We’ve seen a much better version of this movie before… decades ago.
Chris Pratt stars as our raptor-training hero. He’s a dino expert with a heart of gold and a cocksure attitude. At the best of times times, he actually felt like an amalgamation of Malcolm and Grant from Jurassic Park. He’s joined on the island by Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, and two teenage plot-devices.
Whenever Pratt or the dinosaurs were on screen, I was riveted. The effects are incredible and the pace of the film is frenetic and propulsive. There was always something cool to look at and I never had a chance to get bored. I actually found myself more invested in the fate of the dinosaurs than that of the humans. I’m not sure how intentional that was, but this really ramped up the tension I felt during the spectacular dino Vs. dino fights.
This is where my praise ends.
I think the main issue I have with the film is that it doesn’t try anything new. It’s still about a dinosaur that escapes on a theme park and causes a series of catastrophes. The main dinosaur even looks like a T-Rex. It’s the exact same spectacle – only this time, it’s 20 years too late. In a post Transformers, Godzilla, and Pacific Rim world, making your CGI monster bigger just isn’t enough. It’s all style over substance.
It’s astounding that, while they borrowed the plot of Jurassic Park, they managed to forget the characters. They took the small group from the original and replaced them with Chris Pratt and 20 thousand strangers. Watching both movies actually presents you with a pretty fascinating question: what matters more to you, the fate of your family and friends, or the entire population of North Dakota? What has more emotional resonance? A few well-written characters, or a massive group of strangers.
I re-watched Jurassic Park before writing this and this exchange really jumped off the screen at me.
Dr. Ian Malcolm: …you stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it, you wanna sell it. Well…
John Hammond: I don’t think you’re giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody’s ever done before…
Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.
Malcolm might as well be talking about Jurassic World here.
That last line really clinches it for me. Jurassic World feels like a movie that was made because it was the right time to cash in on a once-successful franchise.
In the end, I would love for this film to capture the imagination of a new generation—it’s just not for me. It’s all polish and no substance, a pit-stop blockbuster that was made to entertain, but not to inspire. I also believe that there’s still a place in the world for hollow spectacle—Jurassic World just isn’t one of those places for me. I’m either too precious with the original film, or I’m just too old. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t ignore the feeling that the perfect version of this film had already been made, and I watched it in the 90’s.