Jurassic Park was the best movie ever. In 1993, as a kid who always loved dinosaurs, the film was a dream. I went to see it in the cinema several times with my equally enthusiastic school friends. I bought the lunch box, the pencil case and t-shirts. Spielberg was my hero (actually my first “word” as a baby was “E.T.”). Nothing will ever live up to that cinematic excitement. The good and bad news with Jurassic World is that it is a lot more of the same, a near carbon copy of the crowd-pleasing classic.
Plot Synopsis: Dinosaurs Chomp Their Way Through Crowds of Tourists
Twenty years on from the original park, the dinosaur extravaganza tourist attraction is more developed than ever, thanks to the efficiency of park manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). Poor Claire, she has to entertain her moody teenage nephews while also needing to ramp it up to the next level and impress Jurassic World’s Richard Branson-esque owner Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) with a newly spliced supermonster Indominus Rex. They bring in dinosaur trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a sort of Cesar Millan for velociraptors, in order to test the safety of the enclosure. Good thing this dude is former army, because as things go awry, his hunky muscles come in handy as he and Claire need to save the park and its customers from disaster.
The Frankenstein tales of the Jurassic Park franchise have sometimes been labeled “anti-science”. There are always the scientist characters, unconcerned about the moral implications of their research, going ahead with disastrous consequences. However, a pro-science propagandist might argue, science often needs such individuals who push the boundaries, especially in areas where the public imagination is limited. Fine, but just because the films criticize some attitudes in science, does not make them anti-science, quite the reverse. If anything, these movies get a large chunk of their thrill from science nerdery. The mega fans of the series are the kids who can tell you in no time flat the scientific names of fifty dinosaur species. Michael Crichton himself, the original book’s creator, was a doctor, so Jurassic Park was a morality tale written by a scientist about scientists for a scientifically-interested audience. Questions of bioethics are dealt with, but these are questions that all scientists grapple with themselves.
Anti-business and Anti-military?
The science in the latest installment Jurassic World is less well-elaborated than the original; the leads are no longer scientists but business and military people. The thematic call for the management of scientific hubris gets extended to the corporate and military worlds. While the original criticized those who push the edge of knowledge at any cost, Jurassic World also applies the wagging finger at people inspired by profit at any cost (capitalists) or winning at any cost (warmongers). I think replacing the lead characters with non-scientists is a mistake. Owen, while charismatically played by Pratt, is a kind of gun-toting, macho hunk that feels really dated (he is a dinosaur himself really). No one wants such WASPish alpha males as action heroes anymore because they bring nothing new.
What the Audience Wants
Jurassic World not only follows this moralistic formula, it applies the genre formulas set by 60’s schlocky creature features that were classily elevated by the original film. There are a lot of eye-rolling details (women running in high heels, baffling character motivations, animals acting like humans), but the genre allows for this, if you deliver on what the audience wants from such movies. What most of the audience (not the science fans) really wants is a thrill-ride, and Jurassic World has us twisting and turning, lifted, dropped and spinning. Primarily, the film delivers with a climax of dinosaur carnage amped to 11. Jurassic World has the noise and CGI-goodness of the Transformers films. While this might sound like a negative, what makes Jurassic World better than Transformers is that, for some odd reasons, we actually care about the dinosaurs, which we don’t ever feel for pieces of metal.
You Know the Way, Now Get on the Ride
While Jurassic World is inferior to the first film in terms of narrative crispness, character development, and thematic profundity, it does turn up the action to make up for it. Also, there is clearly a lot of love for the previous films here, so many of the scenes work as homage to the original. Nothing new, but if we wanted something new, well, then we wouldn’t want dinosaurs.
Jurassic World is showing in cinemas in Cebu this weekend June 12-14, 2015.