Peter Sciretta, a writer for /Film, recently theorized (as indicated in a recent Legion of Leia article) that Owen, the character played by Chris Pratt in Colin Trevorrow’s fatuous sequel Jurassic World, did in fact appear as a naysaying young boy at the head of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. This theory has already been debunked by actor Whit Hereford, who played said naysayer. Had the connection been intentional, and this fan theory proved to be true, it would, perhaps, be the most interesting thing about the hero Jurassic World, a super-bland, not-at-all-interesting white-man hero type that feels like he escaped, sans personality, from a low-budget actioner made in 1954. Owen is not so much a character, as he is a pile of dull and obvious hero clichés held up by a leather vest and a motorcycle.
Jurassic World as a whole fares no better than Owen. In the third stultifying sequel to the 1993 blockbuster, we have strayed from awe entirely, wandered past excitement and joy, and forgotten entirely about interesting characters. Indeed, in terms of plot and characterization, we seem to have blindly wandered down into the dank and well-worn B-movie corridors of the Sci-Fi Channel (I refuse to call it “SyFy”). The budget is much bigger (reportedly about $150 million), and the talent is more recognizable (nary an Eric Roberts is to be seen), but the plot about intelligent talking velociraptors and genetically engineered super-dinosaurs could have come from discarded pages of something along the lines of Megacroc vs. Superpython.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good B picture, and I would argue that you, me, and all your friends can have a great deal of fun watching cheesy creature features late at night while hopped up on way too much pizza and root beer. But Jurassic World fails to strike the playful tone of its cheaper counterparts. This is, despite a few moments of welcome levity, a stone-faced affair that expects us to thrill at its ridiculous visuals rather than chuckle heartily to ourselves.
Pratt plays, essentially, a velociraptor whisperer, who has learned to tame the notoriously vicious man-sized dinos that this series helped popularize. He’s an ex-Navy guy who lives in a cabin, rides motorcycles, and may as well not have a face. The lovely Bryce Dallas Howard plays the straight-laced boss of the recently-opened Jurassic World, the world’s most famous theme park to feature living dinosaurs. She also doesn’t have much of a personality, and seems to fulfill a lot of “timid weak woman who just needs a man to help her come out of her shell” fantasies in the minds of the men in the audience. The two of them unite to protect her nephews (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) from a recently escaped Indominus Rex, a specially engineered dinosaur constructed to increase revenue.
Throughout Jurassic World, the monsters are referred to as “assets,” and there is wonderful scene with mad scientist B.D. Wong who points out that high tech and money-fueled corporate insanity have essentially become one and the same. Jurassic World, for a brief moment, teeters on the precipice of high satire, and a more knowing director would have shown dinosaurs smashing through the ubiquitous corporate logos on plain display in the background of just about every shot. How fun to see a monster, borne of financial corporate interests, dismantling the very logos that brought it to life. The real victims here shouldn’t have been two young boys, but a mob of blind consumers. Sadly, Jurassic World is not nearly smart enough to pull that off, and we’re left with a movie about not much of anything.
So we have no interesting heroes to root for, no real theme, and a dumb premise. Oddly, the characters we’re meant to feel the most sympathy for are the dinosaurs themselves. We’ve reached the point where a Tyrannosaurus Rex appearing on screen is meant to be a moment of triumph rather than something to fear. I guess Jurassic World did one thing right: In the imaginations of little boys everywhere a Tyrannosaurus Rex is the biggest, bestest hero of them all.