4. Jurassic World (2015)
Though notably an action film rather than a film with action (as was the case with the original Jurassic Park), which does disappointingly reduce a lot of the franchise’s deeper themes into throwaway lines of dialogue, Jurassic World made seeing dinosaurs feel special again. And, after The Lost World and Jurassic Park III had done so much to make us cynical of the franchise’s capabilities to do so, reintroducing the joy and awe of dinosaurs come to life fundamentally grounded Jurassic World in the same stuff that brought the entire franchise to the dance.
One reason Jurassic World proved so popular, and perhaps why it inevitably became so divisive with critics, is because it was a near carbon copy of the original Jurassic Park, revisiting the same story beats and messages only in a more commercialised space. Jurassic World had never-ending product placement, making parts of the film feel like car commercials more than box office-breaking blockbuster material, and as such it seemed incapable of tackling the usual Jurassic themes as deeply as it could have done, ultimately being more hollow than some of its contemporaries. But boy was it fun.
Colin Trevorrow (making his blockbuster debut) did a fine if unremarkable job visually, but importantly brought the off-beat sensibilities he illustrated in his feature debut Safety Not Guaranteed to the big-money table. Acting under the guidance of Steven Spielberg (as executive producer), Trevorrow managed to create something in Spielberg’s image – we can all recognise Jurassic World isn’t the work of the great man himself, but it at least captures some of his essence – and re-embraced the excitement and unpredictability of prehistoric animals come to life. Like any theme park, Trevorrow’s film was all thrill.
It is by no means a perfect movie, but Jurassic World does feature some sensational moments and does its very best to play on nostalgia towards the original film (as well as the collective mythos of dinosaurs) to create something as close to extraordinary as a dinosaur-action movie reboot could have been in the profits-above-all world of studio filmmaking in the 2010s. It will never be considered in the same echelon as Jurassic Park, but then again what will?
3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
The modern franchise reboot has, in general, played it safe in recent years. The recent Star Wars trilogy seemed to echo the story beats of its original franchise for example, while Jurassic World was a re-tread of Jurassic Park. World’s sequel, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, should be commended for at least taking a step outside of the box by effectively placing its dinosaurs within one.
Fallen Kingdom was a movie of two very distinct intentions: a blockbuster dinosaur movie and an attempt at an existential house of horrors film. The result was mixed, and the critical reception therefore divided, but J.A. Bayona’s juggling of these intentions brought together a number of terrific moments, ultimately presenting the most unique Jurassic World movie to date: the only one not set in a tropical woodland environment. Fallen Kingdom is awe and spectacle for a brief period (in which the island of the Jurassic World theme park is blown up by a volcano), but Bayona’s horror movie roots certainly shine through in the film’s better moments.
This Jurassic World sequel is nothing short of a monster movie, complete with creatures lurking in the dark and creeping up on you in bed. It’s thrilling, at times genuinely scary, and while it offers a lot of hammy acting and relatively uninteresting plot lines, it does believably bring together a scenario in which a fearsome hybrid dinosaur (made of all the legendary pickings of the great dinosaurs of previous movies) can hunt our heroes through a domestic environment.
Fallen Kingdom doesn’t play it safe like Jurassic World does, nor does it seem checked out and lacking inspiration in the way The Lost World: Jurassic Park does. It may never reach the same momentary heights of Spielberg’s 1997 Jurassic Park follow-up, or have the thrilling fan service on offer in Jurassic World’s T-Rex scene, but it is a more consistent piece with clear thematic intention and directorial nouse; one that did a lot to fix character issues with Chris Pratt’s Owen and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire, and took a risk at developing the universe beyond the isolated theme parks of the previous four movies.
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