There’s something undeniably thrilling about dinosaurs. Kids seem to enter the world with an innate fascination with the ancient lizards, and that fixation may dim with adulthood, but certainly never vanishes completely. Our lingering childhood dino infatuation is the bedrock upon which Jurassic World: The Exhibition is built. It does its best to answer the answer every 7-year-old has asked: What would it be like to see a dinosaur in real life?
That hook works. The exhibit (which is located in a series of tents near a Field Museum parking lot) hosts a series of gigantic (up to 24 feet tall) animatronic dinosaurs. The creatures are exquisitely designed, though some more than others—the raptors and the T. rex are the most impressive, in terms of looking and moving realistically.
Designed to emulate the island depicted in the film Jurassic World, visitors walk through each room of the exhibit and experience a different section of the cinematic theme park (i.e. the Gentle Giants Petting Zoo, the Hammond Creation Lab, the Raptor Training Paddock, and more). A Jurassic World guide (in video form) welcomes visitors to each room, providing a very loose narrative, which added no stakes to the experience and didn’t really kick in until the last two rooms.
Though there are plenty of flashy visuals and animatronics, the exhibition’s source material is ultimately its downfall. As someone who’s never seen Jurassic World (though I’ve seen Jurassic Park—I’m not a total philistine), I couldn’t help but feel like I was being beaten over the head by the blockbuster franchise. While re-creations of dinosaurs were very cool to see, faux dino DNA encased in faux amber didn’t add much, beyond reminding the visitor that Chris Pratt is probably getting residuals from this exhibit.
The whole experience was more entertainment than educational; Jurassic World: The Exhibition has more in common with a Universal Studios attraction than anything contained with the Field Museum. It felt more, “Wow, I’m in a movie!” than “Wow, I’m back in the Jurassic Era!”—and the latter would’ve been a more compelling experience.