As a genetically modified super-predator called Indominus Rex rages through Jurassic World, a massive theme park that draws some 20,000 visitors a day, the park’s new owner (Irrfan Khan) challenges the scientist (B.D. Wong) who created it: How could you do something so irresponsible? The scientist’s response is, essentially, you asked for it. In the name of keeping visitors who’ve long since grown jaded at the sight of a formerly extinct creature or two showing up, the park has to keep raising the ante, adding new attractions (i.e. bringing back new species from the dead) and, when that fails, creating entirely new ones.
In other words, just as “Jurassic Park” was a spectacle about the danger of prizing spectacle over human evolution, so “Jurassic World” is a movie about what happens when audiences grow weary of the extraordinary, which is as true of computer-generated dinosaurs in our world as it is flesh-and-blood ones in the films’. But though director Colin Trevorrow — making a huge leap in budget, if not necessarily inventiveness, from “Safety Not Guaranteed” — successfully identifies the problem facing this long-delayed sequel, he doesn’t necessarily solve it.
The first reviews of “Jurassic World” are a mixed bunch, but most agree it doesn’t measure up to Steven Spielberg’s original. (They do generally put it above “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic Park III,” so second of four ain’t bad.) Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard have little to do with their barely developed characters, and even in a series that has never much developed its villains beyond their basic venality, heavy Vincent D’Onofrio is pure caricature. The dinosaurs look impressive, naturally, but the movie rarely pauses to admire them: There’s no de rigueur shot of brontosauruses nibbling at trees while John Williams’ score soars in wonderment; everyone’s too busy running from (or sometimes with) raptors. If “Jurassic Park” ushered in the CGI era, “Jurassic World” diagnoses its discontents, and falls prey to them.
Reviews of “Jurassic World”
Scott Foundas, Variety
“No one’s impressed by a dinosaur anymore,” notes one character early on in “Jurassic World,” and it’s easy to imagine the same words having passed through the lips of more than one Universal Studios executive in the years since Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg’s 1993 “Jurassic Park” shattered box-office records, along with the glass ceiling for computer-generated visual effects. Two decades and two lackluster sequels later, producer and studio have spared few expenses in crafting a bigger, faster, noisier dinosaur opus, designed to reclaim their place at the top of the blockbuster food chain. What they’ve engineered is an undeniably vigorous assault of jaw-chomping jolts and Spielbergian family bonding that nevertheless captures only a fraction of the original film’s overflowing awe and wonderment.
Robbie Collin, Telegraph
Hollywood can’t just put photorealistic dinosaurs in cinemas and expect audiences to be wowed any more. “Jurassic World” acknowledges that shift in expectations, and asks what it might mean for our sanity and souls. It must be the first $150 million monster movie to question whether bigger is always better. Even more than its intensely likeable central performances and convincingly solid visual effects, it’s this supple self-reflexiveness that makes Colin Trevorrow’s film a worthy sequel to Spielberg’s industry-changing original. It also immediately relegates the other entries in the franchise — Spielberg’s own, frustratingly uneven 1997 follow-up, “The Lost World,” and Joe Johnson’s slight 2001 take, “Jurassic Park 3” — to footnote status.
Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger
Although Spielberg produced (and closely advised) and the new score uses chunks of John Williams’ old one, this film pales next to the first. That one had a sense of wonder (like the first, breathless glimpse of the dinos running wild). A sense of visual imagination too (like the famous shot of the jiggling Jell-o). And, yes, a certain appreciation (thanks to original author Michael Crichton) of the power, and problems, of science. But who needs a bunch of scientists wandering around talking about ethical considerations when we can have disposable victims and dully dependable villains (military contractors, corporate billionaires). Why do “Jaws,” with its flashes of “Moby Dick” obsessiveness and classic movie style when you can do “Jaws 3D” with its invocation of disaster-movie cliches and lunge-at-the-screen shocks?
Scott Mendelson, Forbes
The highest compliment that I can pay to “Jurassic World” is that it stands on its own feet. While it is obviously a sequel to Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park,” it does not use that 1993 film or the two prior sequels as a thematic crutch. There are explicit and implicit references to events of the first film, but it mostly succeeds on its own merits as a topical and exciting adventure film. The good news is that director Colin Trevorrow has crafted a gorgeous, exciting, and mostly entertaining monster movie. The bad news is that the screenplay (credited to Derek Connolly, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Colin Trevorrow) is so rife with meaty context and parable that I found myself far more engrossed by the digressions than I did by the main event.
Ben Umstead, Twitch
I will never be able to fully see this movie from the eyes of my childhood. The thrill is different now. And that’s okay because what Trevorrow and co-writer Derek Connolly have done here is actually a mighty interesting thing. Yes, the film is fun, and I sure hope kids will experience a pure thrill from it. But what we have in “Jurassic World” that gets me truly excited is that Trevorrow has created a meta-modernist blockbuster. Trevorrow approaches this metatext with nary an ounce of cynicism, truly relishing in the sweet irony of making a corporate movie about the raging hubris of big corporate entertainment. He enthusiastically wants to find the wonder in big budget moviemaking again, and to do so must make a blockbuster that alleviates, reigns in, and ultimately must purge itself of… exactly what it is and what it doesn’t want to be, all while being an entertaining experience.
Greg Cwik, Indiewire
Steven Spielberg’s ability to transform the potentially absurd portrait of dinosaurs eating people into awe-inducing territory defines Hollywood filmmaking of the highest order — pure spectacular cinema with big, sharp teeth. It’s the opposite of the “stupid movie” paradigm so often associated with movies of its scale. “Jurassic World,” the fourth entry in the no-longer dormant series, is exactly that kind of stupid movie.
Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice
As far as visual splendor goes, “Jurassic World” is a quality product, with all the slickness — and soullessness — that implies. Trevorrow has directed only one previous fiction feature, the 2012 indie romance-thriller “Safety Not Guaranteed,” but in “Jurassic World” he orchestrates big special effects like a pro, for whatever that’s worth. The picture is sleek and impressive, although, as with its predecessors, how much you enjoy it will depend on your tolerance for watching dinosaurs chomp down on terrified humans. There’s a degree of sadism at work here — it was there in the original and its spin-offs, too — and for me, the ninth or tenth instance of an anguished bystander being gobbled or stomped on (or worse) was enough to tip the scales. Though the violence here is relatively discreet and un-bloody, it’s sometimes unpleasantly intense — a sequence riffing on “The Birds,” only with pterodactyls, is particularly harrowing, in a possibly exploitative way. Be forewarned if you’re thinking of bringing a tiny tot.
David Ehrlich, Little White Lies
Trevorrow’s blockbuster, despite flirting with “22 Jump Street” levels of winking self-reflexivity, lacks the vision or ambition to do anything more than diagnose a sickness that it’s powerless to cure. Its action sequences are bloodless and unexciting, and the theme park’s attractions — like the gyroscopes tourists use to roam the grounds, the most implausible thing in a movie that features Vincent D’Onofrio plotting to use Velociraptors to hunt ISIS — are transparently reverse engineered for their ability to motivate a set piece. As “Jurassic World” gets bigger, it only gets worse. Not since Spike Jonze’s “Adaptation” has a movie so gleefully become the thing it resents most.
Michael Roffman, Consequence of Sound
Ever since Chris Miller and Phil Lord made meta bucks with “21 Jump Street” in 2012 (and once more with last year’s hilarious sequel), the whole winking, tongue-in-cheek commentary has become the go-to crutch for unnecessary blockbusters. But, at this point, it feels like a goddamn cop out; as if they couldn’t muster up a straightforward sequel without looking straight into the eyes of its audiences and being utterly transparent. Some might call that honorable, but the way it’s conveyed in “Jurassic World” — and, to be fair, with a number of sequels lately — feels irritating and lazy. From beginning to end, we hear so many obvious barbs at the film’s asinine premise, whether it’s the number of dinosaurs they’ve flooded the park with or the rampant corporatization that has plagued their administration. What was once a clever speech by Jeff Goldblum — “You’re selling it, selling it…” — is now a showy parody.
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
While slickly enjoyable in parts, the biggest misstep here comes by puncturing Spielberg’s grandeur. “Guardians of the Galaxy’s” Chris Pratt, playing a jokey animal trainer who lives in a trailer, turns vicious velociraptors into docile dogs (a crime against classic cinema). Meanwhile, John Williams’ majestic trumpet fanfare is redeployed not at the sight of a towering brontosaurus, but at the spectacle of the park itself, packed to the gills with faceless, hopefully nonlitigious attendees. Subtly, the movie celebrates money, not science, and its own stubborn resilience.
Jill Pantozzi, The Mary Sue
I didn’t feel as if the true wonder of the park was accurately presented. In “Jurassic Park,” we saw this through the characters’ eyes as they stood in front of real dinosaurs for the first time. Now granted, since Jurassic World has been in operation for some time, you’d expect a certain level of lassitude when it comes to seeing the creatures but… they’re still freaking dinosaurs. I’d think at least our main child characters would experience some specific, heartfelt, wondrous moments upon seeing them for the first time, but that wasn’t really the case, as everything sits very much on the surface.
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
It would be a difficult task for any up-and-coming director to match the visual panache and crack suspense of Spielberg, but Trevorrow doesn’t display much affinity for action filmmaking, largely failing to capture the power or wonder of these rampaging lizards and the havoc they unleash. But what’s particularly crippling about “Jurassic World” is that Trevorrow and his three fellow co-writers populate the film with stock human characters who barely have more personality than their cunning dinosaur foe.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
There’s a certain low-key affability about Trevorrow’s approach that marks him a likeable humanist rather than as a director determined to hammer the viewer into submission, which unfortunately is what you feel with too many giant franchise projects such as this. This is, after all, a story about humankind’s fallibility, hubris and inclination to bring destruction upon itself and one at least feels little tremors of this awareness leaking out between the creatures’ deafening stomps and roars.
Daniel Krupa, IGN
Lines can be drawn back to “Jurassic Park,” but it’s clear this is a modern blockbuster, with events unfolding on a much bigger scale. The park is open, after all, with thousands of visitors, a visitor centre sponsored by Samsung, and a boardwalk of shops and restaurants. That said, director Colin Trevorrow prevents “Jurassic” World from ever becoming a gross disaster movie, full of mindless carnage. There are scenes featuring explosions and gun fire — most of which were squeezed together to make the trailers — but I was thrilled to discover that it’s really not that type of blockbuster. Trevorrow has been allowed to build quietly a much more thoughtful, character-driven movie than I ever expected.
Steve MacFarlane, Slant
The thrill of seeing these prehistoric beasts is subordinated to that of seeing them awkwardly airbrushed into the same frame as 21st-century humans. Grady and Claire’s screwball romance plays out against painfully cheap-looking jungle backdrops closer to the tourist-corralling wait rooms of Universal Studios than a real live tropical island — and whenever Grady needs to run, jump, or roll out of the path of an incoming dinosaur, the disjunction between tangible footage and the pixelated filling enmeshing him is impossible to ignore. Action scenes are drawn in impossible swoops and pans, with artificial dolly shots and rack focuses often starting or ending long before perspective has managed to cut elsewhere; the meagerest sense of spatial plausibility evaporates whenever the camera needs to move. Even the most basic camera angles around the park see the actors green-screened against bogus panoramic vistas, cushioned by eerie under-rendered digital halos. Every third shot looks more like an early promotional still than a scene from an actual film.
Alonso Duralde, TheWrap
Worst of all, the screenplay mummifies Chris Pratt, by making his character Owen so utterly flat and humorless and generic that ten other square-jawed leading men could step in to take over the third-rate “Romancing the Stone” love-hate relationship that man’s-man Owen has with buttoned-up control queen Claire. There are a few scares and a few laughs to be unearthed in “Jurassic World,” but not nearly enough of them to reverse the downward slide this series of films has taken with each subsequent sequel. (Yes, “III” might be a little better than “The Lost World,” but they’re all disappointments.)
Keith Phipps, The Dissolve
When it keeps moving, it works wonderfully. Trevorrow shows a gift for crafting setpieces and staging action scenes never suggested by his feature debut, the slight science-fiction-themed comedy “Safety Not Guaranteed.” It’s the best imitation of Spielberg since Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla” last year (which was itself the best in a long while). It’s when the movie stops and opens its mouth that things get stupid.
Germain Lussier, Slash
There are at least two, but probably more like four, set pieces in “Jurassic World” that had me glued to my seat with excitement, tension and wonder. The best ones are the Gyrosphere scene, which you see in the trailers, and the finale, which you don’t and I won’t spoil here. With both of these scenes — as well as several with the D-Rex, the Pteranodons and Mosasaurus — the film reaches those kind of action movie moments you crave in a summer blockbuster. They’re truly great and, despite much of the rest of the movie being sub par, remained the primary focus of my thoughts after exiting the theater.
Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist
On top of being thrilling, incredibly suspenseful, scary, and even at times horrific, “Jurassic World” has strong thematic concerns including the consequences of corporate greed, the ramifications of the god complex, cautionary notes of weaponization (texture that could launch another sequel) and the cost of treating animals like assets to spike NASDAQ numbers. In fact, soullessness vs. humanity is the film’s strongest motif that colors the movie with not only an understated environmental message, but an emotional consistency as well.