Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard star in director Colin Trevorrow’s ‘Jurassic World.’
Nostalgia is a powerful thing. It can control us and fuel our imagination as we search for the comfort of the past and what made us feel alive before life kicked us in the groin (sometimes literally). But, it can also cloud our judgement and not allow us to look clearly at the bigger picture in front of us. In a time of “What 90s trend were you?” on your Facebook feed or a Full House reunion on Netflix, nostalgia is more powerful than ever.
And Jurassic World knows this.
It is clear early on that the second feature by Colin Trevorrow (his first, Safety Not Guaranteed is still a hidden gem) is very aware of the expectations that it is expected to meet stemming from the immense love for the classic Spielberg original, Jurassic Park. But in this case, it is one thing to know that you are being fueled by nostalgia and harness it for your own good, and another to succumb to it and sink into the pitfalls that plagued the installments that came before.
Jurassic World brings us back to the Isla Nublar, the site of the first movie, which is now a super-enhanced dinosaur Disneyworld that has become a feature attraction. We follow Zach (Nick Robinson) and Grey (Ty Simpkins) into the park where they enter with the same wide-eyed enthusiasm that many of us entered the theater to watch this film. Trevorrow understands the thrill of the Spielberg original, and he wants to capture this same intensity and excitement in his own installment — and in the first hour he does.
Looking out for Zach and Grey are their aunt, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is also the VP of the entire theme park and is working on showing off their latest specimen to a group of investors — a new breed of dinosaur. Returning from the original movie is Dr. Wu (BD Wong) who has now engineering a new breed using multiple intangibles that are kept classified. But this new dinosaur is volatile and unpredictable, which leads Claire to seek out the help of Owen (Chris Pratt), one of the island’s trainers and head over a group of velociraptors.
Owen agrees to help Claire and soon realizes that this new dinosaur is unlike anything that they’ve had before. It is smart, uses its elements to its advantage, and has learned over time how to execute the flaws of the system to get itself out of containment — which (SHOCKER) it does.
Jurassic World‘s first half is pure Spielberg. Trevorrow — with screenwriting team including Derek Connolly, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver — understands what makes his movies so magical and beloved. He gives us the innocent kids who are put in the way of danger to overcome their life drama, he never gives us the full course of dinosaur and instead teases us until an hour or so into the film, and he uses the score (created by the superstar Michael Giacchino) to echo the work of the legend John Williams and concoct a feeling of both nostalgia and movie magic.
He even adds a meta approach to the story and plays off the idea that we know exactly what will happen in a Jurassic Park movie with the help of hints towards the eventual demise of the park. But this meta approach isn’t a saving grace for the film, instead blowing up in its face as the movie progresses. By the end of the second act and beginning of the third, the movie has decided to go full throttle into what it played off of in the first act and half, and it becomes a hokey show that loses the appeal that made the first portion so likeable.
Not only that, it never gives us character. It gives us faces, yes, but that doesn’t always make the person behind it any more interesting. Pratt does his best with a role that is one lane and flat, becoming the film’s Mary Sue because of his giant physique. Howard is not much better and is personified only by her neurotic personality and the fact that she doesn’t understand the “appeal” of that park in terms of entertainment. While not entirely detrimental, it again begs the fact of why we should be invested in these people who are so bland and personified in one sentence.
It is clear that Trevorrow understands blockbuster directing and many moments display his skill as he shows off the action and held back fear that generates interest in this franchise, but much like the other installments and the run of the mill blockbuster today, he forgets that in the end, we also want to root for these people. Yes, I’ll root for Pratt because I think his personality is entertaining and he is able to bring some of that out in the vanilla Owen, but I also struggled to really feel any sense of accomplishment by the climax of the film.
Jurassic World is another example of a filmmaker being a massive fan of Steven Spielberg and trying to emulate the master in his blockbuster. But again like last year’s Godzilla by Gareth Edwrads, they don’t completely understand what makes Spielberg so great and lack the skill that continues to make him the pinnacle of blockbuster filmmaking. There needs to be heart and emotion just as much as dino crunching and raptor chasing, and until someone will figure that out and be able to bring it to the big screen, Spielberg is still the best.