Jurassic World: A Review from a Former Kid Paleontologist

When I was about three-years-old I snuck my first peek at Jurassic Park. From a very young age, I have loved dinosaurs, so of course I was tempted to watch the 1993 movie. Since then, Jurassic Park has held a special place in my heart. Each time I watch it, I feel like a kid again–the same kid who was enraptured by dinosaurs, who could pronounce archaeopteryx, and who was educated by Walter Cronkite in his 1991 Dinosaur! special.

Not surprisingly, when Jurassic World was announced, I was thrilled. The very first trailer gave me chills, which induced that same childhood sensation of wonder. But the trailer produced so many questions: how would they tie in this installment with the first three movies? Would it stand on its own? Could it do the first movie justice?

Today, all of my questions were finally answered, and the answer is that Jurassic World did not disappoint.

In the film’s plot, the legacy of John Hammond and the first Jurassic Park were central to the new park’s design. It was known from the beginning that such a legacy was still an important factor for the audience member to recall, especially when everything inevitably went to pot. But the threat to the park didn’t come from simply bringing back the dinosaurs, but from genetically modifying the Indominus Rex. At this point in the film, I was strongly reminded of the novel Jurassic Park, and the warnings of Ian Malcolm. As much as the first movie warned of the dangers of playing god, Jurassic World strongly reaffirmed the original notion set by Michael Crichton.

But Indominus Rex’s existence suggested to me an even stronger metaphor, one that were first conjured by Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein. In the novel, the question of “Who is truly the monster?” is raised: the creator or the created? Throughout the film, I wondered the same thing–who is really the monster? Naturally, the genetically-modified killing machine that was the Indominus Rex can definitely be seen as a monster (and it really was), but it had no control over the fact that it was a super predator; that’s how it was designed. So were the monsters Dr. Wu and his team of geneticists? They are a second likely culprit, as it was them who created the super dinosaur. But who commissioned this beast? Those in park development, like Bryce Dallas Howard’s character of Claire and the park’s new owner Masrani (Irrfan Khan), whose main goal is to get sponsors for each new attraction, thus exploiting the engineered dinosaurs to gain profit. This example can be further expanded to say that these people are capitalists, who have little disregard for the dinosaurs due to their hunger for success and money. In turn, this can make them the monsters. In my opinion, I think the film has multiple monsters, along with the aforementioned examples, and this is why I think the film is so smart. It brings up many issues of playing god and the consequences of doing so, but it also puts into question as to who the antagonist is, which is still up for debate in my mind.

Speaking of aforementioned examples, Ian Malcolm’s  warnings, or rather premonitions, are finally brought full circle when the kids stumble upon a relic from the first park.

*SPOILERS AHEAD* 

In this scene, Gray and his older brother Zach come across a jungle-infested Visitors Center, the same setting where the T-Rex saved Dr. Grant, Dr. Sattler, Lex, and Tim from the velociraptors 22 years before. The fact that it has become overrun by the wilderness lets the audience know that, despite the fact that a developed park is just down the road, “life [inevitably] found a way.” This is then reaffirmed when the T-Rex makes a cameo at the end, which is speculated to be the same T-Rex from the first movie. So Malcolm was right after all.

*SPOILERS DONE* 

As much as I enjoyed this movie, there were some details that did not convince me. First of all, there was no Jeff Goldblum. NO JEFF GOLDBLUM. I can overlook this, but not easily. There was also quite a bit of awkward, cheesy humor thrown in throughout the film. While I appreciate comic relief, and find it necessary at times, it was not executed well. Sometimes it was downright secondhand-embarrassment inducing. And I would have liked to have seen a bit more character development in older brother Zach’s character; he was made to be a distant character, but as a result he was distanced from the audience. These are my opinions, and I’m happy to say that these minor details did not detract from the overall experience the film produced.

Going in to the theater, I was looking for that same awe-inspired sensation that the first film provides. Today, I felt that sensation. What I appreciated most about Jurassic World were the homages to the first movie. At the beginning of the film, there were many not-so-subtle hints about Jurassic Park, from the boats emblazoned with “Isla Nublar” to Mr. DNA greeting children at the John Hammond Creation Lab. Needless to say, I was getting a little emotional. When younger brother Gray (played by Ty Simpkins) exclaims “I don’t want to wait anymore!” and throws open the hotel curtains to reveal the park, that’s when I lost it. I choked back tears for 2/3 of that movie.

I wouldn’t say that Jurassic World replaces the first film (how could it?), but it’s a great answer to the fate of the island and how a seemingly successful reincarnation would react to the same disastrous fate.  But today I did feel like a kid again. Seeing Jurassic World brought back great memories of watching dinosaur specials, reading dinosaur books, and spending hours learning about these creatures. I remembered how much I wanted to become a paleontologist (and almost did) due to my love of dinosaurs. That love was reinstated with Jurassic World. Nothing can replace Jurassic Park, but Jurassic World provides the same sense of wonder, the sheer terror, and the intrigue that the first film generated over 20 years ago. I have always been a dinosaur geek, I will always be a dinosaur geek, and this movie brought me back to a piece of myself that I hope to never lose. In the end, Jurassic World proved one thing to me: dinosaurs still rule.

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