Just about everyone can remember the very first time they saw Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park.” It was an amazing experience, filled with excitement, thrills, and, of course, tons of ultra-realistic dinosaurs that only served to enhance the terror of Michael Crichton’s story. With its massive success, we got the inevitable sequel (“The Lost World: Jurassic Park”) just four years later. Once again based on a Crichton novel, it was a decent return to the island. It may not have met the high standards of its predecessor, but it managed to provide a few thrills of its own. Just four years after that, we received yet another sequel in the form of “Jurassic Park III,” which showed just how tired the series was getting. In the 14 years since, there had been rumors about a fourth film here and there, and despite there being seemingly nowhere left to take the series, we are at last faced with the next entry in the popular franchise, “Jurassic World.”
Taking place 22 years after the original film, a new dinosaur theme park known as Jurassic World has picked up where the previous park left off, giving tourists the chance to see the creatures in person. Brothers Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) have come to the park to visit their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who just happens to be one of the people in charge. Gray, the younger brother, is super stoked about being there and is something of a dinosaur expert, while Zach seems like he wants to be just about anywhere else. Unfortunately Claire doesn’t have a whole lot of time to spend with them, so instead she sends her assistant to show them around.
However, it doesn’t take long for them to ditch her and have a look around themselves. Meanwhile, we learn of a new dinosaur hybrid that has been created especially for the park, a massive creature known as the “Indominus rex.” Naturally, this smart new dino manages to outwit its captors and escape its captivity, putting the entire island at risk. With the help of a raptor expert (Chris Pratt), Claire must find the creature and stop it before it finds its way to the tourists.
There are plenty of people out there that argue that we simply didn’t need a fourth installment in this franchise. The first film had been a great, unique experience, while the second film, though not warmly received by critics, still had some things to like about it. The third film pretty much showed us that the series had run its course, so a fourth entry just didn’t seem necessary. However, that didn’t stop the gears from turning on yet another installment, one that was several years in the making. That being said, with so much time in between the third and fourth entries, you would think that they would have managed to come up with something a lot better than what we ended up getting.
“Jurassic World” is one of those very sad examples where just about everything that could go wrong with a major blockbuster did. Starting off with the story itself, it’s nothing more than a retread of the original film (our main characters come to the park, dinosaur(s) escape, and our characters need to get off the island), only with a lot more people on the island than before. It would seem that the filmmakers desperately wanted to capture the magic of the original film, but simply copying it is a very poor way of trying to do so, especially when fans are already very familiar with the great film that kicked off this franchise.
However, apparently copying the story wasn’t even good enough for them, for they also felt the need to include a multitude of references/homages to “Jurassic Park” as well, including namedropping Dr. Hammond over and over, having the kids get attacked in a vehicle in the middle of nowhere, having them find the original visitors’ center, and having them drive one of the original jeeps. All of this was as if to say “Remember ‘Jurassic Park?’ Remember how good that was?” With all of this, you can quickly tell that the film is lacking its own identity, and obviously originality. As mentioned earlier, the series didn’t seem to have anywhere left to go, and if anything, these filmmakers seem to have proven it.
To make things worse, there are some hilariously misplaced plotpoints that will no doubt leave you shaking your head in confusion, including a scene where the brothers are discussing the possibility of their parents getting divorced. This might have been an important and emotional part of the story had it not been for the fact that it randomly gets mentioned here, and then is never mentioned again for the rest of the film. Perhaps the writers forgot? Then there’s the random addition of Zach leaving his girlfriend at home and getting flirty at the park. The audience is fully aware that he is a young man in that phase of his life. Was this supposed to be his character development? Given that he doesn’t get any later on (other than the obvious and clichéd need to help his younger brother survive), perhaps they felt it was enough.
In fact, character development ends up being one of its primary issues throughout. None of the characters receive much in the way of development at all, leaving them paper-thin throughout this entire misadventure. As a consequence, when the non-stop action sequences of the monotonous second half hit, there’s no reason to care about any of it. True, character development was probably the last thing on these writers’ mind (Fun Fact: It took four writers to pen this script), but they could have at least tried. No, their minds were no doubt on the visual effects, which merely use cheesy-looking CGI throughout most of the film, leaving you not only with flat and lifeless characters, but also a lot of very fake-looking dinosaurs. It’s somewhat hard to believe, but “Jurassic Park” looked much, much better than this, which only goes to show that sometimes practical is the best way to go.
All things considered, this fourth outing was terribly misguided from the start as it was clear that the filmmakers weren’t going to give us anything new. What we get is a film that’s nothing more than a crummy knock-off of the original, one that you’d find in the dollar bin at your local DVD retailer. When the fifth entry rolls around (we might as well face it, it’s happening), let’s hope that they can come up with something original instead of trying to stand on the shoulders of those who came before them. This is a series that has always had potential for interesting storytelling. With a little thought perhaps it could hit the heights it once did all those years ago.
“Jurassic World” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.00:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. The picture is perfectly pristine, with every frame looking beautifully sharp and clear. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is equally marvelous, giving you dialogue, sound effects, and Michael Giacchino’s score in excellent quality. Overall, there’s not a single complaint to be had about the amazing treatment that the film has received.
Welcome to Jurassic World (30 Minutes): An interesting look behind the scenes at the making of the film, featuring lots of interviews with the cast and crew. Worth a watch.
Chris & Colin Take on the World (9 Minutes): A superficial featurette in which director Colin Trevorrow and actor Chris Pratt interview each other.
Dinosaurs Roam Once Again (16 Minutes): A semi-interesting look at the CGI dinosaurs in the film and the challenges of filming on set with stand-ins or sometimes nothing at all for the actors to work with.
Jurassic World: All-Access Pass (10 Minutes): A series of short vignettes that take a look behind the scenes.
Innovation Center Tour with Chris Pratt (2 Minutes): A very brief look at the new visitors’ center. Easily skippable.
Jurassic’s Closest Shaves (3 Minutes): A completely pointless look back at scenes in which characters have been killed or nearly killed throughout the series.
Deleted Scenes (6 Minutes): A collection of cut scenes that add nothing to the film.
“Jurassic World” is a massive disappointment with a multitude of flaws, from the retreaded story and endless, monotonous action sequences, to the flat, lifeless characters and the uninspired CGI dinosaurs. It’s made even more disappointing by the fact that they had 14 years to come up with something new, but even after all that time, all they could produce was a lazy knock-off of the original film. This was the chance to bring back this series with the full force of the imagination and excitement that began it back in 1993, but unfortunately all they’ve done here is bring it back with a whimper and an all-too-clear confirmation that the franchise is lost.
Now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
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