Dir: Colin Trevorrow, 2015
Jurassic Park is fantastic. I mean, just isn’t it? It’s terrifying, it’s exciting, it’s enlightening and it’s wonderful. I remember it being one of the first films I ever saw in the cinema and I recall vividly how it caused my imagination to explode into a billion pieces, reaching far and wide across the realms of impossibility. And yet, I thought, this could happen. Now, not this exactly but even then I could understand how, as Dr Alan Grant would come to say in the less-than-positively received Jurassic Park III, some of the worst things imaginable are done with the best intentions. And yet, I don’t see even the slightest bit of aspiration or well intent in Jurassic World. I see big, cartoonish dollar signs in its eyes.
As Sam Neill’s hat and Jeff Goldblum’s chest hair are retired into the Jurassic canon, we are introduced to our new heroes [sic]. Twenty-two years after the events of the first film (apparently ignoring the second and third entries), the park is now open to assumedly wealthy patrons with Bryce Dallas Howard’s operations manager overseeing the integration of a genetically engineered hybrid amongst the park’s attractions. When it breaks out, Howard must call on raptor-wrangler Chris Pratt to contain the beast and save her teenage nephews, who are lost in the wilderness of Jurassic World’s restricted areas.
Chris Pratt is fast becoming Mister Hollywood, fresh off the back of the relatively sleeper-hit Guardians of the Galaxy and amidst rumours of Pratt donning that fedora in the near future, so how does the film manage to put across Pratt as incredibly dull? Simple, there is not a single character developed in this film or written with a drop of charisma or profundity. Dallas Howard’s character is made out to be some sort of definition of the 21st century woman – successful, intelligent, sophisticated and yet is ignorant toward every responsibility that comes her way. This is a film whose gender politics are so skewed to the point where the moment Howard’s character’s nephews see her dispatch a pterodactyl in badass fashion, they immediately opt to go with Pratt’s conventional ‘man’ character, whom they had never seen before let alone seen do something of equal measure to Howard’s turning point.
The big bad of this piece is the Indominus Rex (an appellative cousin of Unobtanium, no doubt) a genetically-modified dinosaur that can camouflage its exterior, mask its thermal signature, etc. all tricks to “up the wow factor” among Jurassic patrons who are bored by regular dinosaurs and who have complete faith in this new and improved dino-island because the word “Park” has been replaced by the word “World”. I don’t know about you, but the thought of a ‘til-recently-extinct, ravenous predator snapping at my heels is scary enough without needing to give it superpowers.
Then, there’s possibly the dumbest of the dumb in Vincent D’Onofrio’s military contractor Vic Hoskins. Fresh off playing a layered villain in the sympathetic yet sociopathic Wilson Fisk (aka Kingpin) in Netflix’s Daredevil television series, D’Onofrio cashes in as Jurassic World’s human antagonist who is determined to employ the velociraptors as super-soldiers for the United States military. If a villain is indeed meant to be the most misguided of all the characters, D’Onofrio certainly clinches it, but only just.
Admittedly, Jurassic World is meant to be fun, whereas the first of the franchise was entertaining and intelligent with a very precise message and with compassionate, cleverly written characters to create an empathetic audience – such is the nature of science fiction. Jurassic World does no such thing, throwing idiotic plotlines and protagonists at the screen haphazardly and hoping they’ll stick, with tired and lazy action set pieces that we’ve seen time and time again. A T-Rex attacking a jeep is replaced with an Indominus Rex attacking a gyrosphere; pteranodons attacking Alessandro Nivola are replaced by pterosaurs attacking faceless extras. The essence of chaos, indeed.
Not to say that Trevorrow and co. didn’t even aim for subtext, there are parallels with the Hollywood film industry and images of Jurassic World’s Samsung pyramid are quickly followed up by an enthused takedown of corporate sponsorship by New Girl and Safety Not Guaranteed’s Jake Johnson in a gag that seems to play more like an excuse than satire. But the greatest piece of subtext that Trevorrow succeeds in getting across is the film itself. The idea of Jurassic Park itself is an arrogant demonstration of mankind’s meddling in its vie to control that which is greater than themselves – nature. Jurassic World is an arrogant demonstration of film studios’ meddling in their vie to control that which is greater than themselves – film. And as long as we keep paying to see said demonstration, capitalism will, uh, find a way.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆