Since Jurassic World is intended as a direct sequel to the original 1993 Jurassic Park, there are two specific sequences wherein it seems abundantly clear that director Colin Trevorrow and his three (count ‘em, three) co-writers are attempting to pass the cinematic torch from the original classic to this new installment. The first is the opening sequence, which layers John Williams’ iconic JP score so thick and with so little irony that it could be construed as nothing other than hero worship. The second is the film’s rousing closer, which, without giving anything away, is a true fusion of old and new in the most reverent and exciting manner. Literally everything in between is stilted, shallow, geek action trying desperately to attach itself to a decades-old legend.
If nothing else, Jurassic World serves as a reminder of how vital that legend still is, even 22 years after its initial imprint. Spielberg’s masterwork was a true adventure film, tackling issues of scientific greed and entitlement and fusing them with a visionary sci-fi plot, incisive characterizations, groundbreaking effects, and iconic visuals. This new film possesses none of those qualities, forcing several disparate, wannabe-Crichtonian themes into a Jurassic template that is populated with broad caricatures, bad CG, and dinosaurs that don’t look or feel as legitimately awe-inspiring as they did in 1993.
Never mind that the very premise of any additional dinosaur theme parks being commissioned in the wake of the first film’s catastrophes is absolutely preposterous. For Jurassic World, the devil’s in the details. Literally all of them, since the only narrative threads Trevorrow and Co. are able to conceive are modernized versions of the original film’s concepts, only pumped with steroids and played for cheap thrills.
Again there is scientific arrogance run amok, with yet more dinosaurs being engineered with yet more DNA patchwork that has now rendered a super-dino that trumps the T-Rex and seems to kill for pure sport. Again, there is blind greed, with a gung-ho InGen board member (Vincent D’Onofrio) wanting to send militarized Velociraptors into the newly-dubbed “Jurassic World” to bring down the rogue reptile in an ploy to be able to use the creatures as superweapons in war zones. Again there is a voice of reason in Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a former military man who now works as the Raptor Trainer, who fights against the system while also attempting to save the day. Again, there are two kids dropped into the park and left to fight for survival, only this time the screenplay doesn’t have much interest in them other than as necessary props. And again, there is a workaholic kid-hater who is transformed into a parental figure because of dinosaur peril. That’s Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park’s ops manager and the neglectful aunt of the two aforementioned kid props.
Throw all of these copycat strands into a franchise blender and you get this film, which lacks the independent spark that made Trevorrow’s earlier work (Safety Not Guaranteed) sing and seems to confuse high-level subversion with punk nastiness. Is the film really questioning the merit of endless theme park sponsoring, or is it just pimping brands like Samsung, Jamba Juice, and Dave & Buster’s? Is the forced romance between Pratt and Howard really just a sassy throwback or is there some transparent sexism at work in these characterizations? That these questions exist at all in a modern motion picture that is an extension to a classic pretty much disqualifies the film from being in the same sentence with its heralded predecessor.