It has finally arrived. The fourth film in the Jurassic Park saga follows on beautifully from the events of the previous films and proves to be a fantastic triumph of invention, humour and thrills.
Much of that is thanks to Colin Trevorrow, a director who found himself under intense scrutiny upon getting the director’s job of the latest part of this beloved series. He has managed to pull off a neat trick in delivering exactly what we want, even though we weren’t entirely sure we wanted it in the first place.
In all previous films, the park itself has never been fully functioning. Steven Spielberg utilised the small number of humans at his disposal by showing us more of the dinosaurs and building up the human relationships in the first two films. In the third, Joe Johnson managed to persuade Sam Neill to return, with more potential victims but with almost no purpose.
In Jurassic World, things are finally up and running as crowds flock in their droves to see the attractions of Isla Nublar. 22 years after the events of Jurassic Park, Simon Masrani (Irfan Khan), has been hand-picked by John Hammond to keep his legacy going, something that he intends to do with pride. Finding the best people to run his park, Misrani enlists Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) to be the park’s operations manager. Dearing is in complete control of all aspects of the park, but her structured life is about to be disrupted by the arrival of her two nephews.
Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) is an ex-military man who lives on the island and is training velociraptors to listen to his commands. He has a history with Claire, but otherwise keeps himself away from the hustle of the theme park, preferring to spend his time away from humans. His latest headache is in the form of InGen head of security, Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), who wants to use dinosaurs for military purposes.
When the hybrid goes missing, Claire is forced to enlist Owen in a mission to rescue her nephews who have gone off the grid. Misrani attempts to handle the situation himself, and keep the park running whereas Hoskins is intent on using brute force to gain the advantage.
Things are about to turn into the Itchy and Scratchy Land episode of The Simpsons on Jurassic World, and there isn’t a Bort in sight to help out.
Jurassic Park, with its ground-breaking special effects and wish-fulfilment concept was a truly life-changing experience when it was released on unsuspecting audiences in 1993. Ultimately the tale of dinosaurs being brought back to life by a well-meaning, if short-sighted, genius was actually a tale by a Zeitgeist-capturing filmmaker who knew how to make the perfect Blockbuster.
Some of the focus on Trevorrow remains understandable, even having been thoroughly entertained by Jurassic World. A director, who has only previously made the low-budget time travel comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, Trevorrow hardly has a track-record to rely on. It’s clear that Steven Spielberg, the man who made the decision, saw enough to be convinced that he had found the right director for the job.
To his credit, Trevorrow has constructed a film that borrows a healthy amount from previous Spielberg movies. Of course Jurassic Park is the jumping off point, but we certainly go by the way of Indiana Jones, Jaws and even a touch of the later chase films Minority Report and Catch Me if You Can.
The daring archaeologist is clearly an inspiration for Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady. His performance will only increase the calls for Pratt to take on the lead role in any Indiana Jones reboot. You get a real sense of that with the sparkling back-and-forth dialogue between him and Bryce Dallas Howard, all very reminiscent of fedora-wearing Harrison Ford whose whip-cracking banter with his co-stars made the action adventure series what it was.
For her part, Howard gets to do more than just scream in the right places. She is in charge in the first act, and even when things inevitably turn sour at the park, her desperate attempts to save her family prove to be the emotional core of the film.
The nephews, played by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins, enter the park much like we imagine youngsters entering awe-inspiring attractions these days. It’s this element of Jurassic World that is most convincing, the park itself is now up and running, and the early narrative coherence sets the later fall up perfectly.
If there is grotesquely oversized branding associated with different areas of the park, that’s because we have Pepsi Arenas and Samsung Stadiums operating today. One of the opening shots features a crowd of people wondering around Jurassic World, and apart from the lip-smacking potential of seeing this number of “victims” for the dinosaurs to get their teeth into, it also highlights the trudging nature we all adopt in these crowded scenarios.
The nods to the first film vary from subtle to hilariously over-the-top. Chief nostalgia merchant is control room operator Lowery Cruthers (New Girl star Jake Johnson), who manages to address the issue of the past as well as the issue of sequels in a well crafted way. He asks the questions audiences want addressing, and comes up with his own sarcastic set of answers.
Some of the characters come to predictable ends, but we won’t spoil the film by going into any details. What we do get are some terrifyingly inventive action set-pieces that are both thrilling and elaborate in detail.
Purists will have little to complain about once they see the film. The initial fears, shared by many it has to be said, are quickly dispelled by the movie.
Joining Mad Max: Fury Road as one of the best blockbusters of the last few years, Jurassic World also proves how foolhardy it is to judge a movie by its trailer.
This is an absolutely rollicking ride, crammed with big ideas and unforgettable moments.