The Jurassic Park franchise has gone through some serious ups and downs over the years. To this day, Steven Spielberg’s original film remains the paradigm of its genre: an expertly-paced science-fiction thriller that mixes scenes of claustrophobic suspense with cathartic action. However, the latest installment has more in common with last year’s Godzilla reboot than it does with the original Jurassic Park. In other words, it’s a mixed bag of good, bad, and ugly creative decisions.
Let’s start with the ugly ones. Jurassic World has some of the worst dialogue ever heard in any movie, even by the mediocre standards of the previous Jurassic Park films. It’s be unreasonable to expect an Oscar-winning script from a movie about dinosaurs running amok, but the dialogue is so cheesy that it distracts from the action and even makes a few moments unintentionally comical.
That said, the cast is excellent, particularly Chris Pratt as the park’s resident dino-trainer. Pratt’s charismatic performance demonstrates that his success in Guardians of the Galaxy was no fluke; he’s a natural leading man, and his character is a joy to watch. The same can’t be said for Bryce Dallas Howard, who is also a charming actress, but gets saddled with a lame role. Dallas Howard plays Claire, the executive operations manager at Jurassic World. Claire is a capable, successful businesswoman, but the film doesn’t have much respect for her. Her family shames her for being so involved in her work instead of raising a family. Really? In 2015? Is this a Jurassic Park movie or an episode of Bewitched? The film had dozens of opportunities to explore the hypocrisy of this attitude, but instead it makes Claire into a punchline.
Well, never mind the puny humans. The real stars of Jurassic Park have always been the dinosaurs, and fortunately they get plenty of screen time in this installment. For the first time in the series, the titular theme park is open to the public and has been receiving visitors for years without any problems. Making the park an active facility was a great decision. It allows Trevorrow to show off his creativity (triceratops petting zoo, anyone?) and it makes the consequences of the violence much more severe. This time, if anything goes wrong, hundreds of innocent people will die.
Naturally, things do go wrong at the Jurassic World theme park. This is when things start to go well for the Jurassic World movie. This is one of the few films that gets better as it goes along. As soon as the dinosaurs break free, the action kicks into high gear and never lets up.
I’m serious: the action never lets up. This is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, there’s scarcely a moment for the audience to catch its breath between the moments of sensory-overloading destruction. On the other, the lack of breaks in the action means that the film is short and sweet, jumping from one big spectacle to the next without ever losing steam.
These moments of spectacle are Jurassic World’s biggest strength. The sequence where Pratt rides a motorcycle alongside a pack of velociraptors delivers some of the giddy thrills that made the original Jurassic Park so special, and the film’s grand finale is a doozy. That being said, there are also scenes where it seems as though the filmmakers didn’t know what to do and just threw more stuff at the screen. More dinosaurs! More destruction! More everything! Except for the original Jurassic Park theme song, which is criminally underused.
The hard truth is that Jurassic World could never measure up to the original Jurassic Park. However, it’s disappointing that the new film has so many weak spots, especially since it’s been in development for more than a decade. Yet for all its flaws, Jurassic World is a lot of fun to watch, and in the end that’s all that matters.