Open For Business As Usual
22 years on and Jurassic Park is once again open for business and though it can't capture the magic and awe of the original it still makes for solid summer blockbuster fare.Trapped in script-rewrite limbo hell for well over a decade, it's a wonder that another Jurassic Park film ever made it off the ground, let alone one which not only attempts to forge its own voice in this well-trodden universe, but also somehow pays respectful homage to the classic first Spielberg entry which wowed audiences all those years ago. Ultimately, it has all been done before, but thankfully sometimes the story embraces this notion, playing to the themes of consumer-driven economic viability, and bigger-is-better demands. In an age where the next sequel has to be bigger and louder than the last, it feels only apt to tell a tale about a theme park where the simple sight of long-extinct dinosaurs roaming the plains is just so yesterday. Now we want bigger. With more teeth.Although long-dead founder Richard Hammond's dream has finally come to full fruition - Isla Nubar becoming a fully-functioning Jurassic World - maintaining audience numbers is becoming harder and harder to do. The sheer financial aspect of running the island seems untenable. Seeking new backers, exec Claire Dearing attempts to woo them with their latest: a genetically spliced super-dino, the Indominus Rex. But she has no idea just what she has created. When things get out of hand, she has to call on the help of an old flame, Ex-Marine Owen Grady - who has been busy attempting, with mixed success, to train Velociraptors - to help her find her lost nephews and try to stop the chaos before it engulfs the whole island. Welcome to Jurassic World.
It would be hard to pinpoint just who wrote Jurassic World, in its final guise, as so many scribes have been involved in the process along the way. Director Colin Trevorrow and longtime writing collaborator Derek Connolly (who worked together on the engaging little indie sci-fi/romance gem Safety Not Guaranteed) would have liked to have maintained that it was all their work, but the Writer's Guild said otherwise, which is probably more indicative of the messy history that this production has had over the last ten years since it was first announced for a summer 2005 release. Thankfully the end result is, at least in terms of story, fairly cohesive, with only the tone of the piece flipping around a little more wildly than you might have expected.
Paying tribute to the films that have come before - perhaps most obviously the original first film - Jurassic World also fuses plenty of other ideas into the mix, some of which late Jurassic Park novelist Michael Crichton would have hopefully been proud of (he attempted some animal training in Congo, for better or worse) and plenty of which audiences will lap up (the Aliens-inspired motion-detector sequences make for a clever way of keeping within the boundaries of the increasingly malleable PG-13 rating whilst still delivering on the tension front). The story, too, cleverly gets almost immediately into the threat side of things, upping the tension and allowing the visually impressive exploration of the theme park/world itself to take place in parallel to the "main event", which helps maintain some pretty consistent pacing across what could have otherwise been a long slog of a 2-hour action-adventure.
With a little Jaws and Jaws 3-D; Dawn and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Godzilla old and new, thrown into the mix, thankfully there's still plenty of room for some good old Jurassic Park.
The characters are, for the most part, well suited to the proceedings, with two young nephews providing the children-in-danger element, whilst Bryce Dallas Howard drowns herself in makeup for the part of the self-important exec aunt who dismisses them in favour of running the business. Howard initially makes the character suitably loathsome, and her later transformation into reluctant action-heroine appears a little jarring, but at least she wasn't relegated to antiquated damsel-in-distress duty for the majority of the proceedings. Chris Pratt's hero probably spends a little bit too long posing - without any of the much-needed humour poking fun at his character like in Guardians of the Galaxy - and you can tell that his lines often feel a little stifled on the comedy front, but he makes for a solid (if unexceptional) lead. His Raptor-training scenes are certainly surprisingly good, but you do sometimes miss Sam Neill's unlikely palaeontologist hero. Side-orders, like Vincent D'Onofrio and Irrfan Khan, make the most of what little they have, whereas New Girl comedy actor Jake Johnson (and almost all his comedy scenes) unfortunately pose the biggest threat to a consistent tone for the piece.
Funnily enough the star of the piece - who really doesn't get enough screentime - is probably the underwater Mosasaur, and the whole dolphin/whale show-style sequence is almost as jaw-dropping for the audiences within the screen as it is for audiences without it. Conversely the true terror of the piece - the Indominus Rex - doesn't really top old T-Rex in terms of sheer impact, although the devastation caused is actually quite sobering. Indeed, there's probably an argument that this isn't as child-friendly as the original was, way-back-when (although kids probably aren't as unfamiliar to it as they used to be either; certainly not those already indoctrinated into the Marvel Universe).
Jurassic World doesn't set a new standard for this franchise. It doesn't break the mould. It really doesn't do a great deal new at all. Its characters aren't well-rounded. Its story-arcs aren't unfamiliar. Its action/suspense set-pieces aren't refreshingly original. But it does work. It does, somehow, breathe life back into a franchise that many thought died over two decades ago, and that many others were wondering why they were even still bothering to resuscitate at all. That in itself is probably worthy of celebration, but the fact that it manages to do all this and remain quite faithful to the spirit and ideas of the original - drawing us right back into this world through plenty of direct references (old vehicles, locations, flags and even old dinosaurs - and that theme music binding the franchise together) - is certainly one mark of a successful sequel. And we're not talking Box Office returns "success" here. Indeed if the upcoming Terminator sequel manages to come even close to pulling off the same solid reworking of an age-old classic, a whole planet-full of people are going to be mighty relieved.
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