The World has Changed, by Travis Fishburn

17 Jun


Over the weekend Jurassic World made broke the record for the biggest domestic opening of all time. This came as quite a surprise, considering the record was expected to go to The Avengers: Age of Ultron last month, breaking the record set by the first Avengers in 2012.

Jurassic Park was a phenomenon in the summer of 1993 with adults and kids alike, but I think that even Universal was unaware of quite how important the first film was to a generation of kids that grew up in the 90s. I’ve always held a belief that Jurassic Park was to those kids what Star Wars was to the generation that grew up in the 70s. Both films revolutionized visual effects and captured the imaginations of millions of people around the planet. And they both happen to hold the top spots for my favorite films of all time.

As much as I love Star Wars, I wasn’t alive when it came out, so the event and phenomenon surrounding that film never fully hit me until the entire thing came back around for release of the prequels. I do, however, remember Jurassic Park. I remember the talk surrounding it and the effect it had on the people who had seen it. I was desperately trying to get details about the film from friends; I got one cousin to explain to me how the dinosaurs were brought back (of course I didn’t really understand it, he kept talking about frogs). One of my aunts found the movie so horrifically tense she said that it felt like her fingernails were in the ceiling. I have absolutely no idea what that means, but it made quite the impact on me because I still remember it to this day when I think about Jurassic Park’s effect on audiences.

I’m not the only one with memories like this, and Universal Studios inadvertently cashed in on the nostalgia of millions of Americans like me, who are now adults with kids of their own with whom they want to share the experience.  But does the experience live up to everything we wanted it to be?

In short, no, but how could it? I went in with tempered expectations for this because I’m not the same person I was at 7 years old, and the world is a different place. We’ve seen plenty of lifelike computer generated dinosaurs and creatures since 1993. Blockbuster films are edited to a different cadence now, and the visual language of films has evolved. With all that said, I really did enjoy the film and had a great time with it.

The film focuses on two boys, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), who vacation to the park to visit with their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard).  Claire is the park’s operations manager, and while she focuses on getting investors to sponsor her newest attraction, we get to experience this fully functional park park filled with dinosaurs through the eyes of the boys.

I’m a theme park addict, and I tend to visit Disney and Universal parks every opportunity that I get, and I found it extremely enjoyable to see all of the intricacies and details that were put into creating the attractions of Jurassic World. There is a rather ingenious device called a gyrosphere, which allows guests to roam with the herbivores and get as intimate as possible with them within the safety of a near indestructible bubble. Then there are shops and restaurants galore, and I’ve heard quite a bit of criticism from people saying that the film is using an extreme amount of product placement. It could be seen that way, but when I saw all of the shops and the sponsors for buildings, it added a certain level of authenticity. If you’ve ever been to Universal Citywalk or Downtown Disney, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Every globally recognized brand would welcome the opportunity to have a spot in one of the busiest tourist attractions in the world. When it comes to Samsung sponsoring the central compound and hot spot in the center of the island, it just reminded me of how Siemens is the sponsor for Spaceship Earth at Disney’s Epcot park.

We’ve seen giant CGI dinosaurs before, and like the park itself, the film feels the need to address this issue by giving us something we’ve never seen. Its answer is the Indominus Rex, an incredibly smart and adaptive hybrid of created from numerous dinosaurs and predators. The Indominus manages to outsmart its way into escaping, and the rest of the film is predicated on stopping it before it makes its way to the crowd of people clustered in the center of the island.

Chris Pratt plays Owen Grady, a former Navy veteran who is employed by the park to study and train raptors. Why the park has hired him to do this is anyone’s guess, but it’s incredibly entertaining to watch Pratt interact with the raptors with whom he’s established a special bond. Grady is tasked with inspecting the Indominus’s cage when the inevitable goes down, and teams up with Claire to rescue her nephews and eventually bring the beast down.

While the plot has its holes and isn’t as fresh as the first film, it offers plenty for someone who has been yearning to return to the world of Isla Nublar and experience the thrills associated with it.

While the visual effects and hair-raising sequences of Jurassic Park are fantastic, one of the best things that the film had to offer was its ensemble of characters. Jurassic World tries to give us what it thinks we want, but the characters are never as fully realized or half as interesting. Owen is the stand out character of the film, and seems to be an amalgamation of Alan Grant, Robert Muldoon, and Ian Malcolm from the original film. Claire is a bit of John Hammond and Gennaro, with Grant’s hesitation and social inaptitude with children. Gray is quite a lot like Tim Murphy, and there’s even a lovable Dennis Nedry stand-in. Vincent D’Onofrio plays the foil to Owen. D’Onofrio portrays the character brilliantly, but unfortunately his motivations never make sense and sound outrageous. While Claire and Owen have a few great interactions, none of the characters seem to play off of each other as well as the original cast did, which is probably the most disappointing aspect of the film.

I may have some issues with many particular aspects of Jurassic World, but all throughout the film I couldn’t help but smile. Along with millions of other viewers over the weekend, I was brought back to an island where I was first introduced to so many wonders of cinema and the power of imagination.

One Response to “The World has Changed, by Travis Fishburn”

  1. Gene June 19, 2015 at 4:06 am #

    Great points Travis on how Pratt and Howard encompassed a lot of traits from actors in Jurassic Park. I came away with the same general issues with the characters as you did. The acting in general was fine but the characters never gelled together completely. I did like the brothers in this better than the brother-sister in JP. Pratt stands out of course but all other characters fall short by comparison to JP. The movie as a whole however is a LOT of fun. The scene that sticks with me is when Indominous is reaching with his claws for the boys and manages to get ahold of Gray’s fanny pack. I felt frozen in that moment! Nice review, Travis.

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