The big MacGuffin in 'Jurassic World' is Indominus rex, a genetically modified hybrid dino designed to lure more punters into the now fully functioning Jurassic World theme park. Putting aside the question of whether or not Indominus is all that impressive – we’ll let you decide – the sheer cynicism behind its creation is hard to ignore. The film even spends an inordinate amount of time going on about how the paying public were sick of ‘ordinary’ dinosaurs, so the scientists had to invent a new one. Guys, assuming your audience are shallow idiots before they’ve even bought a ticket might not be the smartest policy.
Eyebrows were raised when Steven Spielberg himself tapped now 38-year-old filmmaker Colin Trevorrow – whose only feature-film directing credit was on decent-but-forgettable time-travel comedy ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ – to oversee a huge summer blockbuster. Those eyebrows were right on the money. On this evidence, Trevorrow possesses little of the flair or imagination of his benefactor, offering punchy but all-too-brief action sequences interspersed with lengthy scenes of people arguing.
Anyone who saw ‘Jurassic Park’ in the cinema, especially as a kid, will never forget that extraordinary moment when the brachiosaurus hove into view for the first time, to the strains of John Williams’s soaring orchestral theme. By contrast, ‘Jurassic World’ seems much more impressed with the design of its theme park than with the dinosaurs who inhabit it. The big stomping herbivores are reduced to second fiddle here, the apparent assumption being that audiences don’t want to be uplifted or inspired, they just want to watch more suckers get eaten.
The jeep scene in the original ‘Jurassic Park’ is one of the most effective examples of mounting dread in modern movie history – just the thought of that glass of water trembling on the dashboard is enough to send shivers up your spine. There’s nothing remotely comparable here: Trevorrow doesn’t seem interested in piling on the pressure, preferring to jump straight from ‘nothing happens’ to ‘total dino mayhem’. That approach can be effective – at one point it looks as though we’re in for a reboot of the ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ truck chase, with velociraptors – but the action sequences seem to end before they get going.
Earlier this year, ‘Avengers’ director Joss Whedon got into hot water on Twitter when he accused ‘Jurassic World’ of, in his words, ‘’70s-era sexism’ based on a two-minute clip. Sad to say, Whedon’s razor-sharp gender sensor hasn’t let him down. The movie’s heroine, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, is a career-focused, ball-busting childless harridan who – the film suggests – just needs to chill out, get laid and reawaken her maternal instincts (there are two late-in-the-game scenes featuring her gazing wistfully at other people’s kids). And let’s not overlook the moment where a young woman’s brutal death-by-pterodactyl is played for laughs.
Like the rest of the movie-going world, we loved Chris Pratt in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, as he gleefully punctured macho stereotypes of the indomitable hero. Perhaps he’s having second thoughts, because his character here – a motorbike-riding velociraptor wrangler – is exactly the kind of smug, ready-with-a-quip douchebag that leading ladies really shouldn’t be playing second fiddle to in 2015. No-nonsense Sam Neill would have had this joker for breakfast (as would Laura Dern).
Whatever you thought about the young heroes of the original ‘Jurassic Park’ – and, we’ll admit, Joseph Mazzello’s Tim was a bit grating – at least they were memorable. This time around we’re presented with brothers Gray and Zach, a pair of personality-free peril-magnets whose sole purpose seems to be to make Bryce Dallas Howard’s lonely spinster feel guilty about her life choices (see number five on this list). We’re sure that actors Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson (no, not the BBC’s political editor) are perfectly capable young thesps, but the script gives them zero opportunities to show it.
The first ‘Jurassic Park’ excelled at supporting players, from Jeff Goldblum’s rock-star scientist and Richard Attenborough’s showman park owner to Wayne Knight’s squirming traitor and Bob Peck’s gaunt big-game hunter. In ‘Jurassic World’ we have to make do with a snippy British intern, a tediously affable Indian entrepreneur and a French-African sidekick character that the film itself seems to lose interest in, just as he’s finally about to do something cool. Props, though, to comic actor Jake Johnson, who pulls off the film’s most memorable moment as a geeky technician.
We’ll be the first to admit that some of the digital effects in the original ‘Jurassic Park’ now look a teensy bit ropey: that stampeding herd of gallimimus have a decidedly blocky, Playstation-game unreality to them. But that was 22 years ago, and CGI has moved on by leaps and bounds – not that you’d know it from ‘Jurassic World’. While Spielberg gave his enormous monsters real weight and heft by focusing on their breathing or the way the ground trembled as they passed, Trevorrow’s dinosaurs rarely feel even remotely real, and they look seriously computerised.
We’re not about to play the killjoy and say that ‘Jurassic World’ shouldn’t have been made: we’ll take any excuse to watch dinosaurs rampaging around the big screen. But so much of what made the original film a true cinema classic – rather than the cynical excuse to sell toys and fast-food meals it so easily could have been – has been junked here, in favour of quick thrills, cheap laughs and ludicrous product placement. ‘Jurassic Park’ was never just about size or speed or special effects – it was also, to some extent, about soul. And that’s what we miss the most.