When I first saw the debut trailer for Jurassic World, my initial thoughts was “this looks terrible, nobody wants this.” Well fast forward a year and a few hundred million dollars in box office sales later, and the last part of that thought was clearly wrong. And the first? Well, Jurassic World is the second best movie in the franchise. But considering the company it keeps, that’s not exactly a compliment.
In theory, the idea of Jurassic World isn’t (that) terrible. Scientists have supposedly learned from their previous mistakes and have opened a living dinosaur them park that’s been a success for years. But giving in to focus groups and profit minded investors, they need to keep upping the ante and end up creating a new super dino that, very obviously, escapes and starts chomping down on humans. That’s what one would expect from a Jurassic Park movie, humans don’t actually learn from the past and things go horribly wrong. “Life will find a way” as Ian Malcom so eloquently put it in the first film. But there is no Dr. Malcom in Jurassic World. Hell, there’s not even a Dennis Nedry, a character so selfish and skeevy that we gleefully cheered for his demise. Jurassic World’s biggest problem is the characters, they are not real people that grow and the audience ends up getting invested in. Every character in this film provides only one purpose: dino bait, whether they end up dead or not.
The lack of compelling characters is a shame, especially when you have Chris Pratt running around as the raptor training good guy. Despite the absurditiy of him being a raptor whisperer, the script doesn’t give him much to do other than tell everyone how much of a bad idea everything is. Sadly the rest of the characters are just one note stereotpyes, from the billionaire owner who doesn’t realize his mistakes until it’s too late, to the neglectful aunt who is too busy to keep an eye on her niece and nephew until…well you can see where this is going. The kids at least provide some much needed tension, and keep this movie from falling completely into the annals of just another shitty summer movie. But the scenes with the children highlight the biggest problem with this movie about a killer dinosaur running loose; it just isn’t scary.
Colin Trevorrow is no Steven Spielberg. One thing that Spielberg was a master at, was adding tension to his big summer blockbusters. Jaws, War of the Worlds, the original Jurassic Park. The list goes on. Spielberg understood enough about pacing and scene composition where you got some truly frightening scenes playing out in his films. He was a master of showing the audience just enough, letting their imagination fill in the blanks. What I’m saying is, the blueprint is there, just follow it. But Jurassic World doesn’t really have any of this. Yes, there are a few cool set pieces, but do the dinosaurs ever actually frighten you? Are there any moments where you are white knuckling your seat, terrified of what might be around the corner? Not in Trevorrow’s vision of Jurassic Park. And a park filled with killer dinosaurs without scares isn’t one worth visiting.