Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Jurassic World

Years after the initially failed attempt to open a theme park centered around living dinosaurs, Jurassic World has been a success. However, with profits beginning to level out and customer satisfaction starting to decrease, the park owners decide to experiment and use DNA splicing to create a new dinosaur; the Indominus Rex. Meanwhile, brothers Zach and Grey Mitchell go on holiday to the island to spend time with their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park's operations manager. The Indominus, however, grows to become far more intelligent than the park owner's believed, eventually breaking out of its cage, leading Claire to enlist the help of Raptor trainer and expert Owen Grady (Chris Pratt).

Jurassic World has been a long time in the making, both set and released 22 years after the events of the original Jurassic Park. Which is what makes it so surprising that we jump immediately into the action here, rather than catching up on the twenty-odd years that we missed between these two installments. I haven't actually seen the second Jurassic Park film, as I've been frequently advised not to, but when comparing this latest release to the first and third installments of the franchise, World has more in common with the first Park than number three. The film takes it's time before throwing us into the action, allowing us to meet and greet this new batch of characters slowly rather than dropping us in the deep end and hoping for the best. It's not without it's flaws, which we'll come to later on, but for the most part, Jurassic World has bite.

The most surprising element of this film is how well it introduces us to and makes us like its protagonists. In a film so overcome with spectacle and visual effects, it would be easy to to allow the characters to slip behind and wind up dull, but this fortunately isn't the case. Both of the kids work surprisingly well, acting solidly amidst the carnage and boasting genuine, realistic personalities. They don't spend the entire film arguing and the whole "older vs younger" situation isn't overplayed; aside from a pretty tacky "brothers to the end" moment towards the end of the film's second act, this is the most accurate depiction of siblings I've seen in a wide release in a long time. Claire also benefits from a hefty amount of character development, going from somewhat uptight and not knowing her own nephews' ages to wielding weapons and acting with genuine affection for those around her. It might sound corny, but it's played out slowly and nicely, and it really works. Pratt's Owen doesn't change much, but then he doesn't need to; he is already heroic and likable at the beginning of the film, and Owen benefits greatly from Pratt's assured but enjoyable performance. This guy is good.

Jurassic World may not be as iconic or thrilling as the original, but it's easy to see where this film's inspiration lies. The fourth installment in the franchise takes all the best stuff from the original, and twists it perfectly into its own formula to allow this film to feel refreshing enough and not draw too many negative comparisons. The action sequences here come a lot quicker and are obviously benefited from CGI technology allowing both the camera and the dinosaurs to move a hell of a lot faster. The 'gyrosphere' sequence is clearly reminiscent of the jeep scene in the first film, but it works well, and finishes as one of the film's most giddily enjoyable sequences. That's another thing this film makes work notably well; the tonal shift from the original trilogy. World is a lot lighter in weight than anything that came before it, even with the increased body count, this feels considerably more enjoyable than any of the other entries, even if it isn't anywhere near as rounded as the first.

Comparisons with the franchise's original installment are tough to avoid, given its classic status, but Jurassic World manages to stand on its own two feet. What it does suffer from, though, is a sense of been there, done that. The initial reveal of the living dinosaurs in 1993's outing was a magical, hair-raising moment. World never attempts to replicate that feeling, which is a respectable trait, but it does wind up feeling a bit too conventional and uninspired. There's just nothing magical here. Everything works well, but there's nothing that'll make you leap from your seat in shock or cower in fright or smile from ear to ear. World works perfectly fine, but fails to push itself to go further. There's also the issue of the hugely overblown climax, in which pretty much every dinosaur we've seen across the two hours makes a reappearance to help the good guys. The dinosaur stuff is done effectively throughout, and there's a great twist involving the Raptors at the beginning of the third act, it just becomes a bit clumsy at the end.

Jurassic World is far from the disaster it could (and, arguably, should) have been, in fact it's somehow wound up a pretty solid film. It doesn't inject as much life into an old franchise as it could, but what we do have is a film that works on an entertainment level whilst still offering solid visuals and strong character support. Any criticism of this film won't impact it's commercial reception, though. After a global $500million opening weekend, it's almost set in stone for another trip to the island to be up for grabs in a few years time. Crafting a sequel to this film will be tough, but if they can replicate what worked well here and adjust what went wrong, we could be looking at a film not all that far from the standard of the original. It will always be difficult to judge any modern day Jurassic film with respect to the first installment; it is, after all, one of the most iconic films ever put on the big screen. World may not live up to it entirely, and it doesn't breathe as much new life as it could, but it's two hours of entertainment that ranks as the most enjoyable film of this year so far. Just go with it, and it's a blast.

To Summarise: Whilst neither as magical nor thrilling as the original, Jurassic World is well acted, visually solid and entertaining enough to stand on its own two feet and let out and engagingly triumphant roar.

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