“They’ve spared no expense!” is what Richard Attenborough’s John Hammond would bark, should he have ever feasted his eyes on the visual spectacle of Jurassic World. And he’d be right. In a society where people are no longer bedazzled by resurrected dinosaurs and monsters from the past, the creators of the eponymous park have had to redouble their efforts, designing and forging their own “super-dinosaurs” – genetic amalgamations of the fastest, strongest, “coolest” extinct breeds – to satisfy a culture obsessed with the latest gadgets and gizmos. Dinosaurs too have become a commodified and purchasable good as supply races to keep up with demand. It’s a brutal attack on consumerism, but it’s one hell of a ride.
Of course, from the very beginning we know that everything is going to wrong. After the previous three instalments of the Jurassic Park franchise, you can’t help but watch Jurassic World with a prophetic Final Destination-type instinct that sooner or later, the glass is going to crack – that is to say, someone is going to get eaten. The first act of the film, though not slow or lagging as such, is astutely aware that it is setting up such a premise. A slightly contrived situation of eccentric billionaire entrepreneur and park owner Masrani (Irrfan Khan) demanding that the scientists up the ante on the dinosaur attractions leads to the creation of the nightmarish “Indominus Rex”, whose name alone should have rung alarm bells for anybody on the island who knew even the slightest shred of Latin. A genetic accumulation of all your worst dino-fears to boost the wow-factor of the park, the Indominus Rex is the real attraction. In case it wasn’t clear enough, this dinosaur is about to wreak havoc. As dino-trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) wisely quips, building a genetic hybrid super-dinosaur was “probably not a good idea”.
It’s Owen who must come to the rescue when things go wrong. He’s a raptor trainer by day, and a convenient swashbuckling action hero by night. Pratt’s rugged, overtly masculine and adrenaline-loving character is the perfect foil to Jurassic World manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), whose pernickety uptight brain for business has caused her to distance herself from her family and indeed the “animals” of the park. When Claire’s young nephews visit Jurassic World and find themselves targeted by the gruesome Indominus Rex (because there’s no real peril unless children are involved), it is Owen of course who must save the day, and hence bring about the slow but sure welding of their romantic relationship. Who knew that was going to happen?
The title of course cannot avoid evoking similarities with Sea World. One scene, involving thrilled audiences watching a mosasaurus leaping out of the water to eat a dangling great white shark seems uncompromisingly parodic of trained orcas. But, unlike Sea World, Jurassic World doesn’t seem to be facing any PETA protests or lawsuits. Not yet, anyway. In fact, nobody seems to really question the inhumane treatment of the park’s attractions, except for dinosaur whisperer Owen, but even his protestations are half-hearted and brief. Don’t get me wrong – Jurassic World is certainly no Blackfish, but it perhaps shares similar ideas of animal exploitation.
Visual effects may have come a long way since the original 1993 epic, but the primal fear and terror from Jurassic Park is unbeatable. It’s a constant shame that none of the superb characters from the first film are back (except for the expanded role of scientist Dr. Henry Wu, played by B.D. Wong). There are times when I half expected Jeff Goldblum to burst into the scene and bumble about the chaos theory and how life will always “find a way”, and one can’t help but lament the absence of the supremely visionary Dennis Nedry gif. But there are some spectacular deaths to rival the original – no matter how sadistic that may sound. One gruesome demise even manages to challenge Donald’s “toilet death” from Jurassic Park: the young British woman assigned to look after Claire’s nephews finds herself tossed like a rag doll between various playful dinosaurs in a merciless sequence that seems to last for several minutes. When she is finally killed, it’s something of a relief. Be warned: the death toll of Jurassic World is without a doubt catastrophically higher than the previous films.
What happens in Jurassic World is surely the epitome of an age-old fear – of our own creation turning against us. It functions as just an apt an allegory for technology as it does consumerism. When teenager Zach is so engrossed in his mobile phone that he misses a dinosaur feeding on its prey, the implication is unmissable. This is a world highly reflective of our own – where software updates are only ever just around the corner; it’s about the race to bring out the latest model, and the same goes for a twenty foot Tyrannosaurus Rex. If it can be improved, then it will be, but there is always an inevitable danger when mankind attempts to play God.
Fast-paced and action-packed, Jurassic World’s wow-factor is often its downfall. Attempting to cram so many “cool” dinosaurs into one picture (as well as throwing the occasional nod to the original film every now and then) becomes at times a little bit monotonous, and an over-reliance on deus ex machina resolutions doesn’t help the situation. But it is a relentlessly high-octane feast for the eyes and wits, and you’ll find yourself jumping out of your seat more times than you care to admit. The script is often sharp and witty, and director Colin Trevorrow keeps the adrenaline pumping the whole way through.