Millions of people, myself included, responded and continue to respond to Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film Jurassic Park, a technologically innovative and tremendously entertaining adaptation of Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel. However, the passage of over twenty years has seen the release of several sequels, and they have revealed within the original a fundamental narrative flaw, namely a lack of groundwork for the sequels to have been built upon. The first film inspired not only wonder and awe but also fear and excitement with nothing more than the premise of dinosaurs being brought back from extinction; because such a premise cannot possibly be repeated in sequels, the only option is for each successive chapter to be bigger, louder, visually more assaulting, and most importantly, increasingly lacking in character development, theme, and plausibility.
Watching Jurassic World, the first Jurassic Park sequel in fourteen years, I found that sense of decreasing narrative quality overwhelming. While a tremendous visual achievement – the special effects have obviously improved significantly since the original film, which is made abundantly clear through the bright, clear, immersive IMAX 3D process – the plot is so hackneyed, preposterous, and scientifically careless that it might has well have been made sixty years ago as either an Atomic Age creature feature or a low-grade Japanese monster movie. The characters are developed on nothing apart from overused conventions and sweeping generalizations, and its thematic subtexts of corporate greed and playing God are not only unoriginal but also all but crushed under the weight of its many spectacles.
It’s also surprisingly riddled with plot holes and gaps in logic. Let’s begin with the fact that it establishes Jurassic World, located on the exact same Costa Rican island seen in all the previous films, as an already thriving theme park destination, complete with hotels, restaurants, and attractions such as petting zoos, a Shamu-esque water show, trams, and glass spheres that roll guests through dinosaur-laden pastures. One cannot be expected to believe that any investor would have at any point in the last fourteen years taken this project on, not even as a favor to the man who conceived of the project, the late John Hammond (played in the first two films by the equally late Richard Attenborough); surely anyone with that kind of money would have been aware that the initial attempts at creating a dino-themed vacation destination resulted in numerous deaths and lots of destruction, and therefore would have understood that some financial risks are simply not worth taking.
But the park was indeed invested in. Here enters the new owner – an Indian amateur helicopter pilot named Masrani (Irrfan Khan). Understanding that all theme parks, including dinosaur preserves, need new attractions every couple of years, he has mandated that the behind-the-scenes genetic scientists, led by the now mad and unscrupulous Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong), engineer a hybrid dinosaur that will thrill guests like never before. The result: The ridiculously named Indominus Rex, which is part T-Rex and part classified other species. It is, of course, a remarkably intelligent animal, and it will naturally break free from its specially constructed compound, wreaking havoc all over Jurassic World, including the non-predatory sport killing of harmless stegosauruses. And, as you probably have guessed, it will factor prominently in a climactic battle to the death, one reminiscent of the Godzilla film of your choice.
Other characters work their way into the story. There’s Jurassic World’s workaholic operations manager, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who possesses the super ability to run like a marathon sprinter in designer heels. There’s Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a former Navy officer who has since become a trainer of sorts with a pack of Velociraptors – a dinosaur whisperer, if you will. How being in the Navy in any way qualified him to train Velociraptors, or any species of animal, is something the film doesn’t bother to explain. There’s an evil head of security (Vincent D’Onofrio), who – and no, I’m not making this up – sets his sights on using the Raptors as military weapons. And then there are Claire’s nephews, the young Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins) and his teenage brother, Zach (Nick Robinson), who will of course get lost in the jungle when things start to go wrong, therefore securing their once shaky bond as brothers.
The number of questions that mounted in my head as the film played out was staggering. I’ll list only a few. Why would the filmmakers devote just one scene to Gray crying over the impending divorce of his parents when (1) he spends the rest of the film being a plucky, energetic science nerd, and (2) the divorce is not so much as mentioned at the start of the film and is never again brought up? If, as Claire claims, each dinosaur on the island is implanted with a disabling mechanism in case of an emergency, why does no one think to actually push a button and disable them when things go wrong? How is it that, after Gray and Zach locate one of the original jeep vehicles from 1993, they’re able to restart the dead battery and drive away without an apparent source of gas? Why establish that Claire and Owen went on one date when it not only never affects their current relationship but is also irrelevant to the entire story? If there’s anything Jurassic World achieves, it’s proving that not every story lends itself to a continuation.