Beneath all the whiz-bang effects, casual sexism and nods to the original film, Jurassic World has good moments. John Hammond’s vision in Jurassic Park, of a theme park of wonder and mystery, is turned into the tacky Disneyland/Sea World hybrid it was probably going to be, anyway: corporate sponsorship, celebrity cameos, and Apple Store color schemes. Accordingly, interest wanes every few years, the prospect of living dinosaurs supposedly only exciting to children and men suffering arrested development. To drum up excitement, Jurassic World‘s scientists splice together a super predator called Indominus Rex. Robbed of a coherent genetic identity and raised solely in captivity, it becomes a psychopathic killer, orchestrating an escape attempt fusing natural disaster with coup d’etat.
It’s an arc which recalls the Topps trading card series “Dinosaurs Attack!“, acidic humor lurking within. In early scenes, Colin Trevorrow rarely aligns with Spielberg’s sense of awe: a petting zoo with baby herbivores is initially gleeful, until seeing tiny triceratops saddled for a ride; the mosasaur is deliberately framed like Shamu. There’s an attempt to train velociraptors: a team focused on understanding the creatures (led by Chris Pratt) conflicts with a military contractor who wants weapons. Once again, the dinosaurs refuse to comply. Freed pterodactyls swarm over margarita-swilling attendees with Absurdist cruelty (especially notable with a minor female character, who is lifted and dropped repeatedly by an aerial predator, before both are devoured by the mosasaur). The raptors turn on their masters when used to track the malicious Indominus. Human efforts to contain the situation fail repeatedly; the only real hope lies in placing faith in the natural instincts of animals, as Pratt does when talking down his raptor pack. Compassion over control.
This is simply baked into the premise, though. Setup for fly-by setpieces and monologues by Pratt on the way to a Godzilla brawl (which is, admittedly, a better-structured version of last year’s kaiju reboot). More emphasis is placed on an undercooked family plot, with Bryce Dallas Howard playing a Frigid Career Woman who has to learn from Pratt’s Dreamy Boy Toy to appreciate life and her nephews (and coincidentally lose some clothing). The nephews themselves undergo a truncated version of Alan Grant’s arc in Jurassic Park, the older brother slotting into a paternal role for the younger, to keep him from panicking. Trevorrow treats these as bullet points. Guess it was too much to ask a fourth Jurassic Park to do something exciting.