation, that the doors to Jurassic Park swing open again as we return to Isla Nublar for the first time in over 20 years. It is wise to approach with caution. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull still serves as a warning for what can happen when you try to revisit a beloved Spielberg franchise once too often. It will come as a surprise to no-one to learn that Jurassic World doesn’t come close to original’s majesty, but it is certainly better than it could have been.
Choosing not to venture too far from the path, it sticks to a tried and tested formula and feels reassuringly familiar. Everything starts off fine and dandy with the park up and running, the guests enjoying all the beautiful, happy dinosaurs until one of the not-so-happy dinosaurs escapes (this time the genetic hybrid, Indominus Rex). There’s a lot of running and screaming, some grizzly deaths-by-dino, and a race against time to rescue a couple of stranded brats. Rather than going for something new, director Colin Trevorrow has opted for going bigger; on the size of park, the bodycount, the explosions, and of course, the dinosaurs themselves.
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard take over the lead roles and together, they just about add up to Sam Neill’s Dr. Grant. He’s a dinosaur expert, she’s bad with kids. They work well together, and with his straight-laced former Marine Pratt proves that he can be serious when the situation calls for it. Yet of course it is the brilliant, extinct lizards who are the real stars of the show – as well they should be. As awe-inspiring as they’ve always been, they’re responsible for the most impressive action set pieces as well as some of the more emotional moments. A scene midway through in which Pratt and Dallas Howard gaze upon the Indominus Rex’s path of destruction is thoroughly distressing.
A sigh of relief then that Jurassic World isn’t a repeat of Crystal Skull, but it still dangerously flirts with disaster at times. A ridiculous subplot that weaponises velociraptors for the military very nearly drags the entire project into farce. In part a throwback to Dennis Nedry’s embryo- stealing antics in the first film, it reduces the raptors- once an unstoppable killing force- to something more akin to a pack of trained hunting dogs. In doing so it almost commits the cardinal sin of any sequel; undermining what made the original so special. It doesn’t quite sink the whole film, but it walks a very fine line.
While Trevorrow does his job admirably, we’re still sorely missing that classic Spielbergian moment. In going all-out in the action stakes, he misses some of those smaller moments that transform a good film into an unforgettable one. There are no water ripples announcing the T-Rex’s arrival, nothing as heart-stopping as the raptors slowly stalking Tim and Lex through the kitchen. Playing it safe with the plot was perhaps a smart move, but it does set some frustrating limitations.
Still. Who can deny that twenty years later, John Williams’ glorious theme doesn’t raise goosebumps. It possesses the power to win over any cynic with its opening bars, and its deployment early on confirms that we’re on safe ground. It accompanies a grand, sweeping crane shot as we get our first look at the fully operational park, providing an undeniable rush in seeing Richard Hammond’s lifelong dream finally come to fruition. Even though we know things are going to go spectacularly wrong, it’s good to be back in Jurassic Park. Unlike the unfortunate visitors to the park, thankfully our visit to Jurassic World is -for the most part- a happy one.