Movie Review: Jurassic World
By Ben Gruchow
June 23, 2015
If nothing else, the marketing team behind Jurassic World deserves credit; they’ve taken a cinematic albatross, stuck in development hell for over a decade, and transformed it into what is now certain to be one of the year’s biggest box-office hits. Such skill is to be admired.
The story of how Jurassic World came to be made is actually far more interesting than Jurassic World itself; I’ve rewritten the opening of this review three or four times now, trying to convey something about the thing beyond its existence. The movie delivers exactly what the trailers promise: there is a theme park, there are lots of dinosaurs, a little scientific intrigue, some corporate mischief, and then things go very wrong. Absent is much of a reason for the movie’s existence. Jurassic World is handsomely-mounted and slickly made, but so are most films. At the end of the movie’s 124 minutes, I realized that I had not seen a single image as powerful - or as unsettlingly realistic - as the first movie’s shot of the T-Rex tearing down its fence and taking its first steps. Even The Lost World, that most mercenary and joyless of sequels, had brief moments of visual beauty. Instead, much of the movie’s $150 million budget has gone into dinosaurs and locations that positively scream their digital nature in every onscreen moment. There is not a moment of this film where we are not consciously and continuously aware that we are looking at CGI; finely-textured and well-animated CGI, but we’re a long way from Spielberg’s creepily lifelike animatronics here.
There isn’t much of the story that hasn’t been told in trailers, but here goes: Some 20 years after the events of the 1993 film, Jurassic Park has become a reality. As the movie opens, we follow two kids, Gray and Zack, as their parents ship them off to Isla Nublar, to visit the park under the care of Bryce Dallas Howard’s park manager Claire Dearing. Their timing couldn’t have been worse, because Claire (and the company CEO, Simon Masrani, played here by Irrfan Khan) are about to debut their new dino, a genetic hybrid of God-knows-what called an Indominus Rex. Along for the ride is animal trainer Owen Grady, played by Chris Pratt. Also in attendance is a militaristic security head Vic Hoskins, played by Vincent D’Onofrio. The two kids take us on a de facto tour of Jurassic World, but we see this only incidentally; in a somewhat clever nod to its theme of desensitization, most of the early dinosaur action takes place in the background or offscreen, as the characters are busy in conversation or looking at the screen of their smartphones and tablets. Desensitization is also the motive behind the creation of this fearsome new uber-predator, which in no time has escaped its holding pen and caused all kinds of inconveniences.
Operative phrase: “in no time.” The movie rockets into its primary conflict and crisis without so much as a hint of build-up or rising action. I’m at a loss to explain it, really; we go from a wide-eyed introduction to the park and some low-key corporate shenanigans to a single, nicely creepy scene between Khan and Howard where we catch little flashes of the Indominus, and Khan utters the movie’s best line. Then we have, if I remember, one major scene between Howard and Pratt before the movie’s major conflict happens in the next one.