Jurassic World Tries So, So Hard to Be Good, and Almost Succeeds

Jurassic World Tries So, So Hard to Be Good, and Almost Succeeds
The cast of Jurassic World in peril. (Image: Universal/Amblin)

Jurassic World is the most Jurassic movie of all the Jurassic movies. It takes the structure of the first movie — a theme park run amok — and blends it with the franchise’s ultimate fantasy, finally revealing what a fully functioning dinosaur theme park looks like. It’s John Hammond’s vision come to life. The result, however, is a mixed bag, because for everything Jurassic World does to imitate the original film so well, it makes two or three mistakes along the way.

Welcome to Gizmodo’s Jurassic Rewatch, a multi-week event where we go through all of the Jurassic Park films leading up to the June 10 release of the final film in the saga, Jurassic World Dominion. Things, of course, started with 1993’s Jurassic Park by Steven Spielberg. That was followed up by Spielberg’s 1997 sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and then 2001’s Jurassic Park III, directed by Joe Johnston. At that time, many fans probably thought that was the end of the series. But 14 years later, that all changed.

When Jurassic World, directed by Colin Trevorrow, was released, it was an unfathomable success. At the time it was the only film to ever make $US500 ($694) million in a weekend and the fastest to ever gross $US1 ($1.4) billion, eventually topping off at almost $US1.7 ($2.3) billion. It was proof that fans were once again ready to return to the realm of Jurassic Park, especially if the story had a fresh new spin. In Jurassic World, humanity has somehow figured out how to safely put dinosaurs at the centre of a theme park. And that theme park, the titular Jurassic World, is wildly successful. However, as park director Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) says, kids in the time of Jurassic World are tired of dinosaurs. They need something new. And so, the scientists of the park have begun to create new dinosaurs, specifically one called an Indominus Rex which eventually escapes into the park, wreaking havoc.

Is the Indominus Rex the best Jurassic villain to date? Maybe! (Image: Universal/Amblin)Is the Indominus Rex the best Jurassic villain to date? Maybe! (Image: Universal/Amblin)

In that setup, so many things are right on the money. Seeing the park fully functioning is hugely satisfying. The idea of dinosaurs now being old hat feels completely believable. That humanity has now created a new, original dinosaur, bigger and meaner than the rest, is a smart spin. There are rousing moments set to John Williams’ original themes (and Michael Giacchino’s new ones are solid too). Plus, it’s just the one dinosaur that gets everything off to the races. The movie is just the right blend of good, original ideas all within that tried and true Jurassic framework.

But where the first Jurassic Park kept things very simple, Jurassic World does not. At all. Watching it, it’s almost comical how many different storylines and relationships Trevorrow expects the audience to follow and consider. First, there are brothers Grey and Zach (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson), who are visiting the park. They have their own dynamics and later we learn their parents, played by Judy Greer and Andy Buckley, are getting a divorce. Oh, and Zach is super horny and stares at girls the entire first act of the movie.

But there’s more. The boys go to Jurassic World to see their Aunt Claire (Howard), who runs the park, and she has her very own set of problems. She’s got to deal with corporations like Verizon, park employees with their own agendas, as well as the park’s owner Simon Masrani (the late Irrfan Khan), who is way more happy-go-lucky than he should be. Claire also has some sort of history with Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a former Navy soldier who works on the island training raptors. Oh, right, and then there a pack of trained freaking raptors as well as an evil corporate guy (Vincent D’Onofrio) who wants to weaponize them. I could go on and on. There’s so much happening.

The Gyrosphere scene is the movie in a nut shell.  (Image: Universal/Amblin)The Gyrosphere scene is the movie in a nut shell. (Image: Universal/Amblin)

As a result, Jurassic World is less like a roller coaster ride and more like a pinball machine. Which can be fun — pinball is fun! — but it’s also chaotic and usually without much of a cohesive story. (It’s also extremely fitting since there’s almost a literal pinball scene in the film with the above Gyrosphere). At the very least, once the Indominus Rex gets loose, the movie becomes primarily about stopping it, and how each of the characters plays a role in that. But even those roles are muddled as there’s basically a struggle for power happening on one side, a rescue mission on the other, and 20,000 park attendees just sitting there awkwardly as a killer dinosaur rampages around the island.

With too many stories and characters to go around, you really don’t end up caring about any of them enough to have a real impact. Instead, the film seems more focused on cramming in as much information as possible. Some of it is cool, like the underwater Mosasaurus which comes back at the end, but most of it just seems extraneous. The perfect example is Claire, arguably the film’s lead character, who is on screen a ton but is treated like such an afterthought the director lets her run around in high heels the entire movie. That became a big story at the time of the film’s release but it’s also just the perfect metaphor for Jurassic World as a whole. It has great intentions but just makes way too many dumb mistakes to get there.

So bonkers. But so fun. (Image: Universal/Amblin)So bonkers. But so fun. (Image: Universal/Amblin)

The best scenes in the movie are then the ones that are the most unbelievable, mainly those between Owen and the raptors. It, like the other stories, is underwritten but it’s a fascinating dynamic that plays out in some really fun and entertaining ways. The whole thing, like the Indominous, gives Jurassic World a unique flavour, an achievement the previous two movies did not enjoy. Truly, I dare you not to smile as Chris Pratt rides a motorcycle in the middle of a pack of raptors. It’s ridiculous and glorious.

This means, in the end, Jurassic World is easily the second-best Jurassic movie behind the original. There are enough good ideas blended well with sporadic nostalgia and dynamite action to make it stand out among the pack. The Indominus Rex is arguably the most compelling villain in the series, we get helicopter rides and Jeep chases — the film basically has it all. Mostly though, what it does best is make you want a Jurassic World trilogy that takes this movie and slows it down. Maybe the first movie explains how, after everything that happened in the previous films, someone actually got this park to open. Maybe a second about the park getting popular and the dinosaurs becoming passé. And then, finally, the finale where it all turns to crap. That of course would never happen, we got another trilogy entirely, but Jurassic World’s greatest achievement is it makes you want to spend more time in that world. To explore the park, meet the characters and the creatures. In actuality though, it’s so busy you never get a chance to do any of that.

A great final shot to be sure. (Image: Universal/Amblin)A great final shot to be sure. (Image: Universal/Amblin)

Jurassic World is not currently streaming anywhere for free but it’s available for purchase and rent on sites such as Movies Anywhere, which was kind enough to give Gizmodo a code for this review. Next up, the final pre-Dominion film, Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom. I wonder if my thoughts will have changed from this review.

Jurassic Park Films, Ranked (Updating as I go through)

1. Jurassic Park

2. Jurassic World

3. Jurassic Park III

4. The Lost World: Jurassic Park

5-6. TBD

Want more Gizmodo news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.