Never in 65 million years did I think I’d be glad to see a T-Rex break free from its enclosure – and I’m kind of hoping that the T-Rex in question is the same T-Rex featured in the 1993 original Jurassic Park. But there I was, seated in aisle F seat No. 11, filled with a warm dino-glow and half a bag of munchies, whilst inwardly cheering on good old T-Rex as she (the original Jurassic Park dinosaurs were all female remember) made a one-off, end of movie appearance, to help fight off a genetically designed imposter – Indominus Rex- before that Mosasaur from the Jurassic World trailer (see previous JW post) suddenly leapt from its gigantic pool and finished off I-Rex. How fitting though to come full circle and give T-Rex a cameo, starring role in this latest sequel, only this time around she’s our dino super hero.
Our journey to Jurassic World begins with two brothers, Zach and Gray Mitchell, embarking on the holiday of a lifetime whilst their parents fight out a messy divorce. Zach is a stroppy high schooler with an eye for every girl on the planet and Gray is his dinosaur-mad younger brother. Zach isn’t up for the quality sibling time forced upon them by their mother, finding Gray (Ty Simpkins, that cute kid from Iron Man 3) intensely irritating, but that soon changes when they become potential I-Rex fodder.
There are nods to the original Jurassic Park throughout this fourth journey to Isla Nublar. The most noticeable being the fact that Jeff Goldblum’s cynical exponent of chaos theory appears to be alive and well in the form of the less sardonic Jake Johnson (that bloke from New Girl.) He’s one of the tech savvy crew manning the updated control room. He’s retro you see, sporting an original Jurassic Park t-shirt he bought on ebay, and bemoaning the heavy corporate involvement in this current version of dino-land: “they’ll be naming one Pepsisaurus soon”, he mutters morosely into his workstation, which is lined with an orderly row of cute, retro, plastic dinosaurs. There’s not a heavy clunking ’90s computer to be seen in this operations base; instead we have a control room fit to rival NASA’s, filled with wall to wall screens showing every section of the amazing Jurassic World theme park. And there’s the rub, made clear by Claire Dearing, the Operations Manager (the striking almost raptor-like Bryce Dallas Howard) as she informs us that Jurassic World just isn’t that amazing anymore. The general public has become jaded, where the cretaceous period is concerned, simply because dinosaurs are now commonplace, resulting in a corporate led drive to ‘invent’ new types of dinosaurs. And that’s just what they’ve done (clearly not one of these genetic boffins has read Frankenstein) – resulting in Indominus Rex.
Indominus Rex is a classified, genetic mix of just about everything going – part tree frog, chameleon, cuttlefish, T-Rex and velociraptor, giving her awesome camouflage and temperature changing abilities along with a pretty impressive IQ. We are introduced to Indominus Rex (the name slips off the tongue apparently) via the means of a 40 foot high concrete enclosure with a viewing area placed behind toughened glass. Claire takes the millionaire park owner Masrani (Irrfan Khan, Life of Pi) for a quick visit with I-Rex where we are given a tantalising glimpse of a reptilian eye here and a clawed foot there. Masrani notices that part of the glass screen is cracked, the first ominous sign that the invention of I-Rex could prove to be problematic. Fortunately, for those jaded park visitors, most of the dinosaurs are friendly and docile, filling up petting zoos and safaris, and providing kiddie rides (on aahh! worthy baby triceratops) – rather like your average donkey ride on a British beach.
After realising that Operations Manager Claire is one up-tight control freak, we then meet her polar opposite, the Park’s dino-whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, he of Guardians of the Galaxy and legendary weight loss.) Owen has a special bond with a bunch of velociraptors – Charlie, Blue, Delta and Echo – and you really believe this too, as we watch him training them up in their enclosure from the safety of a metal bridge. It transpires that the seemingly cold Claire (dressed in a white, laboratory style ‘power suit’ and permanent heels) and the free-wheeling Grady once went on a failed date – so we know where this is probably going.
Claire is aunt to our two child heroes, but their relationship is a distant one (she can’t remember how old they are or even when she last saw them) having focused on her career, rather than marriage and children (apparently describing women as ‘careerist’ is a politically correct, feminist no-no, something Dallas Howard was keen to point out in a recent interview) but it was good to see that the Jurassic World writers didn’t adhere to political correctness at the expense of humour. The biggest laugh in the cinema was when the kids made it clear that they felt safer with the ‘badass’ Owen Grady than the highly strung Claire.
The plot further involves a war hungry security guy anxious to use Grady’s pack of raptors as the next upgrade in war weaponry, and who turns out to be in collusion with the science guy responsible for Indominus Rex. I admit to getting a bit lost here with regard to plot machinations, and some critics have hammered the script, but this doesn’t matter because the plot seriously doesn’t matter. What we all came to see is full on dinosaur action and in that regard this film gives you more than your money’s worth. Let’s be honest, all that milling around down Main Street, messing around in interactive play areas, cuddling cute baby dinos, or getting wet around the Mosasaur pool is just a rather boring prelude to the main event – when Indominus Rex escapes her enclosure.
And that’s when the film really picks up and the CGI experts take over, as Zach and Gray get lost in the park via an off road gyrosphere, coming eyeball to eyeball with I-Rex (yes we get that familiar Spielbergian reptilian eye and breathy close-up against a vehicle window), before stumbling upon the ruins of the old Jurassic Park to make their getaway in one of the original tour trucks.
Indominus Rex runs amok. A flock of pterodactyls pick off victims, one at a time, down Main Street. Grady is forced to get up close and personal with his raptor pack in order to hunt down I-Rex (I promise you’ll go home just loving those velociraptors.) Various people are gobbled up whole (my other half, in a politically correct epic fail said, at one point, ‘I’m glad that fat one got eaten!’ )… and Claire shows everybody that, yes, it’s perfectly possible to sprint for miles whilst wearing a suit and inappropriate footwear.
And then, almost 2 hours into the movie, the dinosaur-mad kid realises that they ‘need more teeth’ to defeat the she-devil Indominus Rex, so Claire decides to release our old pal T-Rex, using herself as bait, and setting the scene for a CGI clash of the prehistoric titans.
And this film is a spectacular exercise in the power of CGI which, like those jaded dinosaur tourists, we now tend to take for granted. Nobody has ever seen a living dinosaur. How do we know the archaeologists/scientists even got it right with regard to these Jurassic animals’ appearance, movements and the sounds they make and yet, thanks to those digital whizz kids, I came out of this film believing that I’d actually seen dinosaurs, and now wouldn’t be surprised if I saw one milling around in a nearby field.
Sequels always have a tough time in terms of expectation levels and the attempt to go one better than the original, but this latest offering gets pretty close to the spirit and excitement of Spielberg’s 1993 vision due, in large part, to the performances of Chris Pratt (the raptors weren’t the only ones hypnotised by those action hero eyes), Bryce Dallas Howard (proving you can run in heels without breaking a leg) and the two young leads.
So get yourself an all areas pass and head off down to Isla Nublar. Those vintage Jurassic Park gates are waiting and ready to open.