‘Jurassic World’ review: Still entertaining, though not comparable to the first

Chris Pratt as Owen Grady in Jurassic World | Jurassic World review
Chris Pratt owns the (Jurassic) world

Many people went to watch Jurassic World last weekend; and by many, I mean the whole world. It had the biggest global opening weekend ever at US$511.8 million — though I’m pretty sure the Avengers would have come out tops if Disney hadn’t staggered the global rollout of The Avengers and Age of Ultron, whereas Universal Pictures released Jurassic World in all territories at once except Japan.

But even in the US, Jurassic World had an opening weekend for the history books, beating The Avengers’ previously no. 1 US$207.4 million domestic debut with an out-of-the-left-field US$208.8 million; and showing no signs of stopping the record breaking streak. (Universal actually underestimated its earnings and pegged it at US$204.8 million behind The Avengers, but the actual numbers came in past their already overwhelmed expectations.) If it keeps up its box office reign, it could break The Avengers’ US$1.5 billion total to become the third-highest grossing picture of all time (though that too will likely be supplanted by Star Wars: The Force Awakens when it comes out in December).

Indominus Rex in Jurassic World | Jurassic World review
Indominus Rex dominates the world

I was pleasantly surprised, and then amazed when box office analysts kept revising the opening weekend estimates up and up through the weekend, until it wound up in the US$181-$200 million range, and then surpassed even that. As late as the day before the movie’s release in the US, they were estimating the movie to open at US$125 million. Nobody expected the film to beat Age of Ultron, much less The Avengers’ opening weekend records. (Then again, nobody expected The Avengers to do so phenomenally well either back then, so let’s just chalk these things up to “Things Hollywood Didn’t Expect”, of which a million others will make the list.)

"When Dinosaurs Ruled the World" | Jurassic World review
“When Dinosaurs Ruled the World”

On one hand, as a person who is fond of Jurassic Park, I should be ecstatic. (In fact, if Jurassic World was one of my films, I would probably be jumping for joy.) On the other hand, as a completely biased Avengers fan who feels the urge to take sides, even when there’s no need to, I confess that I didn’t want it to do better than The Avengers. I wished even that it didn’t do better than Age of Ultron. The only thing that is mitigating my conflicting feelings is that I actually like Chris Pratt, and he’s Star-Lord. Then again, even Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has congratulated Jurassic World for overtaking The Avengers, so there is no reason for me to hold an irrational grudge. But as entertaining as Jurassic World was, I think The Avengers was the better movie, so it irks me.

But now that it’s steamrolling its way through the box office, I have to applaud them, because this level of success should have been impossible. At least it wasn’t Transformers or Man of Steel, because if *those* outperformed The Avengers, I would have given up on audiences today in despair.

After all, I understand why Jurassic World did so well. Not because dinosaurs are the original superheroes, or whatever box office analysts say, so here’s hoping studio executives don’t suddenly rush to develop movies about dinosaurs (remember: The Lost World and Jurassic Park III didn’t do as well as Jurassic Park, even though they had dinosaurs too AND they were sequels to a masterpiece). Jurassic Park was the highest-grossing picture of 1993 and has one of the biggest box office records of all time. After adjusting for inflation, it beats films like The Avengers and The Dark Knight. And not everybody likes superhero movies — a fact I found out to my greatest surprise a few years ago — but almost everyone has watched Jurassic Park at some point, whether in cinemas or on one of its countless replays on TV, and loved it. From the trailers, Jurassic World looked like it went back to the roots of what made Jurassic Park great, and that’s why it succeeded — it may not have been as good as the original, but it tried really hard to hold true to its spirit, and it was entertaining in its own right. As a result, even people who rarely watch movies came out of the woodwork to watch Jurassic World.

Chris Pratt and director Colin Trevorrow behind the scenes of Jurassic World | Jurassic World review
Chris Pratt and director Colin Trevorrow behind the scenes of Jurassic World

Director Colin Trevorrow, who is a relative newcomer with only one indie film under his credits, is obviously a huge fan of the original — the film is littered with homages. The goat and the flare. The boys finding the old theme park visitor centre, which had been left to rot. (I thought they demolished the place to make way for the new one, but apparently Isla Nublar is huge enough for them to just abandon a failed theme park and build another one somewhere else.) Stepping on the “When Dinosaurs Ruled the World” banner that fell. The security guard being eaten up the same way as the lawyer on the toilet bowl in the first movie. I’m pretty sure I saw the sign that Dennis Nedry, the disgruntled employee who wanted to steal dino embryos and started that whole mess, knocked over, thereby getting lost on his way to the dock and eaten by the Dilophosaurus. Claire waving the flare to attract the attention of the T-Rex from the first movie to fight the Indominus Rex. (A highly questionable move, but I’ll save that for later.) The last shot of the T-Rex standing on the roof of the control centre, overlooking the park, mirroring Jurassic Park’s last shot in spirit (“When Dinosaurs Ruled The World”), though obviously the first one was better. But you could tell the film really tried to be as good as the original, so even though it doesn’t succeed totally, the end result is a film that is pretty fun on its own.

Jurassic Park ending shot

A lot of the credit has to go to Chris Pratt, whose charismatic, commanding and sexy raptor trainer Owen Grady held the film together. He may not have been the reason why people went to watch the movie, but he is definitely a reason why the film did so much better than expected. Like Claire and the boys, audiences gravitated towards his protagonist, because he’s just someone that you look at and you can implicitly trust to bring you through a crisis of rampaging dinos. I would definitely not have enjoyed the film as much if, say, Ryan Reynolds was the lead. Seriously, Anna Faris must be really proud that she picked up a hidden gem when she married him way back when he wasn’t on Hollywood’s radar and played fat guys/jerks. When they announced his casting in 2013, I was very iffy about it, since I don’t watch Parks and Recreation, and I’ve only seen him in fat guy/jerk roles. Now she gets to enjoy having a husband who is currently one of the hottest actors in Hollywood.

Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire), Chris Pratt (Owen Grady), Nick Robinson (Zach) and Ty Simpkins (Gray) in Jurassic World | Jurassic World review
Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire), Chris Pratt (Owen Grady), Nick Robinson (Zach) and Ty Simpkins (Gray) in Jurassic World

The boys were very good too, in that they were likeable. Usually, I find the kids in these sorts of movies very annoying, because all they seem to do is get in trouble and force adults to have to rescue them, but Ty Simpkins, who played the younger boy Gray, was great. He kept spouting off dinosaur facts, but instead of coming off as a smart-aleck, he just sounded like a boy really passionate about dinosaurs, with an older brother he looks up to and wishes wasn’t mean to him. Nick Robinson as Zach had the potential to be annoying too, what with his constant mooning after girls, and persuading his brother to stay on the gyrosphere ride and go into forbidden places, despite being told the ride was closed, hence causing them to be in danger in the first place. But you could tell he was just trying to cheer his younger brother up, because he saw that Gray was disappointed, so it helped me not to be infuriated with his stupid move. We knew that the Indominus Rex was on a rampage in the park, but how was he to know that?

Ty Simpkins (Gray) and Nick Robinson (Zach) in Jurassic World | Jurassic World review
Ty Simpkins (Gray) and Nick Robinson (Zach) in Jurassic World

I felt that the role of Claire was a little sexist though, as she was portrayed as a corporate stiff who needs the influence of a man to loosen her up. She could have been replaced by a robot in the first half of the movie and it would have barely made a difference. The problem is that she seemed too uptight to be a real person, much less the director in charge of a theme park of wild animals, insisting on being in control even when things were spiraling out of it; and it was compounded by the fact that she’s in heels the entire movie, even when running through the jungle or getting chased by a T-Rex (though I must give Bryce Dallas Howard kudos for filming all those scenes in heels). Still, it was funny when Owen accused her of being dressed impractically for the jungle, and she starts unbuttoning her shirt and rolling up her sleeves prissily, and then he gives her a blank look and asks what that was supposed to mean. Yep, what *is* that supposed to mean?

Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire) and Chris Pratt (Owen Grady) in Jurassic World | Jurassic World review
Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire) and Chris Pratt (Owen Grady) in Jurassic World

The final dinosaur showdown was a little unbelievable too. I can accept that Owen reestablished his bond with the velociraptors in time to enlist their help to fight the Indominus Rex, though that moment felt cheesy. I can even accept that Claire managed to lure the T-Rex into the battle with the flare, because it looked really cool and it was a throwback to Dr. Ian Malcolm and the T-Rex in the first movie, though she really shouldn’t have been able to outrun it. But it was the moment when all hope seems lost, and the Indominus Rex was about to finish off the T-Rex, when Blue SUDDENLY appears and SPRINTS towards the Indominus Rex — it looked so stupid. It really did. I was enjoying the movie up until then, which took me out of the scene with its “what-the-f**kery”.

Jurassic World

Also, the movie failed to explain several parts, most important of all being: Why on *earth* did they open Jurassic World after Jurassic Park failed? I was waiting for the explanation, because the whole movie was predicated on it, of which it wouldn’t have made sense otherwise. Why would people visit a park with live dinosaurs when years ago, the dinosaurs broke out and killed a bunch of people?? And that first park wasn’t even open to public yet! And of all dinosaurs, why did park management decide to train the velociraptors, which were the most dangerous and cunning of all the dinos in the first and even third movie? But nope, they decided that these were things that didn’t need to be explained.

"Prattkeeping" the velociraptors
“Prattkeeping” the velociraptors

Other less pressing but no less puzzling questions: What happened to all the pterodactyls which were set loose and had been attacking people? After Claire saves Owen from the pterodactyl and they reunite with the boys, the pterodactyls stop being the focus and then just… disappeared. And what was Hoskins’ and Dr Wu’s grand plan? I really don’t get how having dinosaurs attacking people helped them. Where did all the theme park visitors go during the Indominus Rex showdown? They couldn’t have gotten off the island yet, because Hoskins said the cruise ships were coming at first light. And how did the Indominus Rex manage to scratch the walls so high, which helped fool the guards into thinking that it had escaped? Even the most inattentive person can surely notice a gigantic dinosaur scratching the wall, when the wall is just beside the observation room. And why couldn’t Claire have called the control room from the Indominus Rex enclosure and ask them to track it, rather than jump into her car and call them in the midst of driving there???

Chris Pratt (Owen Grady) in Jurassic World | Jurassic World review
Chris Pratt (Owen Grady) in Jurassic World

Also, Masrani says that the Indominus Rex is white, but at no point in the movie did she appear white, not even the part where he said she was white. The only white Indominus Rex I’ve seen is on the box of one of the Lego sets.

Indominus Rex Lego

There is room for more sequels, but I’m ambivalent about another one, especially with how unsatisfactory the ending felt. Also, I cannot imagine how any organisation or government could think that breeding dinosaurs is a good idea after this disaster, even for military usage. Hoskins said something about reducing casualties and places where drones couldn’t reach, but using dinosaurs to fight in a war is like using lions and tigers to fight in a war. There’s a reason why nobody has done it so far. Or if they did, they have certainly stopped doing it.

The sequel could very well turn out to be a Lost World or Jurassic Park III — which is more than likely, since Jurassic Park was a masterpiece, and yet two lousy sequels came out of it. Jurassic World is already not on the level of Jurassic Park — any sequels to Jurassic World has the potential to be much worse, if we go by the pattern of good-bad-worst. Especially since they didn’t answer any of the questions raised above. You can kind of understand the reasons for the first movie — why Hammond, creator of Jurassic Park, thought it could work and didn’t foresee its downfall — but after so many movies’ worth of lessons on messing with dinos, surely someone *must* have gotten a clue.

Also the movie that cemented Sam Neill's place in the cinematic pantheon as "hey, it's that guy from Jurassic Park!"
“Hey, it’s that guy from Jurassic Park!”

On a side note, another reason why I don’t trust IMDb’s rating system anymore because of the teeny, overenthusiastic boppers who skew IMDb’s rating systems by rating every movie they like a “10”? Jurassic Park is #212 on the IMDb Top 250 list, while movies like Interstellar, Sin City, and How to Train Your Dragon are ranked much higher above it. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. Look me in the eye and tell me that How to Train Your Dragon is a better film than Jurassic Park.

Fun fact: Both Vincent D’Onofrio and Ty Simpkins have worked with Robert Downey Jr. before — the former as RDJ’s brother in The Judge, the latter as the boy who helps RDJ in Iron Man 3. Chris Pratt will probably join the list once Avengers: Infinity War rolls around, since that will probably be an intergalactic fight that involves the Guardians of the Galaxy. And all of them are in the Marvel Universe, as Vincent D’Onofrio is also Kingpin in the Daredevil TV series. Soon, it’ll be hard for any movie to *not* have an actor that has appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, since it has expanded out of control.

Chris Pratt (Owen Grady), Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire), Omar Sy (Barry) and Vincent D'Onofrio (Hoskins) in Jurassic World | Jurassic World review
Chris Pratt (Owen Grady), Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire), Omar Sy (Barry) and Vincent D’Onofrio (Hoskins) in Jurassic World

Universal Pictures is having a REALLY good year. What with the outsized earnings of Fifty Shades of Grey, Furious 7, Jurassic World, Minions and the upcoming Ted 2, this will be the most profitable year in their history.