Germain's 'Jurassic World' Review: Nostalgia And Action Mask A Weak Script And Characters

For a few scenes in Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World, I was transported back to 1993. I was 13 years old, sitting with huge popcorn on my lap, watching Steven Spielberg's original Jurassic Park for the very first time. Unlike the last two sequels in the series, Jurassic World has a handful of those wondrous moments in it and, for that reason alone, I found more to like than dislike about the movie. But there are things to dislike about the movie and some are pretty damning.

Nevertheless, those few perfect moments, along with some of the best action scenes you'll see this year, made Jurassic World mostly enjoyable. You just have to enjoy it enough to overlook the cracks. Below, read the rest of my Jurassic World review.

The Story

Decades have passed since the events of Jurassic Park and John Hammond's vision is finally realized. Jurassic World is a fully functioning, dinosaur theme park with tens of thousands of visitors a day. It's run by Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is about to have her nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) visit for the weekend. At the same time, a former military man named Owen (Chris Pratt) has been hired to work with Raptors to see if they have any practical use outside of being killing machines. When a brand new experiment, called the Indominus Rex, breaks out of containment, all of these stories and characters are forced together in a medley of mayhem.

The Good

Like I said above, there is a lot of good stuff in Jurassic World and it starts right from the beginning. Trevorrow begins the film very quickly and within minutes he's built up to that glorious, full park reveal, complete with John Williams' iconic Jurassic Park theme. (Williams didn't score this film, Michael Giacchino did, but he uses the themes in a few spots to great effect.) The filmmakers created a breathtaking world that you want to visit and explore but, unfortunately, you don't get to spend too much time learning about the functioning park. Instead it's full steam ahead with the story.

Which, as we'll read below, isn't a great thing, but let's focus on what is great. That's Trevorrow's action set pieces. There are at least two, but probably more like four, set pieces in Jurassic World that had me glued to my seat with excitement, tension and wonder. The best ones are the Gyrosphere scene, which you see in the trailers, and the finale, which you don't and I won't spoil here. With both of these scenes – as well as several with the D-Rex, the Pteranodons and Mosasaurus – the film reaches those kind of action movie moments you crave in a summer blockbuster. They're truly great and, despite much of the rest of the movie being sub par, remained the primary focus of my thoughts after exiting the theater.

Also, while some might feel the film gets a bit heavy-handed in terms of nostalgia, I felt it hit a nice balance. There are shots here and there which pay homage to the original film, lines of dialogue, plenty of jokes, and even one full scene that crosses over in a quiet, poetic way. I'm not ashamed to say those twenty-two year old feelings made me misty a few times.

The Bad

Talking about all the action and design, notice how I didn't mention any characters at all? It's because the characters are all pretty bad in Jurassic World. Not bad morally, though there are those of course, just not particularly well thought out. Take Owen for example. He's our hero, and we hear a little about where he came from, but as the movie starts he already is who he is. And during the movie, he's just that. A bad ass dinosaur whisperer with a vest. Then there's Claire, the head of a multi-million dollar theme park, who is scared to fly in a helicopter and cares more about numbers than her nephews. And yet, as the movie moves on and she begins to see the ere of her ways, that arc gets totally undercut but the incredibly forward pushing story.

The supporting characters, played by the likes of Jake Johnson, Lauren Lapkus, Vincent D'Onofrio, Irrfan Khan and Omar Sy, are even less memorable. Each has a specific, sometimes even fun role to play, but they're cardboard cutouts of what real people are. Every character in this movie is begging for just a few more minutes of development and understanding. It feels like all of that was jettisoned in favor of the film's pace, which does kind of make sense, but it's still disappointing.

Then there's the script itself, which is pretty solid structure wise, but laughable dialogue wise. For 20 minutes, the movie will zoom at you like a runaway train, with action, scares and effects. But when things slow down, the melodramatic exchanges are laughable. This is almost okay because usually the meat around these scenes is fun, but they do still stand out.

The Ugly

However, the thing that bothered me most about Jurassic World were Claire's nephews, Zach and Gray, played by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins. I think each of the actors are fine in the roles, but the script – or maybe the edit – does them no favors. Take the older brother Zach, who is set up early on to be a girl-crazy 16-year-old boy. His mother (played by Judy Greer) says he picks on his brother and he's trying to be super cool. All of this is set up, but none of it pays off. He's never particularly mean to Gray, and his personal interests are there for no reason. Things go bad and instantly he's a blank slate.

At one point in the film, Gray and Zach talk about their parents potentially getting a divorce. It's like a baseball bat hits the movie in the mouth. Where did this come from? When did this become relevant? There are scenes in the movie that allude to their backstory but it's never quite spelled out and it's just infuriatingly out of place. Not to mention the entire idea of them being on Jurassic World is A) Lifted from Jurassic Park and B) Totally undercut because Greer's character says they're supposed to be on a family vacation, but they spend it alone for the most part, with their parents thousands of miles away.

Sure they get a couple of cool scenes but most of them time it feels like they're just taking up space.

The Verdict

Jurassic World has problems. There's really no denying it. And yet despite those problems, whenever my mind starts thinking about the movie, I immediately want to see it again. The sense of wonder and rush of adrenaline is so powerful that – for me –  it covers all the bad and ugly things about the movie. At its very worst, it's the best Jurassic Park sequel. At its very best, it gives you tiny glimpses at what may have been. Maybe that good will will go away as the film ages but, for now, I liked it just a little more than I didn't.

Germain's /Film rating: 6 out of 10