By Emily (Chicago, IL, United States)
“When something chases you: Run.”
This last summer, Jurassic World, was released and quickly became the summer’s biggest blockbuster. It had a record-breaking opening weekend, grossing $542.1 million dollars. Directed by Colin Trevorrow, it generated over $1.6 billion dollars in the box office worldwide, making it the third highest grossing movie in the whole world, under Titanic and Avatar. There are so many reasons as to why this movie was so successful, why it received so much praise, and why I love it so much.
We fell in love with Jurassic Park, the 1993 film based on the book of the same name by Michael Crichton. In case you can’t remember, Jurassic Park is about cloned dinosaurs created for a theme park. Before the titular park opens, a group is assembled to inspect the park. However, during a storm, the park’s security systems are shut down by the human antagonist, as he escapes with dinosaur embryos. The dinosaurs escape their paddocks and now everyone has to try and not get eaten by the T-Rex and velociraptors. The second film is The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and features Ian Malcolm from the first movie to inspect a second dinosaur island set up. This time there are two T-Rexes to terrorize the group, in addition to our raptor friends. They find out that a corporation is trying to capture these dinosaurs and bring them to the mainland for a zoo. Spoiler alert: they bring T-Rexes, where the one rampages in a very Godzilla-like manner before captured and shipped back to the island. And then there’s the third movie, Jurassic Park III, where the main character of the first movie returns and is tricked by a married couple to go the second dinosaur island to save their son, who got stranded. We meet the Spinosaurus, who manages to kill our beloved T-Rex, and becomes the primary antagonist (in addition to the raptors again). This one ends the same as the rest, as you can imagine, they get off the island. Basically the same plot from the past two films, except with more intelligent raptors, and less than decent characterization. At this point, we’ve seen the same plot over and over, and we’re tired of it. But 14 years after Jurassic Park III, Jurassic World is released.
Set twenty-two years after Jurassic Park, the dinosaur theme park renamed Jurassic World is finally open, and has been successfully for ten years. Jurassic World is set on the same island of the first park, off the coast of Costa Rica, Isla Nublar. We meet two brothers, Zach and Gray Mitchell, who spend their winter vacation at the park with their aunt, Claire Dearing. Claire happens to be the park’s operation manager and due to this position, she cannot see her nephews, much to the dismay of her sister, the boys’ mother. Claire is trying to get corporations to sponsor their newest attraction, a brand new and the first genetically modified dinosaur. However, the park’s owner, Simon Masrani, expresses concerns with the new dinosaur, named the Indominus Rex, and wants to have her inspected before the attraction opens to the public. Claire reluctantly recruits war veteran and velociraptor trainer, Owen Grady, to perform the inspection. Prior to the inspection, Owen is pressured by Vic Hoskins to use the raptors (and even the Indominus) for military use, much to Owen’s frustration. The Indominus’ inspection goes terribly wrong, and the intelligent Indominus makes her escape. Zach and Gray coincidentally snuck away into the depths of the island’s jungle while driving the Gyrosphere, one of the park’s attractions. Claire and Owen desperately search for her nephews while the rest of the park’s operations struggle to stop the Indominus from killing the 20,000 tourists on the island.
Let’s talk about the casting of this movie. The two main characters are Owen Grady and Claire Dearing, who are played by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard respectively. You may recognize Chris Pratt from Parks and Recreation, Guardians of the Galaxy, and his voice role in The Lego Movie. Owen Grady is a veteran with a tough guy exterior. We first see him training the Velociraptors, and he shows that he shares a bond with them that keeps them somewhat tame. He provides some witty comments and immature jokes. He has a soft side when it comes to caring for the dinosaurs and Claire’s nephews. He has a bit of a temper, but only because he cares so much about the safety of the people on the island. Owen Grady is almost a combination of the characters played by Chris Pratt, which makes him a great fit for this role.
Bryce Dallas Howard starred in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Village, and as the primary antagonist of The Help. Claire Dearing is a workaholic (noted by Masrani, the park’s owner, and several others) and because of this, she doesn’t see her nephews. Her nephews are upset and so is their mother, but Claire doesn’t seem to be too concern. Her biggest concern is getting endorsements from big corporations like Verizon Wireless, getting people to keep coming to Jurassic World, basically bring in as much profit as possible to the park and keeping control. Although this seems antagonistic, Claire is not greedy for own personal gain, she wants to make Jurassic World as successful as can be. She seems insensitive because she doesn’t know how to talk to Zach and Gray, doesn’t know how old they are, hasn’t seen them in seven years (but who’s counting? Zach bitterly is), and continues to push spending time with them further away due to work. She underestimates the animals and only views them as a number on a screen. This is similar her character, Hilly, in The Help, where she cleverly controls the social order of the Jackson, Mississippi. Hilly is much more antagonistic than Claire, but the role fits Bryce Dallas Howard well and she is able to execute Claire in such a way that makes her so much more than an organized perfectionist.
In addition to these two, Jurassic World brings the return of B.D. Wong, who reprises his role as Dr. Henry Wu from Jurassic Park. Henry Wu returns to Jurassic World as the park’s chief geneticist, just like in the first park, and is the creator of the Indominus.
The film also has a brief but memorable cameo made by Jimmy Fallon, who stars as himself and providing safety instructions in the Gyrosphere driven by Zach and Gray.
In this day and age, most of the movies produced are used to entertain us and show some people kick ass. It’s entertaining, but not meaningful. In The Lost World and Jurassic Park III, we just watch people get chased by dinosaurs. It’s cool because there’s dinosaurs, but they really don’t have much meaning to them, and that’s why they were not as successful as Jurassic Park or Jurassic World. In the beginning of Jurassic World, Claire explains that no one is impressed by a dinosaur anymore, so they created a new dinosaur to attract more tourists. The Indominus represents humanity’s greed. People are surrounded by dinosaurs and I find it hard to believe that they are not impressed by them. They’re in a prehistoric paradise, but it’s not enough. The Indominus is created to satisfy the greed to get more. The dinosaurs are not enough, people are not satisfied and they want more (teeth). Also, in the beginning, Claire is trying to bring in more profit for the park. Apparently 20,000 attendants each day isn’t enough for the park, according to Claire, and when asked, she didn’t seem concerned about guest or animal satisfaction. This illustrates the greed of corporations that we often see today. Corporations, especially large one’s that move to less industrialized countries, are less concerned about human welfare and are more concerned in making the most money possible.
Vic Hoskins wants to take the raptors and the Indominus to use them as weapons in the military. He is so set on this idea that he is doing everything, even (spoilers) taking over the park after Masrani’s death, so he can get his hands on the dinosaurs. He wants to advance the military to stay on top of the enemies, and this reflects militaries today constantly building nuclear and more dangerous weapons to stay on top of each other.
The ultimate theme of Jurassic World is that humans are greedy, it’s a part of our nature, but when we succumb to that greed, it only hurts us and those around us.
Another major theme that stands out is, as cliché as it sounds, we need friends. We need relationships and social connections. The biggest example is the Indominus, who was raised in captivity and ate it’s only sibling, making its only relationship with the crane that drops its food. The Indominus couldn’t function once out of captivity and surrounded by so many things it hasn’t seen, and that’s why it went on a rampage to kill and destroy everything.
We see that Claire herself, single and childless, doesn’t know how to function around her nephews. She is strictly professional with those whom she works with, and never went on a second date with Owen Grady prior to the film, partially due to the fact she organized their date in an itinerary. But now, she must rely on Owen to save her nephews and stop the Indominus. She has to be a mother figure and protect her nephews as they face constant near death experiences.
Zach has to be there for Gray, who is younger and is emotional to the fact that their parents are getting a divorce, and that they almost died a bunch of times too. Zach has to assure him while in the ruins of the old Jurassic Park that nothing will come and eat them while they fix up an old park Jeep. Zach and Gray have to team up to stop a raptor from leaping into the truck Claire is driving, and they take it down with a tank of gas and a taser.
Owen has to be there for Claire and help her find her nephews. He has to talk sense into her and bring her to the reality of the situation. Claire cannot grasp it fully, and he has to lead her through it so she doesn’t get lost in numbers and profits. Owen has a relationship and bond with his raptors. He is their alpha and it is this relationship of mutual respect that stops the raptors from attacking, and turns them against the Indominus. Hoskins fails to connect to the raptors, or anyone else because of his outrageous idea, and that’s why he got eaten by a raptor and no one cared.
Even Lowery, an employee of the park’s control room, stayed behind to help Claire while everyone evacuated. Claire ordered him to open Paddock Nine, and at first hesitant, trusted that Claire knew what she was doing. He opened the paddock, and Claire was able to lead the veteran T-Rex to the Indominus. All of these connections and relationships illustrate the theme that we need to be social. Aristotle once said that humans are “social animals.” And that is proved right here in this film. People need to care for one another and support each other in order to survive.
There are also some minor themes, like those who don’t stop evil are only encouraging it, and Ian Malcolm’s famous line, “Life finds a way.”
Jurassic World is every Jurassic Park fan’s dream because of the sheer amount of references made to the original movie. You may have recognized the signature theme song play in the beginning and you may have noticed Lowery wearing a Jurassic Park t-shirt he got from eBay. There’s also B.D. Wong reprising his role as Henry Wu. There’s also the same entrance to the parks.
The biggest and most obvious reference to the first film is Zach and Gray stumbling upon the ruins of the first park. They explore the Visitor Center. Gray runs his hand along the wall that had the paintings of the dinosaurs on it, the same wall that, in the first film, we see the shadows of the raptors run along. Zach and Gray find the banner that said “When Dinosaurs Ruled the World,” famously falling in the first film when the T-Rex roars in victory over the raptors. Zach used an old display bone (probably that one display that fell apart when the raptors jumped on it) and the banner to make a torch.
They eventually make way to a garage, finding the old park Jeeps, also used in the first film, and successfully fixing it up to drive it around the island. There are some other more obvious references. In the beginning, Gray is watching Mr. DNA on a screen, who appeared in the first film to explain the cloning process.
There’s also John Hammond’s statue in the visitor center and Masrani quotes him, “spare no expense!” We see a goat used as bait for the T-Rex in Jurassic World just like Jurassic Park. And then there’s the less obvious references. Claire is dressed entirely in white throughout the movie and that mirrors John Hammond’s outfit from the first movie.
Lowery’s workstation is a mess (as noted by Claire) and so was Dennis Nedry’s workstation. Lowery and Nedry even wear the same black rimmed glasses. Except Nedry is a bad guy and got eaten by a dilophosaurus, which returns as a hologram in Jurassic World in a very similar fashion. A herd of gallimimus are running along a safari bus in Jurassic World like they were running away from the T-Rex in Jurassic Park.
When the Indominus attacks Zach and Gray because it was attracted to the sound of the vibrating phone, it mirrors the scene where the T-Rex attacks Lex and Tim. The T-Rex was attracted to the flashlight, in Jurassic Park case, but both dinosaurs tried to eat the children, but couldn’t because the vehicle was too big for their mouths to get inside. Both films have a moment where they tend to a fallen animal. In Jurassic Park, it’s a Triceratops. In Jurassic World, it’s an Apatosaurus (which, by the way, is the first dinosaur ever seen in the novel, Jurassic Park and the film changed it to a Brachiosaurus).
And finally, my personal favorite reference to Jurassic Park was the ending of Jurassic World where the dinosaurs fight each other. I’m not just talking about the raptors jumping on the Indominus like they jumped on the T-Rex in the first film. I’m talking about Claire bringing out the park veteran T-Rex. Not only does she use the red flare used to attract the T-Rex in the first movie, but it’s the exact same T-Rex from the first movie. It may not seem like it, but if you look at the T-Rex’s neck, you’ll see fresh scars (from the Indominus) and old scars in the exact same places the raptors attacked in the first film. I instantly recognized her being the same one, and it was one of the many reasons that I, along with the theater, started cheering when we saw her come out. And to top it all off, the T-Rex enters the scene by crashing through a skeleton of a Spinosaurus as a sort of final “fuck you” to the dinosaur that dominated the T-Rex in Jurassic Park III.
In conclusion, you should see this movie. Why? Dinosaurs. We have a simple yet great plot to let the characters flourish. We have a great cast that flourishes those characters. It holds an incredibly powerful message underneath all the action. And, it satisfies the heart of every Jurassic Park fan. It’s enjoyable for almost everyone (unless you just really hate dinosaurs which I find that hard to believe). This movie, although they never expected it to make so much money (probably due to the failures of the last two movies), earned all the money it grossed. It should be the third highest grossing movie in the world because it was entirely amazing. Although I usually dread sequels for a number of reasons I won’t go into, I absolutely cannot wait for Jurassic World 2.