Jurassic Park was the first PG-13 film I was “allowed” to see in the theaters, and as it has turned out, every subsequent Jurassic film has come out during a period when I lived in or was visiting West Virginia, as I have been this week. That movie experience of seeing dinosaurs come to life in, what I still think, is one of the best action/adventure films of all-time, remains indelible to this day. The subsequent installments….not so much. If you’re looking for a quick, spoiler-free review, Jurassic World is the best and most logical sequel to the original film; however, if you’re looking to recapture the glory of 1993, you’re going to leave seriously disappointed. It will make a boatload of money and, if my audience’s reaction was any indication, leave us looking for more dinos in the future.
There is a specific reason why Jurassic World is not Jurassic Park IV. The Lost World and JP3 have been, and this is from the filmmakers, erased from canon. In fact, I’m not entirely sure that in this new world the helicopter carrying the survivors from the first movie wasn’t shot down by an RPG while the credits were rolling. The incidents of this film take place 20 years after those in Jurassic Park and in case you forget anything about Jurassic Park (save any character but John Hammond), don’t worry, the film won’t go more than five minutes without reminding you. The plot, in fact, is SO similar to Jurassic Park’s that if I listed all of the parallels, we wouldn’t have much left to talk about in the comments.
INGen, which has to be THE single dumbest corporate entity in fiction somehow managed to rebuild and reopen a park on the main island at least a decade before the start of this film. I would really actually be interested to know HOW they did that given the state the island was left in, but it gets glossed over. Jurassic World is the grand flea circus John Hammond imagined. It’s essentially Sea World with more teeth, complete with its own Shamu (Mossasaur). The genetics team, headed by good old Dr. Henry Woo (BD Wong….who would have thought he’d be this important to the franchise) has been cranking out more and more dinosaurs, but corporate has demanded an “up” to the “wow factor” leading to the creation of the Indominius Rex.
IRex is actually the most interesting thing in the film, and not the head-shaking disaster that the spinosaur was from JP3. I can’t tell you exactly a whole lot about it, because that would ruin one of the few surprises in the film, but you know how they patched together holes in DNA using frogs in the first film and Dr. Woo wasn’t too sharp about how that might lead to some secondary effects (like the dinosaurs being able to BREED)? Well, Dr. Woo apparently got his genetics degree at the University of Phoenix, because the degree to which he’s taken that little blind spot in his career as a geneticist is what causes the inevitable chaos in the system that Dr. Malcolm would have loved to see so much (were he not now a suspected corpse in the Atlantic). Things get so bad that the only raptors on the island, who have been much featured in the trailers, are purposely released to try to CALM THINGS DOWN. And, honestly, by that point, it doesn’t seem like the worst idea.
An interesting debate would be to argue whether this or The Lost World is a better sequel to the first movie. I would argue this film is, but not by a huge margin. The dialogue and acting are better in The Lost World. The plot (eye-rollingly clingy to the original that it is) and logical progression of Hammond’s vision are better realized in Jurassic World. What I’m not wild about is the discovery at the film’s end that will fuel future sequels and take us in a direction that I don’t think is wise. That there will BE more films is undoubtable. Two gigantic plot threads are left open, courtesy of the good folks at INGen (being amaaaaaaaaaaaaazingly dumb for over two decades!!).
I haven’t mentioned the characters from the film, and that’s because, with the exception of Chris Pratt, they’ve already faded from my memory. It’s the weakest ensemble of actors of any film in the series, and a lot of it is put on the backs of two kids trapped in the park during the chaos (I’ll pause while you see if that sounds familiar) and I was never really completely rooting from them to make it out, which either makes me a very cold person (not entirely impossible) or I wanted something to deviate from the formula of the first film so badly that I was even resenting the use of John Williams score. No, no I wasn’t. It’s still awesome. Jurassic World is a total mixed bag. It’s…OK. If your kids haven’t been doused in the majesty of the first one, they’ll probably love this, but if you’re looking to transport yourself back, I’m afraid you may be in for a disappointment.