In June 1993 my Dad took me to the, as was then, Warner Village cinema in Preston to see Jurassic park on its opening night. I was not quite eight years of age and the film did not begin until pushing midnight (pretty much the latest I had been allowed out of the house up to this point) so this was a fairly big deal to me. In fact, in the weeks preceding its opening, I had worked myself up into such a state of excitement, that when the Dilophosaurus appeared to gob acidic treacle into Wayne Knight’s face, I metaphorically wet myself and had to retreat to the relative safety of the toilets for five minutes.
This ranks as my finest cinema memory.
Despite a couple of diminishing sequels and a redundant 3D conversion, I was in a similar state of excitement as I entered the cinema for Jurassic World, a belated fourth instalment which sees that vaulting embodiment of human ambition and endeavour, the dinosaur theme park, finally up and running.
Twenty-odd years after the initial disaster, Jurassic World (née Park) is open to the swathes of paying guests that tramp through its flaming gates on a daily basis. In a cynical development, and sad indictment of modern popular culture, the hoards of kids that once used to gaze in awe upon the sight of living, breathing dinosaurs are now bored. Changing tastes and shortening attention spans have forced the park’s administrators to create a new hybrid dinosaur in order to win back favour with a disinterested public.
Head honcho Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) explains that de-extinction used to be “like magic” for kids, but now a Stegosaurs is about as exciting as an elephant in the city zoo; a nice piece of introspection that refers as much to the film itself as its attractions. The movie landscape has changed much since 1993 and audiences demand more from their prehistoric sideshows; a fact not lost upon Jurassic World’s IT guy Lowery (Jake Johnson), who sports a vintage Jurassic Park t-shirt and dreamily articulates his admiration for the previous park.
Winks and nods such as this make up much of what is good about Colin Trevorrow’s latest instalment of the franchise. Call-backs to the first film come thick and fast and are a welcome addition, but they’re high points in a script that’s generally low on insight, intellect or indeed anything approaching a “character “ in the conventional sense.
Brothers Gray and Zach are dumped on the island to spend a weekend with Claire, their aunt, and are promptly shunted off to spend their time with a minder. Claire is busy overseeing the final inspections to the park’s hybrid monster, the laughably named Indominus rex, a colour-changing beast with unmatched intelligence that naturally breaks out of its cage and runs amok. Resident raptor trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) is roped in to bring some sort of sanity to the island and stop the runaway dinosaur.
The disconcerting fact that this film has four credited screenwriters should give you no small cause for concern, and at times Jurassic World feels like screenwriting by focus group; something that is incidentally referenced in the film. Characters that begin the film as paper-thin approximations of human beings end the film as running, screaming lumps of flesh. A conversation regarding the raptor’s intelligence seems to point to a post-Blackfish debate on the legitimacy of keeping intelligent animals in captivity but never evolves into anything. The pitfalls of corporate greed and modern warfare likewise are shunted to one side in favour of mass visual spectacle. How dearly Jurassic World could do with someone like Jeff Goldblum, a moral compass for the movie, or at least someone to act like an adult.
But spectacle is the currency of the modern blockbuster and Jurassic World deals in it fairly abundantly. The last hour is more or less one long fight for survival between man and beast, man and beast and beast, and man and beast and beast and beast. The CGI effects, much discussed before the film’s release, turn out to be pretty good and the sight of the raptors bobbing up and down like excitable children is a blast.
The final movement sets up a possible fifth film which, as long this one makes enough money, will surely be on the way within a few years. On the strength of Jurassic World, I’ll be satisfied enough with more dinosaur mayhem, but I’d prefer a little more depth to my destruction. I think the seven year old me would still be wetting himself.
Genre: Adventure, Sci-fi, Action| Distributor:Universal Pictures | Release Date: 11th June 2015 (UK) |Rating: 12A | Director: Colin Trevorrow | Cast:Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins,Nick Robinson, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio,Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, BD Wong, Judy Greer