Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitors’ interest, which inevitably backfires horribly.
When the first Jurassic Park arrived on the scene, it was all eye-watering spectacle, featuring numerous genuine moments of high tension. Not to mention the first photo-realistic rendering of dinosaurs we’d seen on screen. There was much to love.
Onto the inevitable sequels: true, the second was a patchy affair but still, it featured Goldblum and Postelthwaite at their best, and some deliriously dark set pieces.
Hands up who remembers the third one. Sure, you probably know of it, of its existence, but how much of it do you truly remember? Don’t worry, this isn’t a pop quiz. More an indication of the downward trajectory this particular franchise has taken.
The years moved on, and so too, it seemed, had we. But we should have known it would be back. And so we wonder, can it possibly give us anything we haven’t already seen? Perhaps it’ll be self-aware (and effacing) enough that it’ll bring us something bright, shiny, new and fun.
So, after a rather slow and lumbering beginning, it’s good that the movie makes nods to this. There are semi-sarcastic commentaries on the state of things, where the big and amazing soon become passé in our oft cynical, attention-deprived modern world. Promising. Hints of life.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long. Soon, but too late, we realise we’ve been suckered onto a bus-top tour featuring the same old attractions. Sure the owners have given them a new lick of paint, even going as far as inventing a new breed of dinosaur, but there’s no hiding that beneath the polished exterior, the cogs of this machine haven’t been properly oiled; no mistaking the sound of the clanking mechanisms at work here.
And while I’m here, excuse me a minute while I stray into a frustrated semi-rant to all movie makers – please, for the love of all things living and deceased, stop using wavering mobile phone signal as a device for false dramatic tension!
Ok, we’ll move swiftly along … and thankfully so too does Jurassic World. Well, actually, it does and then it stops … and splutters. Quite a bit. The pacing is horribly uneven in places. Although there are plenty of great special effects on show (the bare minimum you’d expect from it), it all starts to get a little boring. Not least because we’ve seen this all before. It’s worrying that Jurassic World borrows from just about every creature movie going; criminal that many of its action scenes come across as edited highlights from its own prequels.
Even worse is the negligent misuse of some decent acting talent in its midst. Chris Pratt is perfectly fine but not really stretching beyond his take on Starlord in Guardians of the Galaxy. Bryce Dallas Howard is the perfunctory love interest. Vincent D ‘Onofrio is, you know, D ‘Onofrio. They’re all lumbered with paper-thin characters. It’s as if someone sat with the Blockbuster 101 manual ticking off every cliché. Estranged male and female leads with lingering chemistry? Check. Precocious kids who have a knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and generally just landing the heroes in a whole world of unnecessary bother? Yup. Out-of-their-depths marines (ie: live bait)? Hell yeah, gimme some of that! Boo-hiss, unscrupulous bad guy? You get the idea.
In a world where SF blockbusters have upped the smarts – the likes of Joss Whedon and Christopher Nolan putting the brains back into big budget – this represents a backward step. Where once Jurassic Park embodied the best of Summer cinema entertainment, this well and truly confirms its fall from grace.
Still, having registered a record breaking opening weekend, it’s a virtual guarantee that more will follow. It’s not as if this is indicative of a renewed trend of big money revivals for faltering franchises, right? Surely Hollywood has moved past all that.
Cue Terminator theme music …