With enough nods to the original and enough adventurous spirit to keep itself going, this reboot/sequel proves an entertaining addition to the dino canon but never quite escapes from formula.
12A, 124 mins ***½
It’s all in the DNA. Try and dress it up any way you like, but at the end of the day it’ll still be a dinosaur film. That’s the thing about Jurassic World, which attempts to reinvigorate the fossilised franchise and mostly succeeds – it’s not that the formula is bad, but it’s just been done so many times before. Then again, I suppose that with a film about colossal prehistoric beasts running amok and killing people (oops, spoiler), neither originality nor subtlety were ever going to be on the menu.
In short, the island of the original Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar, has been converted into a theme park for the masses, named Jurassic World, where dinosaurs roam in a controlled environment for amazed spectators to marvel at. But, as always happens, the scientists have gone too far in their quest to attract more visitors, and have created the appropriately ominously-named Indominus Rex for people to drool over. But surprise surprise, it escapes. Panic and mayhem ensue. Hey presto, plot.
In the midst of all this, two exceedingly irresponsible parents pack their two overly whiny children off to see some dinosaurs – on their own, as always – and on arrival at the island, their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), an initially frosty park executive, leaves them with a hapless supervisor (Katie McGrath). You can see what’s coming more surely than a Doyouthinkhesaurus. Kids are always trouble, and times certainly haven’t changed since Jurassic Park in that respect.
But never fear! Jurassic World has action man of the moment, Chris Pratt, to fill its lead role as Owen Grady, an ex-Navy man who now trains velociraptors in a secluded corner of the park, and is called in to help out with the impending, ah, security problem. Cue Mr. Pratt using the same skill-set he used twelve months ago in Guardians of the Galaxy to play the wisecracking sort-of hero who swears a bit. I’m not going to knock it, as it works, and his charisma and Howard’s coolness play off each other well as the dinos crash into each other and things frequently explode. However, part of me does want Pratt to stretch himself further than playing charming, pseudo-Indy types, despite the fact that he’s obviously having a ball doing it. That’s the main draw, though – Jurassic World is fun, certainly more fun than last year’s relentlessly doom-laden Godzilla. It’s funny too, with most of the humour coming courtesy of the quiet wit of Jake Johnson of New Girl fame, here playing a member of the control room staff. But in addition, the film also manages to keep up the fear factor for the most part, even when you’d have thought we’d be accustomed to dinosaurs doing damage. It’s more violent as well – in a sign of the times which bears similarities to James Bond, both the beasts and the humans now bleed, copiously. But beyond the usual hi-jinks, jumping off waterfalls and escaping hungry predators, at least the film does try to have some sort of contemporary heft. There’s a timely section in here about genetic experimentation and the perils of science, signposted in Big Red Letters by Vincent D’Onofrio’s head of Park Security, who has certain nefarious plans for the future use of dinosaurs. This quickly evolves into people saying This Stuff Is Wrong, which is again hardly subtle, but if it gets the punters to think more than the average action film does, then it’s a job well done. And that’s the thing – Jurassic World has a bit of a brain, but more than that, it has a heart. The influence of Spielberg, who is an executive producer here, is palpable, from the (eventually) heartwarming relationships between the characters, to the references to original park creator John Hammond (the late Richard Attenborough), all of which help to elevate proceedings. So Jurassic World does the job, and does it well. You’ll be entertained, but perhaps not awe-inspired. The dinosaur franchise, under Colin Trevorrow’s direction, has shown at least some signs of trying to evolve and reflect on itself, even if its basic make-up remains the same – people always want more, in this case ‘more teeth’. But perhaps the formula is part of the joy. On an island in the middle of nowhere, fight or flight still quite literally applies, with paradise turning nasty and finding yet another way to prove that mankind is in fact very small. So if you come out of the film feeling infinitesimal enough up against the raw power of nature, then Jurassic World will have succeeded. Survival in itself, not domination, should be enough for mankind, or so say the dinosaurs, and accepting that appears to be the tough part. Sticking together to survive, especially in a world that is always developing, is difficult enough, but if you manage to do that, you’ll be fine. Alex Nicholson