Sunday, 14 June 2015

Jurassic World

Twenty-two years after the events of  Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfil a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitor's interest, which backfires horribly.

"Welcome to Jurassic Park" those words disclaimed and the music will be graved into my memory forever. When I saw the first Jurassic Park I had my mind blown, it was like cinema has been reinvented decades before and coming to life right in front of me. It made generations want to be directors, actors, writers: story tellers. It was a breakthrough movie with the use of technology and new cgi. Jurassic World depicts (at first) everything John Hammond wanted this place to be and it's fully operational. Here, the film renews the experience and transports us where Jurassic Park took us 22 years ago; capturing only a fraction of the original film's overflowing awe and wonder though. I didn't go to this movie hoping it to be better because lets be honest: it won't, ever; but just hoping it would be good. The 14 years-layoffs since the last one may have helped to ease the mind of antiseptics. In fact, Universal's big summer action release is sufficiently "toothsome" to make audiences everywhere happy for a return visit to a once-wild world that looks as safe as a Disney ride. The first wise move was to pretend that The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Jurassic Park III (2001) never existed and that the world depicted here descends directly from Spielberg's 1993 adaptation of Michael Crichton's novel. This line of reasoning takes us to the current star attraction of the park, in the form of a gigantic sea creature that zooms straight up out of its pool to swallow in one bite a big white shark: a spectacle which inclined to interpret as a ingenious admission by Steven Spielberg as to how far the world has moved on since Jaws. 

This film is as its core a caution about the dangers of trying to keep up by doing always bigger, better and faster. From the beginning, fuelled by Michael Crichton's big brain, Jurassic Park has always been a debate about the boundaries of science and here it explored further. It's an example of scientist's being so preoccupied with whether they could that they stopped thinking if they should. It's at once a sharp comment on our been-there-done-that generation which so quickly gets bored with the new and a genuinely menacing monster movie. The same thing could be said for our cinema industry and the global corporates that dictate the films we get every year. This movie lays out a really clever and thinly veiled critique about nowadays blockbuster mentality. Jurassic world features a story about humankind's fallibility and inclination to bring destruction upon itself. Plus, there's something about director Colin Trevorrow's approach that marks him as a humanist rather than a director determined to hammer you into submission. Characters wise, Bryce Dallas Howard appears as the third generation of damsel in distress with a light touch of feminism, quite like Kate Capshaw in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984). They set up a stereotype of the uptight and over controlling girl, to knock it down afterwards; while nodding to our contemporary views, as we get a heroine who can take out a dinosaur with a stun gun and also run very fast away from them in heels. It's not hard to see why Joss Whedon tweeted, that early footage of her made him think of "70's era sexism". It doesn't help that, rather foolishly, she spends the entire film in high heels; even sprinting in them, in one slow-mo sequence. More importantly, Chris Pratt is a sort of velociraptors whisperer, appealingly playing a watered-down Indiana Jones type of guy. With his charisma on screen he cements his reputation as movie's new leading man, giving a tremendously likable performance as Owen: easy going and relaxed, somewhere between Harrison Ford and Tom Hanks. If Guardians of the Galaxy Peter Quill was Pratt's Han Solo, then Owen is his Indiana Jones. He completely blew me away.

Treverrow opted for a Spielbergian slow build as we don't see any dinosaur until roughly 20 minutes in the film. Moreover, he needed something new: enters the genetically engineered Indominus Rex. If a character noted early on in the movie that "no one is impressed by a dinosaur anymore" let me tell you that you should have seen my face as I enjoyed every bit of them on screen. The problem is not that dinosaurs have ceased to impress but that dinosaurs and too few good characters alone are not enough to sustain us in a sophisticated blockbuster culture that has the emotional landscape of Inside Out, the fugitive craziness of Fury Road and the all too human ape leader Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Those movies are as bold in their storytelling and as rich in their emotional stakes as they are in their visual aspects. There are lots of characters and lots of subplots that doesn't really belong in the film which create storytelling flaws, where the story goes back to less important characters such as the two brothers and their family problems, then you're like "Can we focus on our core here?!" Besides the self aware old fashion thrill and heroism, the romance when it flares, is swift, unexpected and makes the heart leap. Furthermore the dinosaurs themselves have rarely looked better than they do under the direction of VFX supervisor Tim Alexander and it's what makes Jurassic World  such a breathless summer entertainment.

The blend of animatronics and cgi is also seamless as you might expect: Trevorrow clearly understood the need to feel the textures of the original movie which is just as important as hearing that marvellous John Williams' score again. However there must be a little too much of cgi as Spielberg mostly used it in wide shots and animatronics in close ups or during interaction with characters, whereas here there must have been a lot of scenes involving actors looking at a tennis ball. The joy comes from watching a new director on the summer blockbuster scene makes an impact. Trevorrow gives the movie a warmer, brighter touch and is closer in feel to the original Jurassic Park, to which he even littered sly callbacks that may have made me want to cry happy tears. When it comes to crafting action sequences he is impeccable, his staging is clear, understanding depth and perspective like few other blockbuster directors. The grand finale smack down felt like the classic old movie and is every bit as beastly as Godzilla or Pacific Rim. Finally, Michael Giachinno's score skillfully takes certain hints from John Williams' prior series work but develops a pronounced character of its own as well. They crafted a bigger, faster, noisier dinosaur opus designed to reclaim its rightful place at the top of the blockbuster food chain.

Overall Jurassic World marks the most notorious park in movie history reopening, bigger and cooler than ever in thrilling and terrific style. This film is fresh without being a slavish copy of the original. A bit disappointing from a character and story perspective, but dinosaurs work very well and there  are lots of great action that remind us why we loved the original Jurassic Park. Enjoy the ride!


  1. I've heard from pretty much everyone that the storyline is a bit of a let down but that the graphics and visuals are incredible. I've got to see this before it stops being shown in cinemas. Did you watch it in 2D or 3D?

    1. Yeah it's pretty much it! Couldn't help myself to compare it to the original Jurassic Park, obviously a bit disappointing... But a good entertainment nonetheless! I'm usually not a huge fan of 3D, but some movies - like this one - are much better experiences in 3D!