1999 was the last time we stepped into the world of Jurassic Park. That film, the third in the franchise, was enjoyable enough but failed to capture the depth and replay value of the first two entries. Plus, its big set pieces were leftovers from the original Michael Crichton novel. But that’s a discussion for another time.
In Jurassic World it is several years after the events of Jurassic Park 3. We return to Isla Nublar (for the first time since 1993) where the park has finally opened and been running without problems for ten years. John Hammond has since sadly passed on along with Sir Richard Attenborough, but his fingerprints are all over the successful park – even stretching to a glimpse of Mr DNA in the early going.
But all is not well. Of course. Aside from the raptors that have learned an element of respect for animal expert Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), there are issues to tackle of both a corporate and a human nature. Vincent D’Onofrio represents the antagonistic Dennis Nedry role of the original, and has shady plans that contrast with Hammond’s policy of and entertainment. There’s also the minor issue that a returning Dr Wu (BD Wong) and his team have created a new dinosaur, because audiences want something scarier “with more teeth”. Enter Indominus Rex, a hybrid dinosaur that can mask its body heat, blend in with its surroundings, and it’s smart to boot.
Into this are dropped a few archetype characters. There are the obligatory kids who are visiting the park for the first time while their parents undergo a divorce. When things start going wrong, Owen Grady and park overseer and auntie to the boys Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) go looking for them. Owen is your typical animal behaviour expert, almost like Muldoon in the original. In my opinion Chris Pratt can do no wrong, both before and since Guardians of the Galaxy, and if further proof was needed of his box office draw, it’s right here. He’s a more serious presence than Star Lord, but his slight air of deadpan whimsy works well.
Great special effects follow, more detailed and believable than ever before. There are issues with the plot, which not only sees Howard running everywhere in high heels (not recommended) but not living up to the tension that Spielberg was able to develop in his two efforts. Plus women get short shrift overall. Judy Greer’s role is to sob down the phone, while Lauren Lapkus is our voice of exposition from the park control room. Her scenes with Jake Johnson as Lowery do offer an amusing aside to the main narrative, at least.
Despite the heels, Claire does at least develop throughout the story, softening from the numbers based figurehead to somebody who might consider starting a family. It’s terribly broad and fits in with the usual stereotypes as she falls for the rugged Owen and screams a lot, but it’s better than nothing.
The ending is total fan bait for sure, but I defy anybody who sees it to not be cheering along with everybody else. It’s a fine balance between farce and fandom, and Colin Trevorrow just about manages to pull it off.
With a hint of more to come in this world, Jurassic Park successfully puts to bed most of the problems the franchise has previously faced. There are a couple of slips that stop it climbing to the same heights as Spielberg’s opening brace, but it’s certainly on the right track. This comes as quite the relief given the film’s decade in development hell.