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Movie Review: Jurassic World [Contains Spoilers]

Jurassic World poster

Image: Universal Pictures

“Do you think it’ll scare the kids?”

“The kids? It’ll give their parents nightmares.”
Or so says Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), the owner of the now-fully-operational dinosaur theme park known as Jurassic World. But is he right? Well, maybe, but not for the reasons you’d think. Jurassic World suffers from many problems, but the greatest of them is its reliance on reverential homages to the original Jurassic Park, seemingly without any understanding of just what made that movie great.
The constant homages invite comparison, and that’s where this movie falls apart. In the original, you have several diverse, well-drawn characters, including two important female characters whose expertise is invaluable in handling the crisis. In World, there are three “major” female characters: the emotional mother who isn’t on the island but sends her sons to the park their aunt runs, the weepy control room operator whose job appears to be to mourn all of the senseless character deaths, and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire, the ostensible boss who is drawn as so pathologically broken by her career-driven ways that she doesn’t know her own nephews’ ages.
Not that the male characters fare much better. Vincent D’Onofrio’s Hoskins is a stock InGen villain, and Chris Pratt’s Owen is there to ride motorcycles, tame raptors and scowl at things in a macho way while occasionally flexing. The kids are both cardboard cutouts as well: Zach (Nick Robinson) is the scowly hormone-laden teenager, and Gray (Ty Simpkins) is the dinosaur nut who even has Tim’s hair from the original. Not that he gets to use that knowledge in any sort of helpful way at any point in the movie.
Once the dinosaur-related havoc starts, things improve slightly, but then we’re treated to multiple close-ups of things like Claire’s stiletto heels as she runs through the jungle, or lingering on her curves as she’s sprawled on the ground with her skirt ripped to mid-thigh. Remember all those shots sexualizing Laura Dern’s Dr. Ellie Sattler in the original? No? That’s right, there weren’t any. And when Claire does get to save the day, she does so by imitating Chris Pratt’s character, not by using any of her own expertise. The action then pauses as if to tell the audience we should be awed/shocked by this development, presumably because Claire has now done something “badass”. It’s tired and clichéd, and it’s exacerbated even further when she is immediately rewarded with a kiss from Chris Pratt and being relegated to swooning over her new boyfriend’s heroics and discovering her newly-awakened maternal side.
On the positive side, there are a handful of amusing scenes scattered throughout the movie, and the few practical effects with the dinosaurs were appreciated. The Indominus Rex was appropriately scary, and the climactic scene was pretty good, but the exhaustive homages and references to the original just made me want to watch Jurassic Park again.
(Editor’s Note: For the opposing view see here.)
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