Jurassic World: Reboot 66 million years in the making
In 1993, rich billionaire John Hammond had a dream: to open a one-of-a-kind theme park that would take visitors 66 million years back in time, into an ancient world of gigantic proportion. Hammond’s fascination with dinosaurs, the reptilian remnants of a distant past, mirrors our own – between big-budget motion pictures, small-screen documentaries, best-selling novels, and sold-out attractions in museums, everything Dino-related sells. And they sell fast – the newest offering from the Jurassic age broke all kinds of records in the box office, including an ultra speedy finish to the billion dollar benchmark. Jurassic World grossed $1,000,000,000 at the global box office in just 13 days, overtaking the previous record holder Fast & Furious 7 (17 days). It was also the first film to earn over $500 million in its opening weekend worldwide.
22 years after Drs. Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm deemed Jurassic Park unfit for operation, the establishment is finally open – rather, the park had been open a decade prior to the events of Jurassic World. At the story’s center is a dysfunctional family in the midst of beginning divorce procedures. To distract their kids from the imminent separation, the Mitchells send their sons, Zach and Gray (Ty Simpkins of Iron Man 3 and Insidious fame), to spend a weekend with their aunt, Clare Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). Clare is the tireless operations manager at Jurassic World. When the boys arrive at Isla Nublar, where the park is situated, off the coast of Costa Rica, things go downhill quickly as the park’s newest attraction, a genetically modified hybrid dinosaur, escapes from its forested northern enclosure and kills everything in sight.
Jurassic World delves into a problem that many corporations grapple with today – the necessity to do whatever it takes to remain relevant. The park management is challenged with maintaining visitor attendance to the park, at a time when kids “look at a stegosaurus like it’s an elephant at the zoo,” moans Clare to a group of potential investors. In a world where innovation is key to the survival and longevity of a business, the film also poses an ethical question. How far would one go to sustain public interest in a species that have become so quotidian? InGen’s, the bioengineering startup founded by Hammond, answer to this is to create a brand new dinosaur – the Indominus Rex. As an aside, B.D Wong, sadly, was the only member of the original cast returns as chief geneticist, Dr. Henry Wu.
The Indominus is designed to “give parents nightmares” as park owner, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), rightly says. A test tube mash up of DNA from a variety of reptilian, there is nothing natural about the Indominus’ existence. She gets her predatory instincts from the T-Rex, which makes up the base component of her genetic makeup; she gets a whole lot of other cool features like camouflaging and the ability to modify her body temperature – which eventually allows her to escape. The best bits of her genetic makeup is kept classified – her supreme intelligence. Those faithful to the original Jurassic Park will almost immediately figure out where that comes from.
It is evident, and reiterated by cast members in the press junkets, that the Indominus is a representation of how damaging corporate greed can be. The need to constantly innovate and create something bigger, better does not always bode well (hello Skynet). In the process, not only do people get hurt, in this case mauled, but the good is destroyed and the bad gets worse. One really poignant moment in the film that shows this is when star Dino-wrangler, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), stumbles upon a dying Apatosaurus, one of the biggest creatures from history. Its massive size is countered by its gentle nature, none of which were of any use when the Indominus attacked.
Though Hammond, played by the esteemed late Richard Attenborough, does not make an appearance in Jurassic World, his presence is clearly felt with many throwbacks to the film that started it all. Easter eggs include, but are not limited to, an original Jurassic Park t-shirt, a hologram of John Hammond, the statue of John Hammond, Mr. DNA, “God creates Dinosaur” (homage to Dr. Ian Malcolm’s famous speech), the skeleton of the Spinosaurus from the unmemorable Jurassic Park III, among others. In the middle of the film, a full segment is spent revisiting the old park, decrepit from neglect. Jurassic World has enough throwback moments to send hardcore fans catatonic with glee. Masrani, to whom Hammond entrusted his vision for the park, echoes his predecessor’s sentiments by declaring no expenses were spared to turn the park into an extravagant glimpse to an ancient past. Masrani, like Hammond in the original film, represents the likeable, good-at-heart character, whose poor decision-making skills make things worse for the main characters.
The element of control is another issue the film tries, somewhat successfully, to address. When the Indominus escapes, there’s a moment at the central control room where Clare snaps at Grady. “You are not in control here,” she says with forced calm as they track the Indominus on screen. Clare likely means the decision, to kill the $25 million investment, is not up to Owen to decide; but her words echo throughout the rest of the film. In an island where everything is bigger, and more ferocious, can Man truly say he is in control? Even Masrani, at one point, admits that control is an illusion.
In an earlier scene, Grady remarks to Hoskins, InGen’s head of security, about how he trains the raptors. Hoskins has a nefarious ambition to use domesticated raptors as bio-weapons for the military and he thinks they can be taught to obey. Grady warns him that the only reason the raptors do not eat his face off is because they have build a working relationship based on mutual respect; not because he is ever in control.
Jurassic World takes almost two hours to build up to its climax – the showdown between the Indominus and the household stars of Jurassic Park, the T-Rex and the raptors. In the first film, the raptors almost stole the show from the T-Rex, and in this one, the former king of the prehistoric food chain mostly lurks off the screen. Until now. With all of their options exhausted, including the raptors – which almost backfires because, voila, the Indominus is part raptor! – Clare realises they need a bigger weapon to fight their monstrous creation. Or as Gray, the evidently smarter brother, remarks, “We need more teeth.” At this point, you could almost hear the gasps of excitement ringing through the theater.
The Tyrannosaurus-Rex is a staple in every Jurassic Park film. Prior to the creation of the Indominus Rex, it was the top terrestrial predator in the park. Its noticeable absence from the screen builds up to the WWE-style showdown; in one corner, the current rampaging top dog and on the other, the challenger, returning to reclaim its title as king of the food chain.
The fight sequence is excellent. I only wish there was more of it, in lieu of less character expositions.
The Indominus easily overpowers the T-Rex. As she is about to deliver the killing blow, Blue, the surviving raptor, enters the fray, leading to a Dino-tag team of epic proportions. Even then the Indominus could have probably won if she did not get dragged to her death by the enormous Mosasaurus. It is a hilarious kill steal – a term commonly used in the gaming vernacular to describe people who will wait until you are nearly done battling your obstacle before delivering the killing blow. In doing so, the kill stealer makes away with half the XP and gold/item drops (in some games the portion may vary) without deserving it. They are infuriating.
Overall, Jurassic World delivers exactly what it promised on the tin – an action-packed dinosaur theme park. Many movie-goers have griped about the lack of plot in lieu of more action sequence; it is hard to imagine someone willingly watching a franchise like Jurassic Park and expecting deep, meaningful plot. The ending of Jurassic World sets up the stage for a sequel where, I suspect, we will see the next level of mankind’s greed: where dinosaurs are employed in warfare. It’ll be like Terminator going way back in time – 66 million years, to be precise.