Raptor-ous Reception: Jurassic World Reviewed

The water rippling in that cup indicates that the biggest block buster of the Summer is here! But does Cormac O'Brien think that it's Pterodact-skill or is he Brachio-sore about the whole affair? (Contains mild spoilers)

In 1993 skyscraper tall reptiles stalked our cinemas. Prehistoric CGI giant of the box office, the mere orchestral waft of the Jurassic Park overture can still strike a sense of wonder into a ’90’s child’s heart at 40 paces.

Anyone with an ounce of sense agrees that the original Jurassic Park was at that time (and at that age) the best movie ever made. And it had dinosaurs. Lots and lots of dinosaurs. It reworked Ray Harryhausen’s 1960s stop motion majesty into astounding CGI and it wowed. However in later years the declining quality of the inevitable sequels meant that the franchise lost its bite as it repeated the gruff-adult-and-juveniles-in-peril + dinosaurs formula with less and less success. Jurassic Park lost a lot of its wonder.

However, with the director of Safety Not Guaranteed, Colin Trevorrow taking the chair we’re going back to Isla Nublar. Professor John Hammond’s dream is now a reality, and people flock to the 7-bucks-a-soda amusement park to experience a baby dinosaur petting zoo, get Sea World style splashed by a gigantic Mosasaurus jumping to consume it’s Great White Shark evening tea, or gape at the terrifying T-Rex.

A high tech operations centre monitors every park movement (dinosaur and human). Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is in charge of it all and understandably she’s a little up-tight. A not particularly child friendly corporate type, her vacationing nephews, Gray and Zach Mitchell (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) are parcelled off to her care on Dinosaur Island to avoid their parents messy divorce. Caught up with the financial to-and-fros of the Park, she hands them over to assistant Zara (Katie McGrath) for the day.

Jurassic World is in many ways the essence of amber trapped nostalgia itself, but in 2015 it’s hard to wow millenials, as the disinterest of Bieber-haired teen Zach attests. “De-extinction was once like magic” says Claire to some park investors, but now some of that magic has lost its sway. Under pressure to find an attraction that is “scarier, faster with bigger teeth”, Jurassic World has created the Indominus Rex. Meaner and more aggressive than the T-Rex, it’s a gene spliced mix of different dinosaurs that is as much a result of marketing focus groups as science and it should see crowds come in droves.

Enter Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), he has the badass job title of Velociraptor Trainer, and works in dinosaur behavioural science. He’s established himself as alpha amongst a group of Velociraptors and he’s going through the slow process of taming them. They’re still unpredictable and he warns against Head of Park Security Vincent D’Onofrio’s plan to use them as military weapons. Claire calls in the rough and tumble dinosaur whisperer, to advise her on the Indominus, causing him to say things like “They’re animals not spreadsheets” and – echoing just about every viewer’s sentiment – how he doesn’t think that this incredibly dangerous dinosaur is a very good idea.

When Gray and Zach go off-road during the inevitable escape of the Indominus Rex, Claire and Owen band together to save them. Though, at times, a little forced, Pratt and Howard have chemistry and their opposites-attract romance is the pivot on which the whole film turns. Cinema lore tells us that the freewheeler never seems as awesome without the straight man (or woman) and the funny guy’s jokes never land without the killjoy to hear them. That goes for here too. As with the other films, although Jurassic World has a huge sprawling cast of characters, it always returns to a small main cast, and like in all of the previous instalments, they form a bespoke family unit.

In the rule of ever expanding, ante-upping sequels, as the park’s security unravels and more and more dinosaurs escape, Jurassic World becomes the first real en-masse monster movie of the series and thousands of potential victims in the park’s general populace fall into danger from swathes of our as-of-yet evolutionarily un-feathered friends. There are some real showboating CGI scenes here and the dinosaur headcount is high, from Pterodactyls swooping out of an aviary attacking a helicopter, to a magnificently thrilling high-speed chase sequence where Velociraptors pursue Claire and the kids as they hightail it away in an ambulance.

Jurassic World the film faces the same dilemmas as Jurassic World the theme park, and it explicitly address the difficulty of keeping viewers interested in the modern age. Resultantly, to attract new audiences Jurassic World is as genetically spliced as the Indominus Rex – a witch’s brew of what works from the Indiana Jones films, the previous Jurassic Parks and even Aliens. It’s also a real throwback to the Steven Spielberg/Joe Dante age of Americana movie treats and it’s every moment urges that sense of popcorn spilling fright, mass audience laughter and enraptured awe. Scenes like the one in which Zach and Gray enter the ruin of the old park, holding a flaming torch to the old logo like it was a cave-painting are full of a magic that hasn’t been seen this side of Spielberg for many years.

A film whose viewing pleasures are very much tied to the original Jurassic Park, the film is replete with clever visual references to the first movie. It works alone too, with many idiosyncratically thrilling scenes and a genuine comedy mixed in. Thankfully, it’s good, “scarier, faster and with bigger teeth” than the previous instalments and a testament to advances in CGI. It’s still not quite the film Jurassic Park was, but far from a pile of Pterodactyl guano. And since science hasn’t yet satisfactorily caught up with science fiction, and we can’t all go to beautiful South American dinosaur theme parks and get eaten alive, for now it’s the closest we’ve got.

Jurassic World is in cinemas now

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today