The original Jurassic Park, directed by Steven Spielberg in 1993, was one of the biggest hits ever, with a big selling point being the groundbreaking special effects work on the dinosaurs, especially the use of then-new computer-generated graphics. Rewatching the film recently, though, even with the former hype for the effects dulled due to CG being much more commonplace nowadays, I found that the movie still completely works on core levels like writing and direction. Those factors are what I felt the first two sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III, didn’t retain in comparison. While both those films had some good action here and there, the heart, tension, and well-picked moments of humor were less prevalent.
Over a decade since the last film, we’ve finally received a new follow-up in the form of Jurassic World. While it still doesn’t measure up to the original, it successfully achieves what I felt the previous sequels were missing, and that is a constant sense of fun and enjoyment. The characters may be a bit thin, but the actual spectacle and sense of scale is some of the best in the series, resulting in a good time for both longtime fans and newcomers.
While the movie technically does serve as a direct follow-up to the original trilogy, references to the previous films are almost non-existant. Decades after the original Jurassic Park disaster, a new, revamped amusement park featuring dinosaurs genetically engineered back into existence has been opened to great success, managed by workaholic Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). In an attempt to boost public interest, Dearing has a new species, known as the Indominus Rex, created. As a result of it being made smarter and stronger, the Indominus manages to escape its enclosed area, and starts wreaking havoc on other dinosaurs and endangering visitors like Dearing’s nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins). As a result, the bulk of the movie revolves around Dearing, Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), and the rest of the main Jurassic World staff trying to stop the ensuing carnage.
Jurassic World doesn’t have that large of a cast, which makes its thinly developed characters more apparent. Other than Dearing being too involved in her work to spend time with family and Grady’s extensive knowledge of dinosaur behavior, I can’t name any characteristics that describe their personalities. Compared to the first film, there’s no one as charismatic as John Hammond or as funny as Ian Malcolm. Jurassic Park had some great dialog and character moments, but this one is woefully short on both. I also found the idea of the main human antagonist (Vincent D’Onofrio) wanting to militarize raptors rather silly; they may be fierce, but they wouldn’t top a machine gun. Finally, after all the chaos in the first three movies, I was wondering going in how they would explain being able to re-open the park to a warm reception, and the movie doesn’t bother at all with any sort of justification or backstory in that area.
All of that put together may make it look like I didn’t enjoy this movie, but that’s actually not the case. What this movie lacks in depth, it makes up for with a lot of engaging moments. The scope is the largest of the series, the pacing is solid, and the action is generally well-shot and creative. The CG dinosaurs look great, and it’s neat to get glimpses at both new species like the gigantic water-dwelling Mosasaurus and new takes on familiar faces like Grady’s trained quartet of raptors. Much like the original, Jurassic World also has good moments of humor at appropriate spots.
Three sequels in, I doubt at this point that we’re ever going to get a Jurassic Park follow-up that bests the original, but it’s nice to finally get a sequel that is overall much more entertaining than uninspired. The film’s already been a gigantic hit in its first week of release with a fifth entry all but confirmed, and I hope that whatever comes next can both replicate what works in Jurassic World as well as maybe flesh out the characters a bit more. This is not a masterpiece, but it is still a very enjoyable summer blockbuster, good for both series veterans and newcomers alike.