From the beginning I need to make it clear that I'm incapable of being objective when it comes to 'Jurassic Park'. Since it was released 22 years ago, I have worshipped everything about it - a piece of my childhood that has stood the test of time and cynicism. I've watched it more than any other film, know it almost shot for shot, and John Williams' theme can easily reduce me to tears. I've always tried to remain objective as a reviewer, but when it comes to 'Jurassic Park', I just can't be, and so I cannot be objective about 'Jurassic World', the latest film in the series and the first since the turgid 'Jurassic Park 3' in 2001. With that in mind, and knowing that so many people feel the same way about 'Jurassic Park' as I do, here's the big question - is 'Jurassic World' a worthy sequel to the one of the finest blockbusters ever made, or is it just another in a series of disappointments?
Over two decades after the original plans for Jurassic Park ended in catastrophe, John Hammond's dream has been reimagined as Jurassic World, a highly successful theme park built on the original island. Now overseen by operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park balances tourist attractions with further research into the dinosaur population and their genetic possibilities. In an effort to boost the revenue of the park, a new "asset" is being tested - a hybrid made up of various dinosaur DNA specifically designed to offer visitors an all-new thrill. But like Dr Malcolm said in the original, "life finds a way", and as the asset goes wildly out of control, Jurassic World falls into absolute chaos.
SWITCH: 'JURASSIC PARK' TRAILER 2
With 'Jurassic World', director Colin Trevorrow returns the series to the major concerns of the original, that of scientists playing God with the unpredictable elements of nature. It's one of the many careful and clever decisions that makes this the strongest of any of the sequels so far. Everything about the film feels familiar, acknowledging and riffing on the DNA of the original, but in a comfortable rather than derivative way. It's a furiously energetic film, its only purpose being to entertain and thrill its audience from beginning to end. Trevorrow might not be Spielberg, but he keeps such a confident grip on the film, whizzing it along between nail-biting set-pieces and with a light and witty humour the previous two films sorely lacked. It's only major shortfallings come with clunky dialogue and relatively stock characters, but what helps to elevate the film above them is an intrinsic understanding of what made the original work and, at the same time, an acknowledgement that replicating the same sense of awe we had 22 years ago is actually impossible. In 'Jurassic World', dinosaurs in a theme park are all well and good, but it's the chaos we want to see, and the twists and turns in the plot, while never extraordinary, are endlessly entertaining, each even more exciting than the last. As in the original, all actions to control nature have consequences, especially when it comes to their hybrid, dubbed the Indominus Rex. This monstrous creature has no place in the natural world, and thus responds with violence and mercilessness to take revenge for its existence. Even contentious plot points, such as those revolving around the training of the velociraptors by charismatic ex-soldier Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and the plans to militarise the animals, land much better than you'd expect. It's silly, but of course it's silly! It's a series about resurrecting dinosaurs from the blood of dead mosquitoes! Sure it's all a bit ridiculous, but goddamn if it isn't cool!
'Jurassic World' returns the series to the major concerns of the original, that of scientists playing God with the unpredictable elements of nature.
What really matters is whether 'Jurassic World' is worth the ride - and it most definitely is. This is a summer blockbuster to the letter, filled with fantastic visual effects, a number of wonderful scares and an even larger array of dinosaurs than the previous films. It's far bouncier and sunnier than most blockbusters these days, and as a result ends up being far more fun. Sure, we've seen all these kinds of characters before, especially Vincent D'Onofrio's dull bad guy and our obligatory youngsters, brothers Zack (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), but the film knows these are stock characters and enjoys the ease they gives the narrative. We're here for the spectacle, and the characters are here to serve the spectacle and enjoy it as much as us. Those expecting complex storylines or characters and bemoaning the leaps in logic were always going to be disappointed by this film, but those expecting to have a good time will almost certainly get it.
But like I said, I'm not able to be objective about 'Jurassic Park', so with that in mind, is 'Jurassic World' worthy to follow in its impossible footsteps? I'm going to give an enthusiastic yes. Trevorrow and his team have done exactly the right thing - they haven't tried to make a film as good as the original (that would be like trying to paint an artwork as good as the Sistine Chapel), but instead tried to make a film that can comfortably sit next to it. 'Jurassic World' acknowledges its roots but becomes a film of its own; an attempt for our century to recapture a similar sense of magic and awe. The critic in me may not have been satisfied by all the decisions, but the little kid in me thrilled over every moment, and that's really who I wanted it to satisfy.
When the first notes of John Williams' miraculous theme began to emerge from Michael Giacchino's accomplished score, I felt my heart rise and my eyes well with tears. For a moment, I was just a wide-eyed kid again, seeing the creatures of my dreams come to life while I gripped the arms of my seat, and for that I give 'Jurassic World' my heartiest approval. Nothing will ever be Spielberg's masterpiece, but this is one trip back to the islands off Costa Rica I will be desperately waiting to take again.