Twenty years ago, there was a mishap at the Jurassic Park holiday destination where the exhibits ran riot before it was even properly open to the public. Those exhibits were a certain type of animal, specifically dinosaurs genetically created in the lab to walk the Earth once again after sixty-five million years, or at least walk the island they were born on, but now they have been managed and have become a very respectable theme park where tourists can witness various fearsome beasts put on a show for them, or get up close to the more docile herbivores – heck, you can even ride them should you so desire. But maybe the whole dinosaur theme park idea has grown passé, and something more exciting is in order…
In the years between the first trilogy of Jurassic Park movies being made and a new cycle starting up, quite a few things had changed – the World Trade Center was still standing when the third instalment was released, for example – but as far as entertainment went, the tyranny of the awesome was in full effect. That was, the drive to make each blockbuster movie more spectacular than the last, and so doing make the audience gape as in a populist Steven Spielberg work with the desired exclamation “Awesome!” This was not lost on the makers of the long-gestating fourth entry, to the extent that it formed the impetus behind the plot, therefore just as Baccara’s disco classic Yes Sir, I Can Boogie was more or less a song about singing the song itself, Jurassic World was a film about the trials of putting together Jurassic World.
One other significant thing in the movie sphere had happened in that interim, which was the release of the pro-animal rights documentary Blackfish, telling the story of how the whales and dolphins in Sea World aquatic theme parks were actually being forced into very unnatural behaviour for the entertainment of the public, to the extent that the owners could have been charged with animal cruelty and putting people’s lives at risk. The outrage that followed apparently fed into the writing of Jurassic World, which let’s not forget was co-penned (with director Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly) by the husband and wife team who created the most pro-animal rights blockbuster of then-recent times, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, so you could perceive a definite sympathy with the beasts who are left behind bars (or in tanks) for the diversion of tourists.
The big idea was that this sequel was the equivalent of the genetically engineered dinosaur that becomes such a menace when it escapes, a creature designed to provoke the awesome factor in viewers without asking at what cost this endless desire for the incredible could arrive at. Naturally, there was a heavy degree of the movie having its cake and eating it too, so the huge computer effects budget went on recreating the dinos we had seen before as well as a few we hadn’t, all the while emphasising how amazing this was to be witnessing (never mind that Stan Winston’s effects in the first instalment remained the benchmark of convincing dinosaurs on film that this did not quite match). Starting with a generous nod to Willis O’Brien’s pioneering stop motion endeavours, there was also something else this had on its mind.
Which was the influence this was having on children, as we were introduced to two brothers (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) who visit the island to see their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), an administrator there who has no time for her sister’s kids, and is content to have a staff member babysit them around the park while she gets on with the business of making money. So already we see the runners of the establishment have the wrong interests at heart – baddie Vincent D'Onofrio wishes to use the lizards for military purposes – which introduces the hero, velociraptor whisperer Owen, played by man of the moment Chris Pratt. He is down with the beasts and understands they must be looked after with care, and are not necessarily meant to be attractions, never mind playthings for children (perhaps a nod to the reaction Jurassic Park had that it was too scary for the younglings). Fair enough, there then followed all the setpieces of dino action you’d expect, nicely arranged if unsurprising, but there was room for contemplating, say, that parenthood wasn’t the worst thing to aspire to, that being blind to consequences isn’t good, and rampant commercialism can be detrimental, though it might not physically eat you. Music by Michael Giacchino.