Alright, one last time! Well, at least until Wednesday when The Fallen Kingdom hits cinemas. But until then, we’ve got just one movie left in our Jurassic Park retrospective, and that’s Jurassic World; the first entry into the arguable reboot of the franchise, starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard and directed by Collin Treverrow.
And you know, I was watching this movie last night (and bawling over baby triceratops because I’m a hormonal wreck), and I was fully prepared for it to be a dissapointment. I mean, it’s a reboot, another entry into the cold, hard franchise canon that the 2010s has wrung to into lifeless oblivion, and it stars Chris Pratt (the worst of the Chrisii) and features CGI were real effects were once dominant. It just felt soulless before it so much as reached the big screen. But watching it again, outside of all of that, I actually quite…liked it?
First off, let’s get the obvious out of the way; the CGI. Yes, the real effects used in the first movie are the best the dinosaurs in this franchise have ever looked, but if you’re going to scrap that (not that Jurassic World does in it’s entirety: there are some close-ups that obviously feature actual models, and look tremendous as a result), at least do it for a good reason. Jurassic World features a number of high-velocity action sequences, many with multiple dinosaurs, and it’s hard to watch them and figure out how they could convincingly have been rendered with the gorgeous but less dynamic animatronics of previous movies. Yes, sometimes they look pretty trashy (the raptors come off worst), but the film does a decent job actually using the CGI for good reason as opposed to just laziness. That said, there’s no excuse at all for their desicions to CGI in stuff like the park gate when real effects have so much more impact, and I can’t and won’t defend them for that.
And the character work in this movie is actually…not bad? My favourite relationship on display is the one between the two nephews of Bryce Dallas Howard’s character, Claire: played with a convincingly sweet chemistry by Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson (now of Love, Simon fame), they pick up where JP3 left off in bringing us child characters who are resourceful, empathetic, and generally believable. Elsewhere, Claire turns out as my favourite female character of the franchise: yes, the fleeing-a-T-Rex-in-high-heels sequence is iconically silly and yes, there is a spectacularly dumb scene where her sister (literally on a break from her divorce proceedings) insists to Claire that she should drop some sprogs already, but she’s competent, a little ruthless, and proves herself brave and badass in the third act. I can take or leave Chris Pratt as Resident Hunk Owen, but he’s certainly not terrible and shares strong enough chemistry with Dallas Howard to sell their lived-in relationship. Vincent D’Onofrio is tragically underused in a flat-as-hell villainous role, but honestly anything he does seems flat after watching him decapitate someone with a car door in Daredevil.
The pacing is solid, despite it’s hefty two-hour runtime, and the action scenes are honestly pretty great. Three movies in, I thought I’d seen all the ways a forty-foot lizard could sneak up on somebody, but Jurassic World finds new ways to deliver, featuring the most brutal death of the entire franchise (Claire’s assistant carried off by flying creatures and dropped into the mouth of a carnivorous aquatic monster) and really leaning in to the carnage that can be wreaked when something goes wrong within an open, functioning park.
The movie also leans into this interesting metanarrative angle, wherein it seems to be offering commentary on itself in relation to the original movies. It calls itself out for going bigger and toothier, more violent and more destructive – both in film and in franchise, this is a movie that knows it’s place with regards to Jurassic Park, and the legacy of the original is all over this one in a myriad of ways. I’m not super-keen on movies that lean heavily on self-awareness to squeak by egregious plot choices when they could just, you know, tell a good story (ahem Deadpool 2), but Jurassic World use the meta-commentary to put a pin in the old movie and tell a story of it’s own, which I respect.
Is it perfect? Obviously not. Almost every good thing I’ve talked about here has come with a downside, and Jurassic World is far from the classic that Jurassic Park was. But, as a piece in it’s own right, it’s a well-made, decently-acted, action-packed blockbuster that more than does the job, delivering on thrills and punchy action scenes that keep the pace breathless and allows the movie to paper over some of it’s more egregious cracks. Honestly, after seeing this again, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what they come up with for the sequel. Tune in for the review later this week!
Are you going to see Jurassic World: The Lost Kingdom? Do you have any predictions about it? Let us know in the comments below!
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By Louise MacGregor
(header image courtesy of Mother Nature Network)