The New Jurassic Park Film

I just can’t think of this film by its actual title. Clearly effort has been made to distance it a little from the original trilogy while simultaneously suggesting a larger scale but there is no getting away from the fact that this film exists in the world and in the shadow of Steven Spielberg’s original movie. To me it is always just the new Jurassic Park film.

Maybe that’s what the rebranding is actually about. Perhaps that’s the ‘world’ they are referring to. It’s not the expansive theme park that now encompasses the majority of Isla Nublar but the place that we the audience inhabit. Ours is a world where Jurassic Park is one of cinema’s best loved blockbusters; a motion picture that has shaped two decades of family friendly monster flicks and widely influenced a new generation of film makers in the way that Star Wars did before it. That’s the Jurassic World of the title, it’s our world and that’s what the movie is really about. It’s not about dinosaurs, it’s not even just about big budget action films. It’s about the Jurassic World; it’s an allegory for itself.

Babe did this in 1995. In the story the titular little sheep pig was initially easy to dismiss yet impressed everyone holding his own in a competitive arena full of much better equipped and more likely victors, so too the film became an unlikely box office champion alongside Toy Story, Die Hard 3, Batman Forever and Goldeneye.

Now in Jurassic World you have a huge multimillion dollar company struggling to impress audiences with technology that was once jaw dropping but is now totally ordinary. In its efforts to stay relevant and surprising it creates something for which anticipation is huge and that on its releases stamps on everything that stands in its way. You see the metaphor. It works; animated dinosaurs were totally amazing twenty years ago but now even Doctor Who has convincing ones. Still though, after its extensive publicity, this film had the biggest opening weekend ever before becoming the fastest film to make a $1 billion. Eleven days after it opened Jurassic World is already the twenty second highest grossing film ever and it will no doubt settle somewhere comfortably within the top ten. The comparison between the story of the film and the film’s story continues further because toward the end the rampaging behemoth falters when put up against the original dinosaurs. I’m clearly not going to give away the end but I don’t think it will surprise anyone when I say this new beast struggles to compare to Spielberg’s Velociraptors.

Whether it is as good as the original 1993 movie or not (clearly it isn’t) this film is a lot of fun and it is certainly better than The Lost World (glass cracking scene allowing) and Jurassic Park III. Those films struggled largely because of their stories, they never really found a good enough reason to go back to the island. This new film sidesteps that problem by pretty much stealing the narrative straight from the first film. There are genetically created dinosaurs hungrily escaping from their enclosures, the people visiting their artificial environment are on the menu, there is a commercially minded person in charge, her adolescent relations are in jeopardy and the only one who can help is the one guy who properly respects and understands the animals. There is even a subplot involving cold hearted corporate greed inadvertently making everything worse. It seems like I’m being negative but it works. The premise has just enough new stuff hanging off it to stop it being a total retread and its an enjoyable ride.

There are more criticisms to be made and all of them surround comparisons with the first film. The kids aren’t as engaging and not nearly scared enough, the effects are inevitably not as groundbreaking and the action is generally less surprising. At no point is the chase as intense and having the creatures picking off crowds of people rather than a well known central few means you are much less involved with the fatalities. All of this occurred to me after the credits had rolled though, while I was watching it I was happily swept along.

Unsurprisingly this is a very visual film and to describe elements of it in detail would not work. There is no escaping that much of it doesn’t look good on paper (A mega monster that is part tree frog and part cuttlefish, ooh scary!), some of the lines sound trite (“We’re going to need more teeth.”) and in places it is quite predictable but on the big screen it comes together. I could tell you about the Indominus Rex or the gigantic sea dwelling Mosasaurus, I could try to help you picture the scenes of men and raptors hunting together and I could go on about Chris Pratt’s screen persona making him the first true successor to Harrison Ford but I’m not going to (you’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy anyway). What you need to do is watch it for yourself and personally, even with its flaws, I think you should.

Apart from anything else, you need to see this before the next two films come out. I’m predicting they will be called Jurassic War (that just writes itself) and Jurassic Winter (which I’ve not fleshed out in my mind yet but imagine dinosaurs in the snow).

The Ripley Factor: 

There has been some slight controversy surrounding the film. I’m not talking about the complaints of the palaeontologists, they just need to reign in the nerdiness, I’m referring to Joss Whedon’s comments about the characterisation of the female lead sending positive portrayals of women back to the 1970s.

Before the film hit cinemas they released a clip showing the protagonists having a brief conversation about the dangers or building new dinos. He was all free spirited yet wise, she was all buttoned up, prudish and naive. In response to someone else’s comment Whedon tweeted his concerns later apologising for being too quick to criticise another directors project and saying he recognised the clip was out of context.

I don’t think Whedon has said anything else now that the film is out there in its entirety but, by my mind, the whole thing presents a better picture. Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire is initially a cold, job focussed pen pusher but once she has removed her belt and knotted her shirt up she actually becomes quite proactive. She is brave, she is fully dressed at all times and she saves the day on more than one occasion. She also does all of this in high heels which by my mind doesn’t disempower her, it only makes her actions all the more impressive. I mean, what’s she going to do? She is doesn’t have any other shoes.

Also women get swallowed in this film too. That’s not happened in a Jurassic Park film before so that’s equality of sorts.

Is this one for the kids?

Normally you have to make a judgement call before taking your children to this kind of film but on this occasion there are three quite handy benchmarks. If your little ones are okay with any one of the previous trilogy then they will be fine watching this. Clearly people get eaten and some blood gets splashed around but it isn’t as violent or as frightening as the first film, even though that was a PG and this is a 12A. (I am sure Jurassic Park was one of those films instrumental in the establishment of the 12A certificate even though it didn’t come along until almost ten years later.)

In fact in places the way the camera cuts away from the carnage is a little obvious. There is a shot used in the trailer where the Mosasaurus is leaping out of the water to snatch a Pteranodon but what you can’t see in the promo is that the flying reptile is carrying a human being and both become chow. The thing is you can’t really see it in the film either. It is almost just alluded to. Certainly you do sometimes see jaws close on people but a lot of the munching is out of shot, behind trees and rocks or even just inferred. There is a brief scene where a Dimorphodon (another winged dinosaur) is trying to lift a baby triceratops from the paddock where toddlers have been riding them. Now it might just be me and it may be because other deaths happen off screen but it was my assumption that the diddy dino’s saddle was empty because the flappy predator had already eaten what was on it.

Either way, there are no severed arms in this one, at least not that you see.

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