Released in 1993, the original “Jurassic Park” was a technological marvel, for its time—this latter part I stress out. While it’s obvious that film technology improves as the years go by, thus making “Jurassic Park’s” special effects seem unimpressive in comparison to the CGI of today, “Jurassic park” also suffers from a multitude of other issues, namely: a bombastic score which undercuts any impact the visuals could have, a dull camera—although Spielberg manages one moment of genius in the “rearview mirror” scene—and finally, otherwise interesting themes that are bogged down by its adventurous tone, which in turn is used as fuel for the film’s marketing campaign in merchandising, an aspect that Colin Trevorrow’s latest film in the franchise, “Jurassic World,” is entirely rooted upon.
Believing to have learned from the grizzly mistakes of the first park, billionaire Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) opens up an entire island based on the premise of showcasing extinct dinosaurs. Masrani simply behaves as the eccentric figurehead of the island, leaving the park operations to Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who, in an attempt to repair an estranged relationship with her sister, invites her nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins) to the island, free of charge, During Zach and Gray’s foray into the island we are also introduced to Owen Grady (Chris Pratt)—an ex-marine who now trains velociraptors as part of a show. Trained velociraptors aren’t enough revenue for the island, however, and Masrani decides to fund a new type of dinosaur hybrid: the Indominus Rex. Thanks to advanced engineering, Indominus proves to be too smart for its captors and its subsequent escape not only plunges the entire island into chaos but also provides the premise for the film.
“Jurassic World’s” first hour is mired in a twisted sense of ironic humor that operates both within the film and outside of it. The beginning narrative largely focuses on the escapades of Zach and Gray inside the theme park; the two’s movement from attraction to attraction works to not only push the narrative forward in the conventional sense but also works as advertising for real-world merchandise and the eventual “Jurassic World” theme park.
Trevorrow’s first pitfall within this first hour is the lack of any impressive direction or editing. This latter issue, in combination of the poor characterization of Zach and Gray—all that’s really learned is that Zach enjoys flirting with girls and Gray is obsessed with dinosaurs—makes the first hour of “Jurassic World” appear as a poorly made and stilted documentary filled with product placement. The irony of the film stems from the philosophical belief behind making the Indominus Rex, as stated by the head scientist of the island Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong): “bigger, faster, louder, better.” “Jurassic World” is surely bigger and louder but that’s all it ever manages to amount to and that’s not enough to carry the film, although detractors of this argument will be quick to point out the film’s standing as the third highest grossing film of all time, as of this writing.
The nature of film itself creates a disconnect between how Zach and Gray perceive the island and how the audience perceives it. While Zach and Gray get to experience the awe and wonder of the island up-close and personal, the audience is relegated to seeing it from behind the screen. This disconnect doesn’t necessarily need to be a fault. Film’s like Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless” and the ending of Jafar Panahi’s “Offside” both utilize camera techniques that attempt to, and do so successfully, make the audience feel as if they themselves are part of the world of the film.
For Trevorrow, there’s no use of first-person view shots, there’s no use of the relationship between architecture, as well as setting, to the camera in order to create an atmosphere and if the goal of this first hour isn’t to bring the audience along the journey, then there’s still a failure to capture the beauty and awe of the island and it’s animals—although credit should be given to one impressive wide shot which pans out to display the dinosaurs that roam the meadows and the forest which stretches out behind them.
The film’s directorial highlight comes in the form of Indominus’ escape scene. The genius here lies in the creation of a suspenseful atmosphere without ever having the monster present on screen itself. After being unable to locate the Indominus through their tracking program, Grady comes onto the scene in order to examine the Indominus’ cage, himself. There’s a slow revelation here that heightens the suspense due in part to Pratt’s acting and Trevorrow’s patience with the camera. As it turns out, Indominus never left its cage and the buildup of the thrill, the backdrop of the forest, and the ensuing chase become reminiscent of John McTiernan’s 1987 “Predator.”
The rest of the film plays out like a standard horror/thriller, with Pratt bringing in the same swinging charisma that he brought to “Guardians of the Galaxy” in order to make the film feel more humorous and light when needed to. The relationship between Grady and Dearing is believable, if only because we’ve seen it everywhere else as a Hollywood convention and the two stars make it work. It’s these same conventions that rule “Jurassic World” and ultimately hold it back.
More than 20 years ago the original “Jurassic Park” offered the unique premise of a dinosaur tearing loose on unsuspecting humans. “Jurassic World” ups the ante by making the dinosaur sentient, thus aligning it with the traditional killer in slasher or horror films. Unfortunately, “Jurassic World” never takes full advantage to make its Indominus Rex feel wholly unique or new. Trevorrow fails to bring out both the film’s horror and adventurous aspects with his camera and what would otherwise be an experimentation within the genre is instead relegated to a standard of underwhelming normalcy.J