You can hear Jurassic Park in Jurassic World.
Composer Michael Giacchino has purposely and knowingly lifted from and retrofitted John Williams’ seminal work from the first film in order to outfit Colin Trevorrow’s feature with a sound that feels both familiar and fresh. It mostly works, just like the many nods to the original film that litter Trevorrow’s film (some, of course, work a bit better than others), but there’s one moment when the melding of the old and the new proves to be so jarring as to take you out of the film entirely, or at least to remind you what you’re really watching: a film about a theme park. The sounds of Williams’ Theme From Jurassic Park soar over an early scene, as youngsters Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) take in the full majesty of the so-called Jurassic World from their swanky hotel room. The music cues up, and the camera pans outward to give us a wide shot of all the majesty of…a money-making enterprise. You can almost see the Starbucks glittering in the distance. (There is a Starbucks at the park, and a Margaritaville, and a Columbia Sportswear…)
The wonder of Jurassic Park has instead been replaced by the wonder of money-making and soda-selling and tourist-shilling. Weirdly enough, Jurassic World knows this, comments on it, and then fully embraces it. It’s a blockbuster about blockbusters, and that doesn’t stop it from gleefully splicing together old DNA to create a likely box office monster that’s entirely beholden to an economy that rewards old stuff made, well, new-ish enough. It’s all new-ish enough.
Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park (the second and third movies are mostly pushed aside, if only because no one would ever visit a dinosaur theme park after their events, even if it did offer a really nice Starbucks), and Jurassic World has not only become a global success, it’s already dipping into “been there, done that” territory. Jurassic World is built on plenty of bonkers ideas, but the weirdest of which might be that people are already sick of its initial offerings – read: dinosaurs, people, actual goddamn dinosaurs – and that the park’s management team (hazily composed of Irrfan Khan’s Masrani, Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire, and Vincent d’Onofrio’s Hoskins) has started splicing together DNA to create new dinosaurs to lure in visitors.
Surely, this won’t go wrong.
Although Jurassic World (the place) is cram-jammed with visitors in every shot, we’re repeatedly told it’s not good enough, which is why Dr. Henry Wu (a returning BD Wong) has created the Indominus Rex, a new breed of kinda/sorta T. rex, mixed up with a whole mess of other DNA to craft a huge, brutal, and terrifying new attraction. The Indominus has not yet debuted to the public, but that’s just weeks away, and she certainly seems to be growing ever more weary in her lockbox-like paddock, which she has never (not once, not ever) been let out of.
Like Jurassic Park, Jurassic World blends together the personal and the professional to tell what is essentially a story of hubris gone mad and a multi-billion dollar endeavor gone wrong. Zach and Gray are Claire’s nephews, shipped off to Jurassic World so that their parents (Judy Greer and Andy Buckley) can get divorced in secret, a subplot that is not only unnecessary, but genuinely cruel. Overworked Claire doesn’t have the time to attend to them, so after ditching Claire’s assistant (yet another unnecessary subplot), the pair set off to find some fun in the park. Through their eyes, we experience shades of wonder and excitement that are mostly lacking throughout the rest of the film’s jumbled narrative.
Elsewhere, raptor trainer (cool job) Owen (Chris Pratt, the real star of the film, thanks to his overwhelming charm and star power) is dealing with a pack of dinos that Hoskins desperately wants to militarize (another subplot that mostly exists to set up a sequel). Called in to check on the Indominus (at the behest of Claire, who Owen apparently went on one bad date with, yet another unnecessary subplot, sweet stegosaurus on a cracker), Owen finally says what everyone is thinking: this is a bad idea.
That’s pretty much when the Indominus breaks out and starts tearing the park, other dinosaurs, its visitors, and probably also the Starbucks a new one.
The rest of the film is a mostly thrilling adventure through the park by the film’s various characters as they attempt to either stop the Indominus or simply survive it. Jurassic World frequently refers back to the original film – hell, most of its characters even visit the site of the old park as they try to escape the Indominus – and while that’s entertaining enough, it’s still a pale comparison to the original. CGI-fueled action isn’t nearly as engaging as the stunning practical effects of Jurassic Park, and despite a talented cast, most of the characters scan as ripoffs from the original (Howard’s Claire even uses the events to come to terms with her desire to have a family, shades of Laura Dern’s Dr. Ellie Sattler ahoy).
Still, Jurassic World is worth a visit – and, despite the apparent insanity of visiting a park kitted out with actual dinosaurs, by the film’s end, I had come around on the idea of going to such a park, and that was after a fake dinosaur stomped through it – if only to remember the majesty and possibility of such a place.
The Upside: A talented cast, a basic plotline that’s inventive and fun (a theme park, what an idea!), solid action, genuinely good world-building, dinosaurs.
The Downside: CGI effects lack the wonder of the original, packed with unnecessary subplots, thinly drawn characters.
On the Side: This fan theory is entirely dumb.