CINEMA by Symeon J. ThompsonNews Weekly
Favourite reprised with lashings of human hubris
, July 18, 2015
Jurassic World is an entertaining and sharply crafted sci-fi popcorn thriller with enough brains to pose important questions, but enough savvy not to get bogged down in them.
Lovingly influenced by the original films, as well as others from Steven Spielberg, it asks the question: “What would happen if we brought dinosaurs back to life?” The question that follows is: “What would happen if corporate interests were involved?” But mostly it’s a rip-roaring dino-laden adventure romp with some added personal development.
The park is open. John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough’s character in the original film) dream has come to fruition with Jurassic World – a dinosaur theme park owned by Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) and run by Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard).
Children can ride on baby dinosaurs in a petting zoo. Visitors can travel in gyro-balls among the giant herbivores on the plains. And instead of watching dolphins performs tricks, guests can watch the huge crocodile-like Mosasaurus devour a shark. The atmosphere is that of a safe, highly contained, and highly commercialised amusement park.
But it’s not enough. Jurassic World costs a lot to run and tourists are getting bored – at least according to the corporate bureaucrats. A plan is hatched; and with it a brand new dinosaur – Indominus Rex (the name was focus-grouped): smarter, faster, larger and more terrifying than a Tyrannosaurus Rex; an apex predator to overtake any other apex predators.
At the same time, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), formerly a Navy research scientist, is involved in a project to train Velociraptors. Why? For him it is a noble experiment to learn more about these highly social and intelligent predators, but for Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) it’s about turning them into an elite weapon of war – something far more dangerous and precise than anything else in the military’s arsenal.
The story begins with Claire’s nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) coming to the park to spend some time with their aunt, who is far too busy to spend time with them; and so they head off on their own adventure.
Concerns about the Indominus Rex lead Masrani to call in Owen Grady to assess its security. These concerns turn out to be well-founded as the I. Rex manages to trick the security systems in place and escape, making its way to the main section of the park, full of tourists, and slaughtering anything in its way solely for fun.
Reprising his role from the original film is Dr Henry Wu (B.D. Wong), the park’s chief geneticist, who sneeringly points out that all the dinosaurs are hybrids, as there was not enough DNA, so the Indominus Rex, with all its extra genetic code, was simply the next step.
Jurassic World proceeds at a measured pace. It starts slow, introducing us gently to the characters and the park and the themes, and builds up to the roller-coaster of drama as the protagonists try to limit the damage and stop the monster they have created.
At one level the film is a clever satire on corporate excess. Dinosaurs aren’t enough, so let’s make a new one. Why not have a telecommunications company sponsor it? Make sure all the luxury brands are available for purchase in the gift area. And so on.
Then there is the Frankenstein-inspired critique of science – just because we can do something, does not mean we should do it.
Overall, this film, like all those in the series, and the novels by Michael Crichton that inspire them, are about human hubris. They are about the overreaching that we as a species is wont to do. They are about our so overwhelming belief in our own capacities that we downplay the negative aspects of what we create.
Technological developments have brought much good to our society, but at the same time they are often introduced without any realistic idea of what impact they can have. And any technology that can be weaponised will be weaponised.
This does not mean that we should abandon scientific discovery and technological progress, but that we should always consider the wider impact of what we do. We should get away from the idea that the sciences somehow exist in a value-free vacuum.
Jurassic World uses its blockbuster status to allude to these ideas; but it knows that it is a blockbuster, so its emphasis is on its rip-roaring yarn. Rather than preaching, it shows what might happen when things go too far, and shows it with as much heart-pounding drama and sly wit that it can manage.
On a personal level it reinforces the importance of family and human connections – of humanity itself. This after all was Hammond’s aim in bringing dinosaurs back: to give us awe and wonder and remind us of what matters in life.
Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA).