FILM REVIEW: JURASSIC WORLD
We are bored with dinosaurs now, they are just so yesterday. That is the central premise of Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World and its an interesting conceit on which to build a film around. We live in an age when we expect everything to be quicker, faster and easier, dinosaurs evolved over millions of years, we seem to be evolving in minutes. It is an interesting question to explore but with the pretty much unknown Colin Trevorrow in the director's seat can he step into Spielberg's shoes and propel this once extinct franchise into the twenty first century?
Jurassic World takes place twenty years after Hammond's first attempt, if you don't remember that didn't end too well, but this time his dream has been realised with a fully functioning park now up and running. Renamed Jurassic World, the park has everything any dinosaur mad child could dream of including a dino petting zoo, a sealife-esque marine reptile display, you can even ride a triceratops but despite all these attractions humans are as fickle as ever and soon become bored with dinosaurs forcing Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), Dr Wu (B.D. Wong, the only actor from the original to return) and his team to play God and genetically cook up their very own dinosaur, welcome to Indominus Rex. As you can expect, soon the new "asset" breaks out leaving it up to Claire and ex-navy seal and velociratopr trainer, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to hunt Frankenstein's dinosaur down before it inevitably starts eating people.
While Trevorrow's film attempts to be creative with it's dinosaurs, it makes no such attempt with its cookie cutter characters. Bryce Dallas Howard's workaholic, highly strung and far too organised, she even writes itineraries for a date, Operations Manager Claire Dearing has a flimsy character arc which by the end of the film never rings true. Than you have Chris Pratt's Owen Grady, an ex navy seal, which is American shorthand for tough and rugged, who is brought in to train the feisty raptors in and kind of in a prehistoric Grizzly Man way he establishes himself as alpha. Owen is a pretty simple man, he rocks leather jerkins, lives in a shack/caravan and fixes up vintage motorbikes, imagine an Urban Outfitters customer who hits the gym, a lot, and you're pretty close to the character. But even Pratt, an actor whose break out role in last years Guardians of the Galaxy proved he has a lot to offer, is hamstrung by a one dimensional character.
Trevorrow regular, Jake Johnson, play the film's only character who seems to be the only person working for Jurassic World who actually likes dinosaurs. Johnson's Lowery Cuthers is a bespectacled control man who steals the show whenever he is on screen with the best reference to the original and is gifted with the funniest lines but even he falls victim to the screenwriter's default, cookie cutter mould. He is slightly geeky so give him some glasses, yeah how original. Everyone's favourite Kingpin, Vincent D'Onforio, stars as the pieces' arch villain Vic Hoskins who couldn't be more obviously evil if the film asked you to shout "he's behind you" every time his terrible facial hair appeared on screen.
It's a Jurassic Park film so of course, there will be annoying children. This time around we have Claire's nephews Ty Simpkins' Gray, a wide eyed young boy you can't get enough of the park and his disgruntled older brother, Zach, played by Nick Robinson who is more interested in women than dinosaurs. Where once the relation between Hammond and his grandchildren, Lex and Tim, in the original was emotionally resonating, here it only serves to move the plot along and aid in Claire's weak character development. And here in lies the crux of the problem, Spielberg made us care about characters first, than enjoy the spectacle of the dinosaurs second after all they were only in the first film for fifteen minutes but Trevorrow's characters never emotionally connect with the audience, leaving us careless to their possible demise.
Because as a species we never seem to learn, Wu and his lab cook up the brand new Indominus Rex. Bred in captivity all by herself, thanks to eating her sibling, she is not the most sociable dinosaur in the park. If you've seen Blackfish you'll probably be able to guess what happens. This new hybrid is a genetic cocktail of T-Rex, velociraptor, chameloen, cuttlefish (obviously) and some other genes get thrown in for good measure. Twitter went mental when news broke of a gentically modified dinosaur but the idea of the constant consumer needs demanding bigger and better, it does make sense. After all, all the dinosaurs on the island have amphibian and avian DNA spliced into their genes to fill in the gaps, so it is not too far a stretch. Yet Trevorrow stumbles once again, he has given himself something completely new to play with and does very little with it.
Much like Jurassic World's visitors, we have become to expect more from our films over the years thanks to the magic of CGI. We live in a world where we have seen Kauji the size of skyscrapers fight robots who wield freight ships like swords, not to mention endless city destruction and planet implosions. And here lies another problem with Trevorrow's sequel, the CGI is simply just not up to scratch. The special effects are so weightless that everything looks quite clearly fake, the velociraptors never feel three dimensional even when humans are interacting with them. The first film blended animatronics and special effects so effortlessly its a challenge to tell the difference. When they do introduce animatronics they feel slow, cheap and comical.
It may seem unfair to keep coming back to Spielberg's original but Trevorrow's film refers to its predecessor so often it feels more like a remake than a sequel. One or two subtle winks and nudges to the originals are to be expected but Jurassic World has whole set pieces that are taken straight out of Spielberg's film. This is Trevorrow's biggest mistake, rather than opting to make his own film he pastiches and mimics the original to poor effect, throwing away something that could have been truly great.
Jurassic Park is a monster film which can be enjoyed as a visual feast and an exhilarating ride, Trevorrow attempts to clone what made the original such a hit but fails to understand the power of storytelling. Yes these dinosaurs are beautiful, scary and fun to look at but it's the characters who move a film along and when we are left in the company of dull, emotionless people our hearts are simply not in it. If Jurassic Park is the brains than Jurassic World is the brawn, its Cameron's Aliens to Scott's Alien, it's throwing more shit at the wall and hoping we can can cope with the smell. To use the words of Alan Grant, after careful consideration I have decided not to endorse your park.