After naming Jurassic World one of our must-see movies of 2015 in our preview at the start of the year, this writer headed into Thursday’s screening with a mixture of hesitant excitement and nervous expectations. Although a latecomer to the Jurassic Park party – I was one when the original was released in 1993 – I’ve since become a lover of the films (yes, including Jurassic Park III, albeit to a much lesser degree!) and won’t ever pass up an opportunity to watch any of the saga’s existing instalments, so was hoping against hope that this latest feature wouldn’t disappoint, especially since early reviews had been so overwhelmingly positive.
Let me say quite categorically, and early in this review, that Jurassic World is absolutely excellent.
Opening with the hatching of a new Dinosaur, the genetically-created Indominus Rex – given so much hype during the film’s pre-release marketing campaign – the film quickly shifts focus to the new young stars of the show, brothers Zach and Grey, played by newcomer Nick Robinson and Iron Man 3’s Ty Simpkins, respectively. Playing this instalment’s Lex and Timmy, Zach and Grey are shipped off to Jurassic World for a fun holiday (or ‘vacation’, of course) by their parents, to be cared for by Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing, the manager of the park and also the boys’ aunt. Chris Pratt plays Dino wrangler Owen Grady, an ex-Navy chap who’s now in charge of taming the raptors (yup, you read that correctly) and who has to turn his hand to a little island-saving when Indominus breaks free and lays waste to the park and its occupants. Last seen taking the lead in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Pratt once again shines in Jurassic World, and proves once again that he is leading man material, even whilst playing a less goofy, but no less lovable, character. You can’t help but cheer for Grady, who unites the film’s characters in a trustworthy and dependable way, and has once again got us hankering for Pratt to helm the long-awaited Indiana Jones reboot tout de suite.
The film’s only downbeat, then, comes in the form of its plot. Indominus has been created genetically from a spliced mix of DNA from a number of separate Dinosaurs to be bigger, faster, stronger and more impressive than Jurassic World’s previous main attraction, the fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex. T-Rex is no longer impressive enough for the park’s guests, who are now used to seeing Dinosaurs in their (faux) natural habitats courtesy of Jurassic World for a while now, and who are hankering for more. Investor and visitor pressure has led to the need for innovation (as if reintroducing Dinosaurs back into the world wasn’t enough, of course), hence the creation of Indominus. It’s an interesting story, but one which felt a little suspect to this reviewer. Coupled with some stranger notes dotted throughout the film which sees man and beast actually communicating intelligently, there’s a few ‘huh?’ moments here, but it’s nothing which really detracts from the grand scale of the film, or the overall impression of awesome you’ll be left with when you leave the cinema.
Overwhelmingly, Jurassic World feels like a Jurassic Park film, with more than enough nostalgia for die-hard fans and rip-roaring (literally) Dinosaur action for newcomers, staying true to the saga’s roots whilst being unafraid to tread new ground. There’s homages abound to the original, and while sadly there’s no small cameos from the saga’s original cast (with one exception), this is a small niggle in an majorly niggle-less experience. The pace of the film is excellent, perfectly mixing equal parts action and Dino destruction with character beats which mean the human cast never feel like afterthoughts in comparison to their larger, more extinct, counterparts – a trap which we feel 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park suffered dramatically from.
It’s great to see John Hammond’s vision of a fully operational Jurassic Park realised and open to the public – think Disneyland with Dinosaurs; It’s a Small World with Brachiosauruses – until the killing starts, of course. Even as an adult, there’s still a real thrill to seeing a grand, sweeping shot of the park accompanied by that theme, and Michael Giacchino’s new score feels like it could have been ripped straight from a John Williams’ playbook, being equal parts nostalgic and fresh, fluidly integrating some of the saga’s more memorable musical hooks.
Overall, Jurassic World is the perfect addition to the franchise, and one which will hopefully herald the start of a brand new set of films for a new generation (we won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say the door is left wide open for further films). It feels both fresh, yet so unbelievably Jurassic Park in equal measure, and personally, this reviewer thinks it’s absolutely the best since the original. It’s fast-paced, funny, chock full of great new Dinos – from Indominus to the gigantic Mosasaur (or ‘that big one that’s in the trailer which eats a shark’) and the two young leads found in Robinson and Simpkins are ultimately believable after a few false starts early on in the film, which is refreshing to see.
We haven’t stopped talking about Jurassic World since we saw it on Thursday, and although I absolutely recommend you see it ASAP in the cinema, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve already preordered the Blu-ray ahead of its home release in October.