When Jurassic Park was first released in 1993 it’s a fair bet that director Steven Spielberg, his production company Amblin Entertainment, as well as Universal Pictures, saw box office gold in terms of creating a dinosaur sized movie franchise, much in the same way that John Hammond (Sir Richard Attenborough) saw his own Jurassic Park as a means to create a place that people would spend any amount of money to flock to, all in an attempt to see their first dinosaur.
The original movie is much the same as this was the studio’s first serious attempt at digital animation instead of using practical effects or even stop-motion as seen in Ray Harryhausen’s 1969 The Valley of Gwangi. Those movies were to be forgotten in light of this new digital age we were entering into, and as stated in this latest journey into the world of the dinosaurs, people want to see bigger, cooler, scarier dinosaurs, which probably speaks as to why 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III from 2001 didn’t live up to the excitement of the first movie. As stated, people want bigger, cooler, scarier dinosaurs, and while this movie is severely lacking in terms of its science, it more than makes up for it in thrill and excitement, but only if you’re willing to suspend some SERIOUS disbelief.
The movie pretty much starts right where the first movie did, and that it is at Isla Nubar, the very same island where Hammond set up his first Jurassic Park. Almost immediately we start to get some references and call backs to the first film that then calls into question, if this movie is a sequel, what is it a sequel to? Is this a follow-up to the 2001 movie, or does this eliminate the second and third movies from the “canon” and instead is a sequel to the original film? Well, there is no one clear answer, for as I watched it I could see how either scenario could come into play, but I daresay that there is a third possibility which I will share later.
As the movie unfolds it becomes quite clear that this is not a character driven film. While we are introduced to some interesting people, there is little, if any, development on them. Early on we meet two brothers, Zach (The Kings of Summer Nick Robinson) and Gray (best known as Harley Keener from Iron Man 3). They are off to visit their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is in charge of the day-to-day operations of this dinosaur theme park. Along the way we meet Owen (Chris Pratt) who can only be described as an animal behaviorist, Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio from Netflix’s Daredevil) who is head of security for InGen, and we even see the return of genetic scientist Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong). It is here the movie just throws scene after scene of action, ranging from Owen managing to assert himself as the “alpha” in a pack of Velociraptors, to Hoskins acting on behalf of the scientific think tank group InGen to possibly turn the Raptors into trained animals to be used in war. And, as part of the “bigger, cooler, and scarier” dinosaur, the movie does a HUGE scientific departure and introduces what is supposed to be a genetically engineered dinosaur named Indominus rex. As with the first movie, we see “science run amuck” when things go awry and it becomes a combination of a race to escape the dinosaur threat, as well as a means to put that very threat down.
As said earlier, where the movie seriously lacks in character development it more than makes up for in action. Director Colin Trevorrow, who has previously worked on smaller, independent films, is given the reigns of this franchise in his breakthrough into big budget, action packed blockbuster movies, and he surprisingly does not disappoint. Even when the action briefly stops, thereby allowing the viewer to take a quick breather, the tension is maintained throughout the majority of the film. Storywriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) manage to keep the audience guessing throughout the movie with plot twists and surprises, not to mention adding some emotional depth when it comes to the dinosaurs. Through Owen the audience sees that the Raptors are intelligent dinosaurs. They’re portrayed in a way that almost makes them compassionate characters the audience can identify with. There is also an almost heartbreaking scene where we learn the Indominus rex has actually killed a herd of Apatosaurus, and in a truly touching scene, a severely wounded Apatosaurus slowly dies from its wounds in front of Owen and Claire, thereby driving home the point that the dinosaurs are not just mindless animals for people to be thrilled with and gawk over. They are (for the sake of the movie) living, breathing animals brought back from extinction and they need to be treated with respect.
While the character development is virtually non-existent, we do get some relationship dynamics between Owen and Claire, but probably the most rewarding is the bond between Gray and Zach. The brothers had sibling animosity in the beginning, but by the end they have come together as their only support system for each other.
The movie is by no means perfect. There are times where the violence from the dinosaur attacks towards the human guests borders on needlessly gratuitous, and while the gore factor isn’t enough to warrant the movie receiving an R rating, there is a decent amount of blood and body parts throughout the movie which could take the average viewer out of the movie watching experience. Also, as previously stated, the science is terrible. It’s bad enough that scientists are put into a negative light, treating them as nothing more than Dr. Frankensteins with the dinosaurs being their collective monstrous creation, but the science itself goes way beyond being absurd in terms of the dinosaurs we see in this movie.
One very positive aspect of the movie is the choice of Michael Giacchino as the film’s music composer. Here is a man who has become virtually a chameleon in the world of movie music in how he is never restricted into one genre, or even musical style. In a very key moment of the film he re-introduces the “romantic theme” from the first Jurassic Park as composed by John Williams, and it was a powerful moment that left a lump in my throat. Throughout the remainder of the film he continues to hearken back to that classic soundtrack with hints and ideas, while at the same time bringing in new and memorable music to help flesh out this fictional world where dinosaurs still roam the earth.
I said that there was a third scenario regarding the sequel nature of this film. While watching it occurred to me that this doesn’t have to be a sequel to any of the Jurassic Park movies, but it could be a sequel to another story written by Michael Crichton, that being Westworld. There we had another themed park where the system failed and the park’s guests were being killed off. Once I made that connection, I found myself actually enjoying this movie even more.
Finally, just as some of the people in this movie never learn from their mistakes and continue to try to create a dinosaur park (all for greedy, corporate reasons), the movie industry continues to show how it can take a singular great idea, and bleed it dry as it has been confirmed that Chris Pratt will be returning to the role of Owen in a sequel to this film. Now I, for one, did enjoy this movie greatly. However, I fear that making a sequel would only diminish the overall product. The studios should leave well enough alone and let this movie stand as the final testament towards the Jurassic Park movie franchise.