Wednesday, 17 June 2015

FILM REVIEW | Jurassic World (2015)

I've always had an innate jealousy for those that could to experience Jurassic Park on the big screen back in 1993. Then along came the announcement of Jurassic World, the fourth instalment of the series and considered to be a direct sequel to the first film.

I finally had my in, and judging by the fact I saw this twice in the span of two days - I think it gave me what I'd been missing.

After the disastrous events that happened on Isla Nubar in 1993, you'd think that Hammond's vision of Jurassic Park would never come to fruition. That's not the case, as 22 years later this frightful vision has become a reality in the form of an overwhelmingly Universal Studios-esce theme park - Jurassic World. It is now a fully functioning theme park, attracting thousands of visitors from across the world to take a step back in time and literally walk with the dinosaurs. But, the dinosaur fad seems to be wearing off. Visitors are beginning treat the once marveled, extinct creatures as mere zoo animals which begins to put pressure on the park to maintain its popularity. Going even more against Ian Malcolm's prior advice - "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn't stop to think if they should" - the team at InGen decide to genetically splice different species of dinosaur (and other animals) together to create an entirely new breed - the Indominus Rex. Ultimately managing to create a hybrid that resembles Godzilla more than any other dinosaur that roams the park or that has ever existed.

Directed by Colin Trevorrow, Jurassic World introduces a host of new characters to the franchise, the main two being Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). Claire is the park's operations manager - a strong-willed, career orientated woman who holds her ground and doesn't back down in any situation. Even if that situation involves one of the most promising new attractions of her park to go disastrously out of hand. The trailers for Jurassic World seemed to portray that Owen was the hero of the film, but Claire ultimately overshadows Owen by a long shot. Both are equally brave in their own rights, but it's Claire that steps up to the plate multiple times to defend herself and save her boys - Owen and her two nephews. Bryce Dallas Howard is the perfect match for Claire - bringing a sense of sensibility and charisma to the character in the beginning of the film, and through the films climax adding upon that with tons of badassery and an adaptable set of survival skills.

Chris Pratt delivers another fantastic performance through Owen. He's really showing the world what he's got to offer recently, and it's amazing to be able to witness him transform through his career. I would have never of guessed he'd end up here this quickly through watching countless hours of Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation. Of course, I knew he'd end up being a star, but it's happened so fast. First, he gave us Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy which displayed his comedic timing like we'd seen before, but his ability to tone that down and give emotional deliveries of poignancy was astounding to see. Which is what shines through in Jurassic World, some of that humor is obviously here but he really showcases how serious of an actor he can actually be. He's shown within the past few years how versatile he is, and in turn, is taking Hollywood by storm.

Owen is a completely new character type in the franchise. Each film (excluding the third) has their own standout characters that everyone remembers - especially Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcolm. But here we have something that we've never seen before. An ex-military man who has somehow managed to figure out how to train dinosaurs. And not just any dinosaurs - a pack of Velociraptors. Not only can he train raptors, but he's the voice of reason throughout the film too. He quips one-liners in a Malcolm-esce way - though not as memorable - to remind Claire and InGen that what they're doing is a bad idea. A very bad idea, with consequences that they're not going to be able to handle. And he's right. 

But in terms of supporting characters throughout Jurassic World, no one else stands out. Which is actually quite a shame. What you got in Jurassic Park was a handful of characters with blinding personality. Whether that be Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, Ian Malcolm, John Hammond or even the kids Tim and Lex, you can remember not only their names but their mannerisms and the specific role they had in the story. Here, not so much. Other than Claire and Owen, no-one comes to their own. Especially the kids - Claire's nephews - Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins). When you're given such versatile and innocent kids through Lex and Tim in the first film, Zach and Gray don't even deserve comparison. It's more the writing than anything else - situating useless throwaway plot points that are never mentioned again (such as the divorce conversation on the monorail) to attempt to give some sort of depth to their brotherly connection which seems to come abruptly to fruition once the danger starts to unravel before them. 

There are also too many antagonists. You've got the Indominus Rex and the other dinosaurs - obviously - but you've also got Vic Hoskins (Vincent D'onofrio) and Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong). Wu is a stretch as an antagonist, but it is because of him that all this terror has been unleashed throughout the franchise. And he doesn't seem to give a care in the world about it, as long as his experiments are working he's happy. There's just too many overlapping stories that are put in place to inhibit the heroes. Whether it's Hoskins' plan to use the raptors - and subsequently other dinosaurs - as military weapons, Wu not disclosing what the Indominus Rex is made from or the dinosaurs wreaking havoc on the guests. The plot starts to become as chaotic as the events unfolding on the island.

But that's not to say that the film failed because of this. Jurassic World is an appropriate follow-up to Jurassic Park. The whole point of Jurassic Park was Hammond's dream of a theme park into the past becoming a reality - in which this film manages to finally represent. I absolutely love The Lost World, but it was lacking in the fact that it wasn't about the park. It was, in a way, as InGen were planning to create a SeaWorld like the attraction of Jurassic Park in San Francisco but it just didn't give the same vibe of wonder that the first had. In all honesty, if Ian Malcolm wasn't the main character of The Lost World, I probably wouldn't have been that interested in it (case in point: Jurassic Park III).

Jurassic World brings up the familiar points of humans trying to control nature and ultimately losing. But what I loved about this film is the underlying tones it brought up surrounding theme parks today. Especially those such as SeaWorld. Jurassic World really showcases humanity trying to control nature to such an extent as to use them for entertainment purposes and monetary gain, ultimately viewing the animals as 'assets' and never taking their emotional wellbeing into account. When Owen talks about the Indominus Rex, he explains to Claire how it's bred in captivity and it doesn't know how to socialize with other dinosaurs or people which has culminated into the monster that it has become. That really resounded with me over how people are shocked that killer whales such as Shamu are capable of killing people. It's due to an overwhelming presence of humans needing to be in control that causes these acts of cruelty with animals. Sure, in this case, they are breeding killing machines in the form of dinosaurs, but how is that any different from putting wild animals into captivity for them to perform shows day after day. Just like the Mosasaurus in the 'Mosasaurus Feeding Show' where it's fed great white sharks and proceeds to splash the audience. Sound familiar?

Where Jurassic World really delivers is with the nods to the old park, i.e. the first film. Some have said that this acts more like a remake than a sequel because of this, but I think that Trevorrow manages to balance this in such a way that it's heartwarming for a fan of the films to see all of this brought back to life in a new film in the franchise. He and the team behind Jurassic World knew that they were never going to make a film better than the first. Everyone knew that. That's what made this film so strong in terms of the Jurassic Park canon because the two other sequels completely strayed from what the first film gave. Jurassic World expands upon the first film in opening the world of the park even further in such a way that these nods feel familiar rather than just rehashes.

My mindset with Jurassic World was that if it managed to recreate the unforgettable feelings I got as a six-year-old watching the first one, then it was going to be a fantastic movie. When the credits came up the first time, I had that exact same feeling. This time, from witnessing it on the big screen. So I can safely say - after watching this twice in the cinema which I never do - that if you want to have some 90s dinosaur nostalgia, then this film is for you.

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