Jurassic World: bringing a franchise back from extinction
Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993), with its charming cast of characters, industry-defining special effects and that unmistakable score, is a cinematic giant – an undiminished source of thrills and nostalgia for children of the Eighties and Nineties. Unfortunately, the two sequels that followed – The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Jurassic Park III (2001) – marked a quick decline for the series. Somewhere along the way, the sense of wonder of the first film was lost.
It is thus with great pleasure that I can report that the fourth in the franchise, Jurassic World, is really rather good. While it may not measure up to the original, it proves the franchise is not extinct yet.
The film picks up 22 years after Jurassic Park, the eponymous dinosaur theme park of the first film, was closed. Jurassic World is its successor, a fully functioning, futuristic resort that is truly the realisation of John Hammond’s vision. But it’s struggling to turn a profit, and, in order to keep the turnstiles turning, the park’s owners decide to manufacture scarier and scarier dinosaurs. Their latest creation, the ominously named ‘Indominus Rex’, is the most fearsome yet. Will their new attraction premiere without a hitch, or will it backfire? The smart money is on the latter.
Jurassic World sees the franchise regain its sense of fun. There are various nods to the original film, but Jurassic World also expands upon the scale of the original film. With futuristic safari pods, monorails and a giant, Sea World-esque exhibit, in which waterborne monsters perform for adoring crowds, the film rekindles the childlike wonder we all first felt when the Jeeps drove through those iconic gates.
The film does have a few issues. Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt play our leads – jaded suit Claire Dearing and Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady. But both of these characters are thinly drawn. Pratt’s badass hero lacks the charm of Sam Neill’s Alan Grant or Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm, despite Pratt’s natural charisma. Also, the forced romance between Owen and Claire feels wholly unnecessary.
There is also far too much reliance on the somewhat ropey CGI. The first Jurassic Park film seamlessly blended CGI with puppetry – so much so it still stands up today. Jurassic World flips this ratio to limited success. The third act descends into a CGI monster slugfest, more akin to Godzilla than Jurassic Park. Although the monster-movie flourishes go some way to refreshing the formula.
But, quibbles aside, Jurassic World is a big, bright, popcorn movie to behold. A once-dead franchise has been reborn. Life, indeed, found a way.
Jon Fuge is a writer based in London.
Watch the trailer for Jurassic World: