Chris Pratt rides into action with a pack of velociraptors - it could only be Jurassic World
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Cast: Chris Pratt (Owen Grady), Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire Dearing), Vincent D’Onofrio (Vic Hoskins), Ty Simpkins (Gray Mitchell), Nick Robinson (Zach Mitchell). Omar Sy (Barry), BD Wong (Dr Henry Wu), Irrfan Khan (Simon Masrani), Jake Johnson (Lowery Cruthers), Lauren Lapkus (Vivian), Katie McGrath (Zara), Judy Greer (Karen Mitchell), Andy Buckley (Scott Mitchell)
When I was younger, the most exciting film ever was Jurassic Park. Imagine the thrill of a 12-year-old who loved dinosaurs, seeing these mighty beasts on the big screen. I collected all the stickers, and read the books (not the same as the movie – boo) and everything. In this (but nothing else) I seem to be quite similar to Chris Pratt, who described Jurassic Park as “his Star Wars”. So it’s nice to think I have a kindred spirit in this hugely entertaining, exciting and fun spin-off.
Set in the modern day, the old site of Jurassic Park has been turned into a hugely successful theme park, entertaining hundreds of thousands of guests a year. Two brothers, Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) visit the park, where their aunt Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the operations manager. The park has plans to launch its new attraction – a genetically engineered super dinosaur called Indominus Rex. Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a former Navy Seal who has been working on training the park’s velociraptors to obey commands, is called in to consult on the animal – only for it to escape and to begin to unleash bloody havoc on the island.
The sheer joy of Jurassic World is its familiarity and its freshness. The escape of the Indominus – and the rampage of chaos that follows – is of course completely expected, but the film tells all this with enough wit and wry tongue-in-cheekness that it completely works. It’s a film that wants to entertain and to give you a fun night out in the cinema, but is also happy to present its action and thrills with an honest, old-fashioned joy. It’s even willing to show a bit of restraint – the opening 20-30 minutes of the film largely set out what an amazing place to visit Jurassic World would be.
That’s the trick to the film – it reintroduces that sense of wonder. The film manages to feel very Spielbergian – the slow-build, the clash between the big corporations and the individualist who knows best, the kids as POV characters, the soaring visuals and delight in seeing these marvellous things brought to life – it’s all there. Trevorrow even thows in moments of genuine sadness (helped by the Williamesque score that riffs on the original theme) as the characters look out on a field of slaughtered dinosaurs from the Indominus. The film sets out to remind you why millions of people loved the first film, by letting the film-makers’ own love of that film shine through.
It’s also got quite a neat meta-twist on blockbuster films. The first 20 minutes has several conversations from the park’s suits about how just creating dinosaurs “isn’t exciting enough anymore” – the Indominus being created to make a dinosaur bigger, better, fiercer than ever before. Could this be any more blatant a comment on the arms race of blockbuster films? It’s also a neat continuation of ideas from the very first film: they were so pleased about being able to make something, they didn’t stop to think if they should.
But all this meta commentary (the park itself is an explosion of product placement, including actual Jurassic Park merchandise) doesn’t get in the way of a darn good yarn. And turning the Indominus into a deluxe killing machine – it’s so twisted by years in solitude it basically kills everything it sees – makes it the best villain the series may have had. Of course not only the Indominus chalks up kills – plenty of other dinos get a look in, and one character in particular gets a death scene so completely over-the-top you can’t help but laugh a little (if rather guiltily).
So you can see why rent-a-baddie Vic Hoskins from corporateville wants Owen Grady to send in his velociraptors to take it out. The series’ longstanding terror figures are reimagined here as hazy allies – and seeing Chris Pratt (respectfully) give them commands and pet them immediately establishes his cool credentials. Grady takes on the role of the man humble before nature – he stresses he doesn’t control the raptors, it’s a relationship of mutual respect – as well as being the sort of kick-ass alpha male that Harrison Ford would have played in his prime.
Pratt is pretty damn good in the film – the perfect guy to root for – and the velociraptor action is undeniably cool. Bryce Dallas Howard has a rather thankless part as his uptight love interest (and yes she wears those shoes for the whole film) but she does play the part with a certain wit. Simpkins and Robinson are very good as kids you end up rooting for rather than hating. Most of the rest of the cast fit neatly into deserving dino-fodder or otherwise (and by-and-large meet the expected fates), but Wong is good as a sinister Dr Wu, and Johnson and Lapkus give some good comic relief (including one laugh out loud moment) as technicians.
Jurassic World is such great fun from start to finish I can more or less overlook its flaws. Sure its dialogue is sometimes clunky. Sure logic often goes out of the window. Sure Iffran Khan’s character fluctuates so wildly (one minute he’s a “let’s just have fun” guy the next he’s a “bottom dollar is God” CEO) that you can tell it was probably changed in reshoots after feedback. D’Onofrio’s villain is so straight forward you’ve seen him dozens of times. The film is, at heart, an episodic series of clashes between Indominus and a range of adversaries.
But it doesn’t matter because it is a film that understands – and can speak – the language of movie magic. That can mix thrills with awe. That knows the key to your heart is not offering you bigger bangs, but in working hard to give you characters you care about. It’s a film made by people who loved the first movie but – and this is so rare – also understood what made the first film so good. And who can resist cheering the final few moments as a half-team of dinosaurs and humans take on the Indominus for final showdown? It’s a perfect Spielbergian rollercoaster ride and I’ve seen it dozens of times and I love it. It’s one of my ultimate guilty pleasures.