JURASSIC REHASH: why Jurassic World is history repeating itself

Warning: spoilers ahead regarding Jurassic World.

IN 1993, Jurassic Park continued the movement of visual effects into photo realism, with its usage of CGI to portray dinosaurs spawning a new age of what could be. Wait a minute, I’m missing the point here. Jurassic Park was a great movie, with a lot of heart, soul, cute moments, and humanity, and some great effects on top to make it a brilliant summer blockbuster. It was not a deep movie, not the Oscar winning material that Spielberg is accustomed to doing, but a nice family film that wowed the world.

Two sequels and twenty-two years later, the third go around, Jurassic World redoes most of what the original did, with the following exceptions: the park is fully functional, with thousands of people on Isla Nublar, the lab is fully functional and apparently autonomous, and John Hammond isn’t around to say the wonderful words “welcome to Jurassic Park!” Indeed, it is as much a reboot as it is a continuation, since if you hadn’t seen the original, it makes the same amount of sense. However, whereas the original only has four minutes of CG footage inserted, due to budgetary reasons, and other practical effects to supplement them, Jurassic World overwhelms us with CG left and right, possibly the most in a film since Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, which is not necessarily a detriment, as Marvel has show, with Guardians of the Galaxy being CG heavy but having a great heart. However, this follows the Star Wars prequel in giving us big, epic shots but little in the way of character. The fact that it copies the original Jurassic Park so much only adds to this problem.

Let’s get some things straight: the brothers are not Lex and Tim, they lack the chemistry of the Park siblings, and their development stalls as soon as they are reunited with the rest of the cast. None of the park or InGen staff can hold a candle to the brilliant work of Richard Attenborough, aka John Hammond; he had compassion for the dinosaurs, whilst still looking at them like commodities; it seems like all the staff here views the dinosaurs in one way and only way, with the film using the tunnel-visioned POVs to create tension; the dinosaurs are either assets/commodities, animals worthy of compassion, or potential killing machines that be exploited in other ways. Finally, there seems to be no high level of jeopardy, in spite of the fact that Isla Nublar has over 22,000 people on it; I felt worse for the ten people trapped there in Jurassic Park than I did the tens of thousands who were sitting ducks in Jurassic World.

The major issue with Jurassic World is that while all the characters in Jurassic movies have been some form of cookie-cutter, to borrow a friend’s turn of phrase, these are obviously cookie cutter; the hero who is always almost right, the controlling manager who does not recognize the bad that is about to happen and fails to handle it properly at the start; the militaristic guy who wants to create more weapons and use force; the kids, enough said; and finally, the mad and corrupt scientist, although in this case you can phrase it as character development from 22 years prior.

To give a comparison, let’s look at the Fast and Furious franchise: seven films, although practically it’s six for now; all characters develop as the series progresses, advancing from cookie-cutter types (jock, likable antagonist turned anti-hero, the tough girl, the girly girl just to cover the main cast) and makes them deep characters, where suddenly you understand why they are criminals, what it means to them to be bad guys, and how much being free means to them. To top it off, the films have been thought through and handled properly as time has gone on, allowing for the franchise to overcome some rough times.

Jurassic Park III has become, unfairly in my opinion, the Tokyo Drift of the Jurassic Park franchise, whilst Jurassic World could become Fast & Furious if the next film steps up and makes these characters worthy of the franchise. Ultimately, if the franchise picks up, and can somehow sustain plots that are not crazy; especially given that dinosaurs run amok is a dangerous idea to build a franchise off of in the first place.

Which leads us to Indominous Rex, the genetic hybrid dinosaur created by the park to boost interest. Aside from the name, which is hilarious, the dually fictional dinosaur’s composition (T-Rex, raptor, some other stuff) is a crazy mix that only a mad scientist would do; of course, when asked about why it was designed that way, Henry Wu (B.D. Wong, a highlight of the film) responds that it was to meet ownership demand; perhaps Indominous Rex’s greatest contribution is ultimately the in-universe acknowledgement that none of the dinosaurs are accurate depictions, given that pure dinosaur DNA is impossible to find. However, the use of Indominous as a horror weapon is surprisingly effective, especially when you realize how terrifying the combination of DNA really is.

The last note worthy of discussion is something that I missed when first viewing it; director Colin Trevorrow was trying to make a point about corporate excess: Indominous Rex was symbolic of pandering, the extensive product placements an indictment of money before anything else, the lack of proper planning for an accident indicting lack of safety regulations; and the arrogance to think nothing will go wrong, even with an experiment designed to boost ticket sales.

The sequel setup, which actually is setting up a Lost World: Jurassic Park-type film, is actually really nice, establishing that Henry Wu is really pulling the strings for a lot of the darker scenes, manipulating circumstances and people to get what he wants out of the lab; I really wish someone would write a book covering the 22 years on Isla Nublar, how Wu got to be so powerful that he can classify DNA info from even the owner of the park, and what drove him to create the worst dinosaur ever, something not created by nature over 65 million years ago..

So, ultimately World is a joint reboot/continuation of the Park saga, but fails to avoid being a rehash at the same time. Of course, it’s an entertaining film, which works great for what ails you in the summer movie season, so it’s worth seeing. At bare minimum, it pays proper homage to the original film, which is deeply appreciated.

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About brettryanclu

I reside in California, and I am a graduate from California Lutheran University, where I received my Masters in Public Policy and Administration. I like to write, talk politics, and exchange comments and opinions.
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