Blockbuster sequels fail more often than they succeed, and too often they end up being faint, distressed copies of the original document. In the case of Jurassic World, the challenge is multiplied by its original’s formula; that is, the setting on an island, the necessity of dinosaurs, and the audience’s knowledge ahead of time that everything will go horribly wrong.
Jurassic Park (1993) was schlocky and shameless Spielberg-lite, the director locked into vapid blockbuster mode, but it at least toyed with the idea of chaos theory and the risks of pushing the genetic envelope. Director Colin Trevorrow certainly has memorized the highlights from that movie — the sweeping cameras, sentimental kid interplay, visual puns, and relentless anthropomorphism — but he doesn’t conjure anything new, here.
Neither does the writing team (following a credits dispute, listed as listed as Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, along with Trevorrow and Derek Connolly). Almost everything that happens in this film happened before in the previous installments. That said, Jaffa and Silver have also slipped a bit of an Easter egg into the dinosaurs-will-be-dinosaurs plot, one that cagily suggests the futility of making such a film in the first place, while taking some pokes at their corporate overlords in the process.
Early on, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), this park’s workaholic director, laments the difficulty of keeping the public’s interest, “No one is impressed with dinosaurs anymore,” she sighs. Under the leadership of a new owner (Irrfan Khan), her team’s solution is multi-faceted. They seek specific corporate branding for their different attractions (velociraptors powered by Verizon Wireless), use the genetics wizardry of the renowned Dr. Wu (BD Wong) to create exciting new dino hybrids that are “bigger, badder, and more teeth”, and market their existing dinos to the military, led by the conniving consultant Mr. Hoskins (Vincent D’onofrio), as a potential super-weapon. (This even though it’s pretty unclear how an army of raptors would fare against a hail of armor-piercing bullets.)
Naturally, encouraging the smug Dr. Wu to create a new, ferocious super-dino — dubbed the Indominus rex — out of spliced-together DNA strands from different creatures, leads to a serious problem. The Indominus rex escapes its confines to menace the 20,000 visitors stranded on the isle along with it, a gigantic Frankenstein monster amidst a veritable smorgasbord of smaller dinos, park workers, and fat, tasty tourists.
Blaming corporate malfeasance, greed, and callousness for such calamities has been standard-issue monster movie polemic ever since Jaws and my beloved Alien. In this regard, Jurassic World again offers nothing new, but we might credit its impressive, rather comic use of corporate marketing garble. Dr. Wu is instructed to “up the wow factor” of the park, dinos are relentlessly referred to as “assets”, and when the Indominus rex destroys the aviary, sending hundreds of bloodthirsty pterodactyls into the sky, the tourists are informed via loudspeaker that there has been a “containment anomaly.”
Even as the movie levels these familiar charges against such corporate exploitations, it deploys them. The retooled island park is also festooned with exactly the kind of cheesy, soulless franchise chains (including a Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville) and parade of expensive tchotchkes that Disney and Universal both proudly display at their own parks. For obvious reasons, the film can’t spend a lot of time directly calling these corporate titans out (presumably, Verizon paid for its brief product placement opportunity), but the fact that it does so at all suggests that some of the film’s claws aren’t attached to the feet of rampaging, prehistoric behemoths.
Of course, by the end, even the subtle meta-distress of the screenwriters has been subsumed by the needs of the Summer Action Spectacle (as improbable as this sounds, a group of enraged dinos essentially team up against the indominus rex bully, which makes about as much sense as you would think). But the writers do manage to get in a few digs along the way.