When Jurassic Park came out in 1993, the film became an instant classic not just for its spectacle but also for its themes about nature and the hubris of man. It had a colorful cast of characters who filled a wide spectrum of opinions regarding the ethics of dinosaur cloning and its commercial use. By the third film, however, these things were no longer present. The franchise had become a generic monster survival series. Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow tries to remedy this situation by re-directing the franchise onto a different path.
This new path isn’t so much concerned about the ethics and commercialism of (mad) science as it is about the ethics and commercialism of Hollywood franchise filmmaking. This little theory begins with the premise: Park operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her employers have found out through focus groups that people are no longer that impressed with seeing live dinosaurs. They decide to restore the novelty by creating their own dinosaur to increase ticket sales. While that premise can easily be justified as self-contained, it is given a new meta context by the character of Lowery Cruthers (Jake Johnson), one of the park’s operators. In a series of lines that could have easily been written by Dan Harmon for Abed Nadir of Community, Lowery comments on the nostalgic love that people have for Jurassic Park and the irony that the tragic events on Isla Nublar have only managed to fuel even further interest in dinosaur theme parks. He makes cracks about product placement and other meta jokes about the franchise. The film then becomes a less clever version of Community that references, pokes fun at, and ultimately celebrates the hokey being that the franchise has grown into.
This becomes more evident when viewing the characters through that lens. Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) is the voice of (fan) reason who fights for narrative consistency and restraint (despite being a velociraptor trainer). Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins) is the kind of Jurassic Park fan who still views it with a sense of childlike wonder. Characters such as Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), Claire Dearing, Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), and Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) are like Hollywood executives. They would rather ignore people like Owen and think about stretching the premise for long-term profit, regardless of consistency or past results.
The quality of the effects were a mixed bag. When Jurassic Park was re-released on its 20th anniversary, its iconic effects had clearly stood the test of time. Stan Winston’s work could match any other 2010s blockbuster. Jurassic World has some remarkable CGI shots but also plenty of awful ones that look like something out of a SyFy channel movie. Trevorrow has mentioned in past interviews that he brought back Spielberg’s mixed use of CGI and practical effects. I tried looking for them and found some practical effects in shots where the dinosaurs looked more tactile. If I’m wrong and those were actually CGI, then color me impressed.
If you take away the interpretation and context of the film as meta commentary, then the film is largely lacking as far as the humans are concerned. Emotional subplots that give the characters weight such as the Mitchell siblings’ struggle with their parents’ divorce or the various pressures that Claire suffers from are ignored once the chaos sets in. The film becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of meaningless anarchy and dinosaur rampage. All in all, it’s fine but it could be (and was years ago) so much better.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars