Jurassic World is the Jurassic Park sequel you’ve always wanted. It gets right what the other sequels got wrong, and successfully recaptures the magic that helped make that first outing so special. Considering this is actually the third sequel in the series, that’s actually quite an accomplishment. Maybe what the series needed was a nice long rest in order to let an idea marinate, ripen and mature. Maybe the series just needed a fresh set of eyes guided by Spielberg’s vision (although that didn’t work out so well for Jurassic Park III). Whatever it was that was needed, the wait was well worth it, and I couldn’t be happier that the park is now open.
Balance is the key here. Jurassic World finds the right balance between awe, terror and humor. It makes the park feel like a place you’d want to go (well…aside from the dinosaurs running amuck, that is). There’s a perfect balance of call-backs to the original (both in images and musical themes), and just the right amount homages to the adventure that started it all while blazing some bold and interesting new territory. The characters are engaging, if a bit shallow, but again balance is the key, and we don’t ever get too much of any of them, just enough to care about them despite the fact they’re all basically archetypes. There’s also just the right balance of straight-up scares, tense moments, and quiet scenes of character and plot development. All of this blends together perfectly to make that same fun, summer pop-corn movie concoction that the first film so wonderfully captured over twenty years ago.
It’s easy to forget just how revolutionary the first Jurassic Park was when it came to the use of CG, especially now since it’s so common place. However, to its credit, Jurassic World is also willing to use other means, like practical effects, to bring its dinosaurs to life and, something that’s often not done when every detail can be shown thanks to CG, it’s also willing to let the creatures linger in the shadows; obscured and unseen. Spielberg knew exactly how to build tension by not always showing everything, or allowing something to have a slow build up to an anticipated reveal. Jurassic World isn’t quite as methodically paced, but I was glad that it followed in the footsteps of the original and didn’t just rush to show everything right away just because it could.
Most importantly this sequel actually has a story to tell. It doesn’t just retell the story of the original on a grander scale (an easy trap for any sequel to fall into *cough* Age of Ultron *cough*), but takes some of the themes and plot threads of the first film and tugs on them a bit more. We learn more about just how bad of an idea it is for man to play God (something no one apparently learned the first time around), although a bit more development of Henry Wu’s involvement in all of these would have been nice; especially since he’s the only returning character from the original. There’s some exploration of just how smart raptors really are, something the other movies often told us about but never really showed. This time, we got to see a lot more of just how smart those “clever girls” could be, and it’s scary. The issue of control also returns, and since the park is now open, it does seem like they’ve finally gained control over the power unleashed by Jurassic Park. Of course, we wouldn’t have a movie if they really did, and eventually, life does find a way…to wreak havoc. However, the way this particular part of the story is told is done quite well. Bryce Dallas Howard does a fantastic job with her character, who becomes physical embodiment of learning that we just can’t control everything, no matter how hard we try. In fact, as is pointed out, we’ll actually be happier if we can learn to accept that we just aren’t in control.
That’s a scary idea, isn’t it? Not being in control. We like control, we crave control, because it makes us feel secure and empowered. Take that control away and worry, doubt, anxiety and fear begin to creep in. But have you ever noticed just how carefree and happy a child can be when they have a loving, stable home. What control does a child really have? Not much, yet when they are surrounded by loving parents, that lack of control doesn’t cause fear or anxiety, if anything, it provides a sense of security, comfort and freedom, all of which leads to a happy, carefree childhood. That child knows that Mom and Dad are in control and looking out for them, so what is there for the child to worry about? Where does all of that go as we grow up? It disappears as we gain more and more control over our life, which leads to more to worry about, more to think about, more to do and so forth. The good news is we really aren’t in control, but we do have a loving Heavenly Father who is. God told us that he would provide for and take care of us, and he’s willing to do that simply because he loves us (Matthew 6:25-34). Far too often we want to wrest that control away from God and be in charge of our own lives; but let’s be honest, how often does that lead to true happiness. Perhaps, if we’re willing, we can experience some of that care-free happiness even as a grown-up, if we’re willing to also let ourselves be a child in the arms of a loving God who really is in control.
The original Jurassic Park was such an awe-inspiring experience that it’s been hard to match in the following movies. If anything, Jurassic Park III seemed to decide not to retry to capture any of the majesty and awe of the first and just let the dinos chase people around because, well, that’s fun, right? It was, sort of, but it wasn’t all that special. Jurassic World restores what was so special about the first film. Not just the awe, but also just how scary it can be. The movie is equal parts thrilling and tense, funny and frightening, quiet and chaotic. It brings back all the elements of the original, adds in some fun new ingredients, and blends it all into the perfect summer pop-corn flick, which is exactly what the first film was. Welcome back to Jurassic Park. This is one thrill ride you’ll want to go on again.
Score: 6 of 7 – Jurassic World doesn’t stumble under the weight of expectations, as so many hotly anticipate sequels do, but perhaps even exceeds them. It’s a thrilling return to form for the franchise, but that means there are some truly intense, scary and brutal moments. These are dinosaurs running amuck, after all, and with a fully open park packed with visitors, that means plenty of carnage. Plus, there’s some slight innuendo and language sprinkled throughout as well. So while not for younger kids, for older ones and their grown-ups, Jurassic World can be one fun and thrilling ride.