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film review: jurassic world

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 3.46.43 PM

Big on the spectacle, low on the character development. This statement accurately summarises Jurassic World, the latest installment in the Jurassic Park franchise; a series which should have stopped with the Stephen Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster. The first film effectively combined rollicking dinosaur action with characters and a plot that the audience cared about (who can forget Jeff Goldblum’s chaos theorist rhapsodizing ‘Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should’?). The subsequent films, including Jurassic World, causes one to wonder ‘Have they not seen the first film? How can they still be making these mistakes?’

Set twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, the island is open for business as a fully-functioning theme park. Unfortunately, after years of wowing the public with raptors and T-Rexs, interest in creatures from 60 million years ago is starting to wane. Thus the executives have tasked the operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) of the park to come up with the bright idea: genetically engineer all-new dinosaurs so that they are bigger, smarter and have more teeth. Even to someone who has not seen the first three films, this plan is doesn’t sound like a good idea.

The first film was able to capture global attention not just due to the then-new CGI effects that were pioneered by films of this time. At the core of Jurassic Park was an interesting philosophical dilemma, backed up by well-paced plot development and flawed characters the audience cared about. At the conclusion, the humans who had toyed with their newfound powers learned to respect them and give future dinosaur re-creation the widest of berths. At least until the next film. And the one after that. And now a film today that is not just content to revive historical monsters but to tamper with their DNA and make them bigger and smarter. Perhaps the point Jurassic World is trying to make is that humans do not learn from their mistakes (a brief examination of any period of history will prove this); or maybe it’s that humans still cling to the mantra made famous by 1987 film Wall Street ‘greed is good’. Greed for money or adventure; people in this film are willing to visit a park full of animals that have killed and will kill again and audiences around the world (myself amongst them) are willing to fork out hard earned cash to go see this film even though they have seen it all before.

But bigger and more teeth does not necessarily a good film make – Jurassic World lacked the claustrophobic tension of Jurassic Park or even Jaws, a film released over forty years ago. Movie-goers had hints that Jurassic World was going to be all ogle and no substance from the trailer. In it we saw a great white shark dangling over an oceanic exhibit before being devoured in one gulp by an enourmous mosasaurus,. This is a not-so-subtle jab at the film that made Stephen Spielberg a legendary director – the dinosaurs of this film could defeat the monster of Jaws in a fraction of a second. But somehow we don’t feel the fear that we did watching previous installments.

As a child peeking through my fingers at the screen in 1993 I remember thinking how much I liked Lex Murphy, the young girl who was able to save the day by hacking into the park’s security system. Dinosaurs shouldn’t be a gendered interest for kids and the original film gave both little boys and girls something to enjoy. Unfortunately the female lead in Jurassic World spends most of the film in the company of Owen (Chris Pratt), a dino-expert helping her find her missing nephews. Apparently filmmakers don’t think audiences are ready to see a woman flying solo without good old Y chromosome at her side.

There were brief moments wherein Jurassic World tried to capture some emotional depth, never mind provoking debate over genetics and cloning. Unfortunately they were slotted in between dinosaur chases as a kind of afterthought. It was fun to watch dinosaurs run amok on the big screen once more but the philosophical punch of this franchise ended with the first film.

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