“What do you want?” Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the uptight operations manager of Jurassic World, asks a group of potential investors from a telecommunications conglomerate. “We want to be thrilled,” replies one of the investors. “Don’t we all?” responds Claire. Of course, we do!
And thrill Jurassic World does. Director Colin Trevorrow’s clever, confident and entertaining film is nothing if not thrilling. The film set new box office records in its opening weekend all over the world. Expected to make $125 million on its opening weekend in North America, Jurassic World topped the estimate by raking in a phenomenal $209 million.
The success of the film is not surprising. Jurassic World appeals to a range of audiences: kids and teenagers looking for unadulterated entertainment and elders wanting to evoke the nostalgia of the original 1993 Jurassic Park.
Jurassic World features a very likable cast with the affable Chris Pratt holding his own as the film’s hero with authority, gusto and charm. The film, however, belongs to Howard who plays a career-obsessed woman with no room for a husband and children in her life. The initially uppity manager undergoes a transformation during the course of the movie, developing feelings for the dinosaurs owned by the park, her troubled nephews and dinosaur researcher Owen Grady (Pratt) and serious misgivings about the genetic engineering of dinosaurs, while taking part in a lot of action, all in high heels. The conversion of the business-minded careerist to a motherly person is a tad sexist — it has drawn a lot of mostly unfair criticism on that front — but Howard’s capable handling of the role makes Claire likable, reasonable and real. She handles the change less like a transformation and more as personal growth that does not require sacrificing her innate strength and independence. The accusations of sexism notwithstanding, Jurassic World passes the Bechdel test by making sure that all of its dinosaurs are female and that Claire talks to her assistant about matters other than love.
Jurassic World opens with the theme park running successfully in Costa Rica. The once-extinct dinosaurs are found in abundance in the park which draws 20,000 visitors each day. This is not good enough for Claire and the park’s eccentric owner Simon (Irrfan Khan) who feel that the dinosaurs have become too tame over the years. In order to insure the park against visitor ennui, and to increase the park’s wow factor and profits, they oversee the creation of a genetically spliced mega-dinosaur named Indominus Rex. The new dinosaur turns out to be more aggressive, terrifying and intelligent than anticipated and soon escapes its paddock, turning the park into a killing zone.
Owen, who has a way with dinosaurs, is brought in to control the monster. Meanwhile, Claire’s nephews, who are visiting the park, sneak into restricted areas and are soon in the clutches of danger. Claire, predictably, starts searching for them with the help of Owen.
A genuinely well-made film, Jurassic World is a befitting sequel to the original film and decidedly better than the first two lackluster sequels. However, it lacks the insight, originality and charm of the original. Several important themes — the effect of divorce on young boys; the military use of the genetically modified animals; the mutual exclusivity of being a good mother and a successful business woman; the marketing of dinosaurs to today’s consumers; the arrogance of man when dealing with other living beings and a few others — are touched upon, but never explored fully. While this is frustrating, it does not take enough away from the film to make it less than the spectacularly entertaining film it truly is.
The film’s strength — in addition to the likable cast, excellent sound and the verisimilitude of dinosaurs — is a few magnificent action sequences. Trevorrow’s film-making is logical, clear and coherent. He is more interested in shock and awe than in fear and terror. There is a lot of spectacle but little blood and gore on the screen. A lot is left to the viewer’s imagination.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, June 28th, 2015.