In Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg’s minor masterpiece about ill-advised theme parks, Dr Ian Malcolm (played, of course, by Jeff Goldblum) famously confronts the creator of the park, business conglomerate John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) about how his creation is not only undermining nature, but threatening it. In the space of a single sentence, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they never stopped to think if they should”, the film presents the most concrete argument imaginable to this theme of science corrupting nature. Because as well as being a fantastic monster movie, Jurassic Park is also an incredibly intelligent beast, offering ambitious explorations of themes as varied as the detrimental effects of capitalism, to the dumbing down of science, in a way that perfectly compliments the action. Most impressively, you don’t realise the full extent of the food for thought the movie offers until after you’ve finished watching. Spielberg is an intelligent director in that he never lets these themes overshadow the movie as a whole.
Jurassic World shares many of these themes, yet fails to execute them convincingly. Roughly ten minutes in, a frustrated theme park employee (played by New Girl’s Jake Johnson) complains about how a new theme park attraction is getting the go-ahead due to sponsorship from Verison wireless, stating that partnerships with big businesses undermine the integrity of Jurassic World. This theme of the detrimental effects of capitalism, shared with the original franchise instalment, is fair enough – but is somewhat undermined by the fact the ten minutes that precede it contain excessive product placement for Beats by Dre headphones, whilst the rest of the film contains advertising for more companies than there are dinosaurs. By making sequels to Jurassic Park, the franchise has become a contradiction; this sequel exists solely to make money, yet still maintains the theme of criticising the money making tactics of big businesses. Universal Pictures were so preoccupied with whether they could make a sequel, they didn’t stop to think if they should.
The movie opens with two brothers heading off to visit Jurassic World, which is managed by their auntie Clare (Bryce Dallas Howard). These two brothers are our audience surrogates. the younger brother, Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins) is obsessed with dinosaurs and can’t wait to visit the park. His older brother Zach (Nick Robinson) is a teenager and therefore entirely uninterested – he seems indifferent to his girlfriend, spends the entire trip perving on other women in a way that can only be described as “rapey”, and entirely ignores the dinosaurs, giving them none of his attention. This character is clearly our audience surrogate, as director Colin Trevorrow is clearly trying to get audiences interested in dinosaurs again by using somebody bored of dinosaurs slowly succumbing to the sense of prehistoric wonder the park offers. This is unsuccessful, as this is the most detestable character I have seen in some time – how did anybody involved with the production think that a child who loathes his family and repeatedly contemplates cheating on his girlfriend would be the character audiences would relate to?
The park has a new genetically modified dinosaur: the Indominus Rex. The park’s Velociraptor trainer Owen, played by Chris Pratt as the sort of man your dad wishes he was, points out that a genetically modified dinosaur raised in captivity won’t know how to act if unleashed into the wild and that it is a danger to everybody. Before you can say “I bet that dinosaur breaks out of captivity and starts fucking shit up”, the dinosaur breaks out of captivity and starts fucking shit up. This goes hand in hand with security expert Vic Hoskins (a sleazy Vincent D’Onofrio) trying to reappropriate some of the genetically mutated creations as weapons for the United States military, stopping at nothing to prove his point.
Jurassic World is at its most enjoyable when it throws the plot, as well as it’s tiresome attempts at having intellectually minded themes like the original, to the side in favour of action carnage. I hate the current theme of directors who have only made one low budget film being hired by studios to make big budget blockbusters; the surprising case with Colin Trevorrow is that he seems more at home in the big-money action sequences than he does juggling the weightier themes underpinning them and the performances holding it all together. Yet many of these action sequences still feel underwhelming, no matter how entertaining they are – technology has come a long way since 1993, so why do these computer generated dinosaurs look less believable than the ones in the original instalment?
Even the human characters appear fake, as Trevorrow relies on outdated stock character archetypes (Chris Pratt as the man’s man, Bryce Dallas Howard as the nagging female character you would have thought would have been as extinct as dinosaurs in movies by now) instead of creating new, interesting characters. It goes without saying that the presence of Jeff Goldblum is sorely missed; nobody will ever argue that Chris Pratt, whose arguments echo those Goldblum gave in the original film, has effectively stepped into the actor’s shoes, let alone bettered his performance. If Pratt is imitating Goldblum, that Trevorrow is undoubtably trying to imitate Spielberg, even recycling themes from Spielberg’s dinosaur-free movies here, such as children reacting to a parent’s divorce, Spielberg’s autobiographical inspiration for E.T.
To say the movie isn’t enjoyable would be a lie, but its flaws are all too apparent when watching it; this is one of the defining examples of a missed opportunity to make something that truly reinvigorates the franchise. Its gargantuan box office success suggests that there will be plenty of sequels needlessly coming our way, as well as a continuing trend of hiring unqualified directors to make big budget fare. Jurassic World continues the claim laid bare in Jurassic Park about the effects interventions from big businesses have on original ideas- with this sequel, the franchise has become the very thing it has always claimed to be against. A movie with anti-capitalist pretentious that acts as nothing more as a cog in the studio money making machine.