Jurassic World is a bit of a strange film. The opening is oddly paced, and we’re introduced to the fully-operational eponymous theme park within a few minutes, without any establishing backstory or context – presumably the audience is expected to have absorbed that from earlier films and marketing. For the first five minutes I kept expecting the film to cut away and reveal that the beginning was just an in-universe advertisement for the new theme park, a la Paul Verhoeven. Indeed, with its dated values and its garish and weirdly cheap-feeling aesthetic, Jurassic World’s first sections kept reminding me of movies like Starship Troopers, Robocop, and Total Recall. But it is most definitely not a satire, and I can’t believe that those are the sort of comparisons the writers had in mind. What’s more likely is that the film itself hews frighteningly close to the kind of dystopian cultural product someone like Verhoeven would satirize.
We are introduced to Jurassic World through the eyes of a couple of appallingly generic Middle American kids who have been farmed off to their aunt Claire for a few days for unspecified reasons (it’s suggested their parents are getting a divorce). Claire, played by the gorgeous Bryce Dallas Howard, is actually the director of the park, and doesn’t have time to drop everything to look after her sister’s brats, instead leaving them in charge of her assistant (a dark-haired Keira Knightley lookalike) until she finishes work for the day. Cue horror and disbelief over her lack of motherly instincts. This is a major arc of the story as Claire is forced to adopt a more stereotypically feminine role over the course of the film.
In contrast, Claire’s love interest, the hero Owen (Chris Pratt), is an insufferably smug lead. At one point, while berating Claire for the fact the park has created a genetically enhanced super-dinosaur as its new attraction (admittedly a bad idea), he complains they haven’t tried to socialize it. For some reason Claire doesn’t give the obvious reply which is Well Owen, we did try to raise it alongside its sibling but she fucking ate it. The broader point she could have made is that in nature some animals live in packs while some are solitary and territorial. But Claire allows Owen’s lazy cod psychology to stand, and the exchange is typical of a sloppy and shallow script.
Jurassic Park is a classic film, and dinosaurs are awesome (and under-exposed generally), so Jurassic World was guaranteed to do fairly well. It’s quite action-packed, and moves along at a good enough clip that it will likely keep your attention across its two hours. It’s firmly in the guilty pleasure category, but a bit less guilt and a bit more pleasure would be nice. And I don’t see why it has to be so stupid. When the super-dino gets loose, why is the answer to release more dinosaurs? When the dinos are on the rampage, why doesn’t anyone go and hide indoors, in hotels or somewhere, instead of staying in the open where they’re easy prey? Why is there no way to get people off the island in an emergency? Why is the worst death in the movie reserved for a blameless minor character instead of the main villain? And for all that the film’s best moments are about the bond between humans and animals – some of which are genuinely moving – the film disturbingly shows that the main bad guy was right when he said dinosaurs should be used as weapons. Not sure what to make of that one. Speaking of the dinosaurs, they’re obviously the highlight of the film, but they didn’t look as good as I expected. Considering how good CGI is these days, the dinosaurs were lacking in physicality and menace.
If you’re looking for a movie to pass a couple of hours and be reasonably well-entertained, Jurassic World is a passable choice. Just don’t go expecting it to make the world a better place or anything.