Jurassic Park (JP) in 1993 represents something of a seminal moment in modern movie making history. The first full realization of fully CGI created creatures molded into a Spielbergian popcorn thriller, which delighted audiences young and old.
A film perhaps credited with inspiring many young film-makers and re-igniting audience interest in big screen cinema. Certainly for this reviewer viewing the film in Universal studios on a first trip to the US, with all the Jeeps and props outside to view was a movie goer’s dream at the time.
Two sequels followed that frittered away much of the goodwill the first film had generated. Like all huge franchises a re-boot was only an accountants call away.
Is this a recast cash-in, devoid of artistic merit and care or a retooled film for a modern audience with well judged actors, echoes of the previous film, updated special effects and carefully calibrated scares?
If you only read this far, the latter is true.
No film can realistically recapture the magic from before but by combining what previously worked, with even better effects and a very similar tone as before, director Colin Trevorrow has achieved almost the impossible. A film that will please previous fans but also embraces a new audience.
Isla Nublar is now up and running following John Hammond’s original vision, a fully working theme park based around numerous species of dinosaurs. In a neat almost disturbing touch, the whole park feels like it really could exist. The rides and terminology all feel correct, you can almost see the VIP tours (help feed the dinosaurs) for just $99 extra.
In a nod to the realistic modern business model (more profit is good), dinosaurs are no longer enough. Even a Sea World inspired giant sea monster that eats great whites like sardines, only just about stifles a yawn or glance away from a teenagers mobile phone. Audiences want bigger, scarier and newer “assets” to help drive the bottom line and address the cost/income balance sheet ratio.
Tasked with this endeavour is business attired “Claire” (Bryce Dallas Howard), hard nosed and saddled with the additional responsibility of looking after her young nephews.
The children are sent off into the park on board a futuristic gyroscope globe that rolls through the exhibits, Claire is too busy to accompany them, unbeknownst to stressed Mom and Pop back home.
Meanwhile rough and ready animal trainer/park ranger “Owen” (Chris Platt), together with colleague “Barry” (Sy) is attempting to prove that yes, raptors can be trained and domesticated, to a point, a very sharp tooth-like point.
Of course things do not go well in the park for long. The new genetically engineered asset “Indominus Rex” which initially makes T-Rex look like “Rex” from “Toy Story”, get’s out and about. The usual peril situations are then presented, exaggerated by thousands of visitors remaining trapped within the park. This leads to intense scenes with the young nephews in severe danger and a final impressive stand-off.
The threat level is very similar to the original film, just enough to be scary for young kids but nothing older kids will worry too much about. JP was never about outright terror, and this film manages that mix of excitement, thrill and wonder, never deviating from a set tone, which is quite an achievement.
The scientist from the original film returns (BD Wong), finally with some more lines and Vincent D’Onofrio chews the acting furniture as the token bad egg. Overall supply of funding, blame apportionment and casual disregard for human life, is represented by slippery billionaire and would be chopper pilot (Irrfan Khan).
Platt fits his role like a glove, capable, humorous, self deprecating and seemingly almost already in audition for “Indiana Jones”, when and if that ever returns. Whether he will be able to fit in three running franchises is a problem many actors would trade their agents for.
Howard adds chutzpah to her tight ass role, especially amusing is the scene where she prepares for the jungle, beautifully pitched and executed timing with Platt. The nephews (Simpkins and Robinson) are adequate in the roles, arguably imbued with less character depth or personality than the original.
Of course the spectacle is what people come to see and the dinosaurs do not disappoint, the CGI is as photo real as it gets, augmented with some great puppet and animatronic work.
One could argue the film is a retread of the original, using much of the bombastic John Williams score, bone shattering footfalls and dinosaur roars. Including an opening scene, providing a good visual in joke which sets the tone well.
However, if we must rehash old films instead of coming up with new ideas, provided films are made with such obvious care and enjoyment, it would be churlish indeed to take the high road. With over $500m worldwide after less than two weeks, if you do stay away, you may find yourself in an ever decreasing minority.
Watch out for another star of the show, it is unlikely you will see more Mercedes Benz cars and trucks in one place for some time, clearly carrying on their promotional attachment from earlier films.
With big budget films largely dictated by accounting departments looking for built in audiences and the nostalgia factor, expect more films to come in the series. Platt is reportedly on board for two more outings.
If you liked the original, this is a colossal return to form for the series, prepare to be transported back twenty years and sit in wonder again.
For those too young to remember the original, just watch this and then Jurassic Park or preferably the earlier film first, you then have everything JP related you really need.
Excellent popcorn entertainment