Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Back in 1993, when Steven Spielberg’s cult hit Jurassic Park came out, the world was a simpler place. Tyrannosaurus Rex, Pterodactyls, Brachiosaurus and Plateosaurus were all dinosaur species we had seen in dusty books or charmless labs till then. And then they were there on screen in their CGI-meets-practical effects glory and the shock and awe the audience felt was something you could physically touch in theatres across the world.
Nothing, we repeat, nothing can outdo that first introduction to dinos, resplendent as it was in its Spielbergian wizardry. However, it is to the credit of the reboot and its director Colin Trevorrow that while watching you compare it to the first Jurassic Park, and not its less-than-watchable sequels.
We meet the park’s uptight manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and billionaire owner Sam (Irrfan Khan) early on. Irrfan’s character is a true heir of John Hammond (Park’s original owner played by Richard Attenborough). He understands that his dinos need to entertain the masses, knows that they need to push science to come up with the latest attractions. Does Sam care about the brought-back-from-dead species? He says so, but somehow it is hard to believe him.
Claire, she is the number cruncher. She knows people want bigger, better dinosaurs with more teeth and she is ready to give them to the paying public. The result of DNA tinkering in the lab (we are never clearly told whose) is the albino dino Indominus Rex who has the built of a T Rex and intelligence of a highly skilled killer.
She (yes, it is a she) tries escaping from her fortress of a padlock and Claire is sent running to park’s raptor trainer-resident badass Owen (Chris Pratt). To make things more edge-of-the-seat, Claire’s nephews Gray and Zack (Ty Simpson and Nick Robinson) are visiting the park and Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) wants to weaponise the dinos and use them in situations such as Tora Bora.
The rest is predictable to any fan of the franchise – killer dino on the loose, people being chomped and other people (read principal cast) managing to evade the dino’s jaws (so much teeth!) by their inherent bravery and intelligence.
What really works is the film’s meta commentary on how to manage the audience’s demand. Like the people we see in the film, we want so much more than just dinosaurs from the franchise. Jurassic World has turned into little more than a petting zoo where people would rather focus on their smartphones than watch a Mosasaurus devour its prey. “Nobody is excited to see a dinosaur anymore,” Claire says as an introduction to a focus group. When asked what investors of Jurassic World want, the answer is, “We want to be thrilled.”
Ditto that for the audience. The film is a scathing commentary on how corporate moneybags are running the game and it is especially scornful in a scene where toddlers are seen riding baby dinosaurs or when that most majestic of beasts, T Rex, is reduced to a performing monkey. The underlying message of this self referencing film is: We are going to give you some CGI-filled mayhem which will be akin to Transformers-meets-Sharknado. Just don’t blame us when shit hits the fan.
But here’s the problem: The CGI falls eons short of Jurassic Park’s realistic feel. It looks fake in places and forced in others. How we miss those practical effects of Spielberg which made the first film terrifyingly real.
Trevorrow makes a confident debut in the arena of blockbuster arena. He seems to be channeling Spielberg who is the executive producer of this one. The build up before the violence is unleashed, the device of using a pair of kids of an about-to-be-divorced couple and even a visit to the vine-encrusted original park is all Spielbergian and yet has Trevorrow’s stamp. The director knows that the audience’s is in for an action-filled ride, scarier and bigger than last time, and gives it to them.
The cast delivers. Our desi export, Irrfan, is as good as always and beautifully enacts the philosopher-entertainer. Chris Pratt delivers again after Guardians of the Galaxy as the goofball-great guy. It is his lack of chemistry with Howard which is the only jarring point. The kids are supposed to look cute and terrified, and they do.
Now, to the billion dollar question: Is the film as good as Jurassic Park? No, it is not but it is a worthy successor.