Andrew Serong

A hobby blog. Expect cats.

Jurassic World: A theme park disaster movie

June 14, 2015

Chris Pratt's Owen from Jurassic World (2015)
22 years on and we have, I think, a worthy sequel to Jurassic Park. When John Hammond stares wistfully out the window of the helicopter at the end of Jurassic Park, there's a sense not just of the awe and wonder of nature, but we see a powerful man whose dreams have crumbled.

These movies are both monster movies and disaster movies, but the tension is that John Hammond's dream of a park where you can go see real live dinosaurs is a seductive dream that captivates us. We at once want to see the park come to life, but we also want what we paid to see – dinosaurs take back the earth.

So, for me, the opening of Jurassic World, with a park in full operation, was overwhelming emotionally. Colin Trevorrow captures beautifully the nostalgia for Jurassic Park as we follow the two boys' journey to Jurassic World, and see the park in operation as John Williams' score from the original reaches its peak, just as it did when we saw the first dinosaur in the original film. The reveal of the dinosaur was the selling point of the original. The reveal of a fully working park, was the focus of this one.

Everything I loved and hated about this movie comes back to this point – this was a movie about theme park operations, and about the park itself. It wasn't about dinosaurs.

Michael Crichton was obsessed with the idea of theme parks. He wrote and directed Westworld (1973), then worked on the short-lived TV series Beyond Westworld (1980), and finally after 20 odd years, perfected his theme park destruction story by essentially remaking it as Jurassic Park. Throughout his career, he used sci-fi as a means of exploring contemporary social, political, and scientific issues, and at the time of Jurassic Park, the ethics of genetic engineering and the impact of the 'digital revolution' were ripe for weaving into a story about corporate hubris, man vs. nature, and ultimately, a theme park destruction story.

22 years on, and this film feels like an honest extension of the themes Michael Crichton, David Koepp, Spielberg and co explored in JP. Jurassic World is a theme park littered with corporate sponsorship, Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire is an Ops Manager who is kept in the dark regarding the JW board's real intensions behind the park, and the money used to fund this scientific research appears to have been spent ultimately for military ends. In all these ways, I found it refreshing to see the film pick up these issues and take them a few steps further.

On the other hand, we're left with a movie that revels in theme park 'wow' moments, with an assortment of characters that never really feel like a true and balanced ensemble like in the original. And while there were plenty of dinosaurs on screen, the dinosaurs didn't take over the film. In a time when we have Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I would have liked to have seen the dinosaurs take centre-stage.

This was a film without John Hammond, Alan Grant, Ian Malcolm, and Ellie Sattler, and so it was a film without the wistful longing for a time gone by. As BD Wong's Dr. Henry Wu says, the people running the park don't care about reality, just with what will sell.

As a theme park operations disaster movie, I'd give this 4.5 stars. As a Jurassic Park sequel, I'd say it's a worthy successor, but lacks the warmth and memorable characters of the original.

But holy cow, that Chris Pratt is pretty great.

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