The hype surrounding Jurassic World was strong–to the surprise of nobody ever. I mean, dinosaurs, guns, nostalgia, and Chris Pratt as a dreamy and rugged raptor tamer? That sets itself up for success. And yet, I’m kind of disappointed.
Is it okay? Yes. Is it mind-blowing? Ehh. Could a surprise cameo from Jeff Goldblum turn the whole thing around? I guess the world will never know.
You know what else Jurassic World is? It is a spectacular waste of Katie McGrath (TV’s Merlin and Dracula). I quite honestly have no idea what could have been going through the filmmakers’ heads when they cast someone as stunning, interesting and talented as McGrath and had her show up to 1) Talk on her cell phone, and 2) Become a flying dino fruit snack.
In a similar vein, Jurassic World is a waste of Chris Pratt. Don’t get me wrong–he’s great in this. But the way his character, Owen, is written, he could have been played by any hunky action hero with a minor in winning snark. There’s this really endearing quality to Chris Pratt, as in whenever he is doing something super cool, he is thinking “Look how super cool this is!” But there’s so much enthusiastic wonder there in him that he doesn’t feel unforgivably braggy or smug. It’s what made him so great in Guardians of the Galaxy and it should have been kismet in an entry in the Jurassic Park franchise. Instead, we get a standard Daring Hero, which is fine, but a letdown.
Jurassic World is also definitely, relentlessly sexist. You know that scene in Evil Dead: The Musical where Annie, the sexy researcher, gets her jacket caught on a hook and it tears her entire outfit off down to her skivvies? That is how Bryce Dallas Howard’s character appears throughout the film, except it’s not done in the name of musical parody. Howard’s Claire is cool, poised and intimidating until the first sign of dinosaur shenanigans, and then she collapses at the seams–her hemline frayed, her lip quivering, her chest heaving. Her stilettos remain intact, pristine and truly sympathetic-looking every time she’s forced to race across an atrium in them.
It’s kind of strange that strong female characters aren’t a priority in Jurassic World, considering how unapologetically self-aware it is. (Hey, remember Dr. Ellie Sattler totally shutting down “sexism in survival situations” in Jurassic Park?) This referential tone is definitely charming from the little digs at the pressures of rebooting a beloved franchise, to Jake Johnson’s character proudly sporting a vintage Jurassic Park T-shirt. And when this movie’s kids (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) discover the old school Jeep straight out of 1993 and fixed one up, it’s one of the “Fuck yeah!” highlights of the movie. But if a piece of media is going to be this self-aware, it needs a payout that pushes expectations past their limit, and Jurassic World doesn’t deliver that.
When the cloneasaurus (a.k.a. the new dino of Claire’s creating called “Indominus Rex”!) creeps up behind the kids in a homage to the scene from Jurassic Park, I recognize it, but all it makes me want to do is go watch Jurassic Park. In scenes such as that one, Jurassic World leans so heavily on the universal adoration of its predecessor without actually bringing anything innovative to the table and, ultimately, that is what makes it such an underwhelming film. When talking about this hybrid dino, a scientist says, “The people want to be thrilled,” and the fact is, we, the people, do want that. It’s too bad Jurassic World doesn’t quite get us there.
Sure, the dinos look great, but I was craving more. More wit, more wonder, more emotional resonance. I walked into Jurassic World ready to surge with enthusiasm. I walked out wishing I had just stayed in and watched the original.