What a strange and overtly meta movie Jurassic World is – as much a satirical swipe at Hollywood excess and audience appetite as the bona fide Summer blockbuster we all thought it would be. Of course, a film whose narrative is built upon the private chaos behind a curtain that threatens to spill out into public view is ripe for this kind of interpretation. But Jurassic World never seems to be sure which side of the forty-foot electrified fence it wants to be. It’s like if Secret Cinema spent billions on a prehistoric themed event – lots of spectacle and opportunities to monetise, but precious little in the way of soul.
The film may be set twenty-two years after the events of Spielberg’s initial ground-breaking movie, but the theme is very much still one of cyclical failure and our breathtaking inability to learn from past transgressions. Thus, into this spanking new, glossy, and hugely expanded Park, now re-branded with a new suffix, comes an influx of wearily familiar character archetypes, ostensibly to reinforce ties to the original film (an intention betrayed by Michael Giacchino’s John Williams theme-lifting score), but that sadly possess none of the allure of their predecessors.
Again we have two kids – Zach and Gray (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) – who’re shipped off to the park to meet their aunt Claire (Dallas Howard), the park’s operations manager. Claire doesn’t spend much time managing any operations despite her austere business suit, and would rather spend time wooing investors and sponsors than, ew, hanging with her nephews (although curiously, we never find out why she’s so awkward around them).
At least JW has a novel way of approaching brazen product-placement. “Imagine the Verizon Wireless Indominus Rex”, she says of their newest attraction – a GM super-beast. Elsewhere, there’s a Starbucks, and even a building on the park’s main strip called the Samsung Innovation Center. Actually, it’s quite clever – to begin with – with Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm and his darkly prophetic “you’ve slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, now you’re selling it” line now all but forgotten in the glow of handsome profiteering, but after Neo-T-Rex inevitably breaks free, JW briskly spirals into being just another monster flick. As someone keenly observes early on in the movie, “No one’s impressed by dinosaurs anymore.”
Attempting to inject some roguish charm into proceedings is Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady, an on-site dino-consultant who’s heading-up a training program with the raptors – kind of like the BBC’s One Man and His Dog, but, you know, more toothy. We discover, in one of Jurassic World’s plentiful clunky scenes, that Owen and Claire never got past their first date, which actually makes sense given there’s zero chemistry between them. But director Trevorrow seems unable or at least unwilling to deviate from prescription and it’s tiring watching this particular romantic formula play out.
So in a Summer of returns to franchises, Jurassic World proves the third sequel on the trot to fail to capitalise on former success. This is all the more galling in the light of the near universal acclaim for George Miller’s thirty-five-year-late Mad Max follow-up, that proves, if anything, it’s never too late to reboot with imagination and innovation. Jurassic World promises all the thrill of reptilian assets out of containment, but proves as stimulating as a monorail ride through a paddock of ambivalent Brachiosaurus.