FULL DISCLOSURE: I freaking love Jurassic Park, and I’ve never written a blog/review.
I was six years old when Jurassic Park came out in theatres. I immediately let my parents know I wanted nothing more than to see this movie. Unfortunately, my parents showed immense hesitation in taking a youngster to a movie they’d heard was terrifying and violent (hahaha, sorry, let me try that one again WITHOUT a smile on my face), and all around unsuitable for eyes/brains that belonged to such innocent little cherubs such as myself. So I didn’t get to see it’s original theater run (years later a 3D release would reconcile this travesty), but my parents felt so bad about not taking me that I received a healthy (or unhealthy) amount of Jurassic Park merchandise in the form of toys, a VHS copy of the movie when it came out, posters, board games, video games, etc. I would spend most of my childhood constantly wishing I could go to Jurassic Park, see the dinosaurs, and constantly be surrounded by beautiful, lush jungle. Any time I ever found myself in an even semi-dense, wooded area as a child my imagination took over and I was goddamn in Jurassic Park. As you can easily predict: the nostalgia is strong with me.
I’ll try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible…
I have to start by saying Jurassic World is probably my favorite sequel of the three. Of course it doesn’t top the original. I think a combination of my nostalgia for the first film and my ever increasing crotchety, old-fogey cynicism will make sure I never truly enjoy another Jurassic Park film as much. With that being said, this one came damn close! Much closer than The Lost World or Jurassic Park 3. I believe this is because it’s centered around an actual park again. Part of the charm of the original is watching chaos completely envelope a location that looks so pristine and civil. Also making a welcome return are the sweeping shots of beautiful, jungle landscape and the inclusion of what I can only describe as “ominous jungle outskirt backgrounds.” This ties in with my love of the first film and its location shots. The juxtaposition of the wild, yet beautiful jungle with the vacation resort-style architecture of the park (my mind loves beautiful backgrounds and location shots) struck a chord with me early on and I wasn’t aware I was being mesmerized by it specifically until years later. You can be surrounded by what you think is protecting you, but only a few steps away is that gorgeous, deadly, and encroaching wilderness. It says “adventure awaits” to me — and I’m in. Hook, line, and sinker.
Another return to form is the character dynamic. You’ve got the uniformly masculine male (Chris Pratt as Owen Grady), the highly intelligent female/potential love interest (Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing), and two children (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins as Zach and Gray Mitchell, respectively) visiting the park that are related to an important employee of the park. This was one of the seemingly endless homages to the original film. Now, I’ve heard a lot of people complaining that there wasn’t enough character development in this flick. I’d like to defend it to an extent. The events in the first film take place over two days. They spend an entire night and another day on the island. Whereas, with the new installment, everything takes place in the span of one day/night. So, there’s not as much time in the story to flesh out all of the characters. Honestly, Claire and Owen feel like preassembled, fleshed out characters. One could argue that’s because they’re stereotypes and we’re able to deduce their motives, personalities, and backstories because experienced audiences are aware of these archetypal tropes. It works in this type of blockbuster setting, though. It’s a fast ride and if the audience can “Ikea” or even project some of the character traits based on dialogue, mannerisms, actions, that’s great. We’ll be way too busy reminiscing when we catch a nod to the original masterpiece or being enthralled in the dinosaur spectacles unfolding before our eyes in the first place!
Now, this isn’t an “Easter Egg Hunt” review, and I won’t list all of the little buggers that I happened to discover (probably one big pile of it that I missed), suffice to say they come in all shapes and sizes and are plentiful. At one point I was worried that there was too much lip service to the wellspring, but my worries were put to rest by new an exciting elements added to the formula.
Even though this installment won me over almost immediately what with trained raptors, aquatic dinos, beautiful cinematography, and a great cast, it isn’t without it’s faults. My biggest gripe is me, again, being an old fuddy duddy: NOT ENOUGH PRACTICAL EFFECTS! I’m watching Jurassic Park as I type this and I’m not fucking joking — almost all of the dinosaurs look better than what I saw on the big screen last night. I have NEVER been able to understand how this is/has been possible. Not a single damn dinosaur movie has managed to make dinosaurs look as real and believable as the 1993 dinosaurs Spielberg and company gave us. It’s the most insane conundrum other than “Who the hell really shot JFK” that runs through my surly, diseased and wasted mind on at least a bi-weekly basis. How, in the 20+ years since its debut, have filmmakers not realized that a mixture of practical effects and CGI is the best way to go?!
I can think of only one or two instances where they used practical effects, or dino props in Jurassic World. This simultaneously enraged, bummed, and confused the ever loving shit out of me. Sure, there are some maneuvers that would just be downright impractical to try and do any other way than CGI, but it just comes off as lazy and the visual effects feel trite and hollow. Maybe younger audiences experience or see CGI differently than I do. I seriously just don’t get it. It’s like John Hammond said, “I wanted to give them something they could see, something they could touch.” Me too, Hammy, me too.
My second old-man-flailing-around-spouting-off-projected-insecurities-and-fears-in-public complaint is there was so much unnecessary violence — and that’s coming from a Tarantino fan. I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling parts of the experience. Imagine you’re watching a film and it makes you physically question a decision it’s made by quickly jerking your head to one side with a grimace on your face and an eyebrow raised so high Dwayne Johnson becomes The Rock again. This happened to me twice. Maybe twelve year old me would be over the cheese-riddled, pock-faced, Edward James Olmos lookin’ ass moon for the amount of gun violence in this film. But 27 year old, nostalgia burdened, post-Dr. Who viewing me remembers guns never being prevalent in anything Jurassic Park related except the ultra exaggerated Jurassic Park games where they threw raptors at you as cannon fodder. Dino-on-human violence? Thrilling, scary, and entertaining. Dino-on-dino violence? Kind of a dog-fight feeling, but they’re fake creatures (MORE LIKE POKÉMON) so this also falls under the ‘awesome’ category. But human-on-dino violence just doesn’t sit right with me. Not on like a PETA level, but a storytelling level. Sure, take back the night, fight for your right to party, viva la revolucíon, and all that jazz. But in a Jurassic Park film it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. On a couple occasions it just reeeeally irked me. Kids will dig it. Toys will be sold.
Overall, I will definitely be seeing Jurassic World in theaters again. Yeah, I will make the blu-ray purchase Day 1. Hell, I’m just glad they’re making Jurassic Park movies again. It’s not perfect, but I do rank it at 2nd best out of the 4 current movies. It’s chock full of homages and nods to the rest of the franchise (mainly the original). It remembers its roots, but sometimes chooses to clone some aspects rather than evolve. All in all, it’s a fun and entertaining theater experience. Go see it for yourselves!
Maybe after it’s been out for a while I’ll write up a more detailed, spoilers-filled entry about my gripes, questions, and ideas about the film. Thanks for humoring me with your time!
Have you seen Jurassic World, yet? Did you love it, hate it, or something in-between? Let us know in the comments below!