Jurassic World (2015) review

Jurassic World posterDirector: Colin Trevorrow

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Irrfan Khan

CLAIRE – “Think it’ll scare the kids?”

MASRANI – “The kids? This’ll give the parents nightmares.”

CLAIRE – “Is that… good?”

MASRANI – “It’s fantastic.”

“I can’t wait any more!”

This is what young Gray (Ty Simpkins, the young lad from Insidious) says near the start of Jurassic World as he whips open the curtains of his hotel room window and gets a glorious view of the park.

In a way, he’s speaking for every Jurassic Park fan crossing their fingers for 14 years for a new movie (and, some would argue, 22 years for a truly brilliant one). We couldn’t wait any more either. And now the wait is over. Continue reading “Jurassic World (2015) review”

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Series Overview – Jurassic Park (1993-2015)

Jurassic Park was one of the biggest films of the nineties. Based on the Michael Crichton novel of the same name, it brought to life a thought every one of us has had as a child: “What would it be like to see a real life dinosaur?”

With the novelty gone, Jurassic Park’s sequels lacked the first film’s initial impact but there was still a giddy pleasure in seeing more dino hijinks. A fourth film, Jurassic World, is planned for summer 2015.

Click each poster for the full review.

Jurassic Park poster

Jurassic Park (1993)
“Eccentric Scottish billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) has opened up a theme park in a remote tropical island, a theme park that features real life dinosaurs he’s managed to clone using the DNA extracted from blood found in fossilised mosquitoes. Excited about his park, he invites some guests to see the park before it opens and get their expert opinions. Oh, and he’s invited his two grandchildren too, because things definitely won’t go tits-up.” Continue reading “Series Overview – Jurassic Park (1993-2015)”

Jurassic Park III (2001)

Director: Joe Johnston

Starring: Sam Neill, William H Macy, Tea Leoni

“No force on earth or heaven could get me on that island.” (Alan Grant, Jurassic Park III)

Some twat (Leoni) sends her son on holiday with her boyfriend, where they both go parasailing over Isla Sorna to try and see some dinosaurs. Clearly not bothering to pay attention to the carnage in Isla Nublar or the incident a few years prior in which a big T-Rex kicked the shit out of San Diego, they somehow seem surprised when things go wrong and they crash-land on the island.

Weeks pass and the twat and her loser ex-husband (Macy) are worried, so they pretend to be millionaires and propose an offer to the original film’s hero, Dr Alan Grant (Neill): be our tour guide as we fly over the island to see some dinosaurs, and we’ll pay you enough money to keep your archaeology gig going for years to come. Grant reluctantly agrees and is understandably pissed off when the plane instead lands on the island and the twat and loser tell him their secret – they’re actually not rich and he’s been roped into helping them find their missing son. This is no longer a research project, it’s a rescue mission… except Grant doesn’t say that because Jeff Goldblum already got to say it in the second film.

"Yes, you're right, there is some sort of mark on your back. Have you been rolling around in the grass or something?"
“Yes, you’re right, there is some sort of mark on your back. Have you been rolling around in the grass or something?”

If the original Jurassic Park was a spectacle – a unique film at the time that changed the face of big-bidget special effects cinema – and The Lost World was Spielberg’s homage to King Kong, Godzilla et al, Jurassic Park III is basically just a high-budget Lockjaw or Sharktopus. It’s goofy, it’s got some ridiculous moments in it and any thought-provoking social commentary in there (of which there’s very little) is there by complete accent.

The raptors have been given an overhaul this time around, and are so intelligent that it’s getting a bit silly. Now it seems they can talk to each other (in dino-speak, of course), something they oddly chose not to do in the first film when stalking two children through a kitchen, a scenario in which communication could have been helpful. Even more ridiculous is that Grant, by sheer chance, happened to have been given a replica of a raptor’s windpipe earlier in the film and in a key scene late in the film, just as he’s being surrounded by raptors, he blows in it and magically makes noises that not only sound like a raptor, but can actually be understood by them. How in the realm of fuck does that happen?

The prehistoric flasher strikes again
The prehistoric flasher strikes again

That aside, there are some new dinos chucked into the mix here too, which range from awesome (the Spinosaurus may actually be a little bit better than the T-Rex, as proven in the scene where they fight and it breaks the T-Rex’s neck) to disappointing – for years fans of the series wanted to see pterodactyls getting used in action scenes, but it’s all just a bit rubbish when we finally get our wish and are hit with a visually impressive but sloppy aviary scene. Not to mention the usual Jurassic Park name-fail by featuring dinosaurs that didn’t actually exist during the Jurassic period.

The strong trio of Neill, Macy and Leoni aside, the supporting cast have all the charisma of a packet of Monster Munch. Grant’s apprentice Billy is so boring and generic (just look as his name for Christ’s sake) that when he disappears, seemingly left for dead, then magically appears again at the end of the film with no explanation as to how he survived, you think “oh, I forgot about him” even though you only just saw him 20 minutes previously.

"No, Mister Ranger sir, I definitely wasn't starting a fire in the park. I... um... oh, this is awkward"
“No, Mister Ranger sir, I definitely wasn’t starting a fire in the park. I… um… oh, this is awkward”

Meanwhile, the series’ annoying child tradition continues when Grant finds the missing son but this time he’s even more annoying because, having survived in dino-infested jungle for so long, he’s a know-it-all kid rather than your basic screamer. Needless to say, the fact that the film doesn’t end with a raptor picking bits of him out of his teeth and speaking to the others in raptorese while a subtitle says “tastes like CHILDREN hahahaha” is nothing short of an injustice.

Any time I watch a film I consider what lessons I’ve learned from it. The lesson I learned from the original Jurassic Park is that you should never try to play God, no matter how appealing the results may seem. The sequel, meanwhile, taught me that you shouldn’t try to mess around with nature and try to take things out of their natural habitat because things will go wrong. The only thing Jurassic Park III taught me is that if you ever go to a foreign country and can’t speak the language, simply cut a native’s throat out and blow through their windpipe like some sort of obscene flute and you’ll get along fine.

None of the above is to say Jurassic Park III is a terrible film, mind you, it’s entertaining in the same way watching a fight going on outside your window is entertaining – it’s a good laugh and you’ll chuckle away for its short duration but you wouldn’t exactly film it and try to sell it to the Tate Gallery. This is a big-budget creature feature and is simply dumb fun.

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The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Director: Stephen Spielberg

Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Vince Vaughn, Richard Attenborough

HAMMOND – “Don’t worry, I’m not making the same mistakes again.”
MALCOLM – “No, no, you’re making all new ones.”

If the original Jurassic Park was a love letter to our childhood obsessions with dinosaurs and our desire to one day see one in real life, The Lost World instead takes its inspiration from King Kong and others of its ilk, showing what happens when large beasts are confronted in their natural habitat and how they react when placed in unfamiliar surroundings. Fear is replaced with sympathy, and by the end of the film Spielberg’s big accomplishment this time isn’t making us believe these fearsome creatures exist, but making us actually want them to overcome our own species in order to survive. That’s right, I can get deep when I want to.

"Before we camp out tonight, I have to warn you all that
“Before we camp out tonight, I have to warn you all that I’m a bed wetter”

After the incidents of the first film essentially made the Jurassic Park complex in Isla Nublar a bit of a write-off, The Lost World starts with Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) meeting up with John Hammond (Attenborough) for a little chat. Hammond tells Malcolm that Isla Nublar wasn’t really the main site, and that there was actually another island called Isla Sornar where they bred the dinosaurs and raised them in their natural habitat before moving them over to Jurassic Park. Remember that scene at the start of the first Jurassic Park where they were putting the raptor in the crate? That was at the other island, that was.

Hammond tells Malcolm that Ingen, the company he was in charge of, has punted him and put a weaselly lawyer guy in charge instead. Not dissuaded by this, Hammond wants Malcolm to head to the second island as part of a research group to study the dinosaurs. Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, the sneaky old prick has also invited Malcolm’s scientist girlfriend to join the team and has already sent her there as a way of convincing him to go. Malcolm perhaps puts it best himself, in the first of many one-liners he gets in this film: “this is no longer a research project, it’s a rescue mission”. Little does Hammond know, however, that Ingen has sent its own workers to the island, in an attempt to bring the dinos back to the US and show them at a new Jurassic Park in San Diego. Because the last one worked out so well.

"That's nothing, you should see the size of my sister"
“That’s nothing, you should see the size of my sister”

The Lost World tries its best to outdo the original in every way possible. You liked the bit with the T-Rex? Well now there are two of them! You liked when they were running with the herd? Now there’s a bigger herd and people are trying to catch them! Remember the sick triceratops? There’s a healthy one this time, and it fucks shit up! You liked seeing people interact with the dinosaurs? Well now a whole army turns up at one point to hunt them all down! You wanted a stegosaurus? Job done, and while we’re at it let’s have it wreck loads of shit in the process so it looks more bad-ass.

The problem is, in adding all this extra action there’s less focus on the story, and while most people don’t exactly watch Jurassic Park films for the character development, there’s still something missing this time around in terms of that human element. You still care about Malcolm because he’s familiar to you after the first film, but the other main characters – his annoying daughter, his headstrong girlfriend (Julianne Moore), their photographer (Vince Vaughn), the veteran hunter who wants to bag a T-Rex (Pete Postlethwaite) – are all lacking that certain something and, ultimately, you couldn’t care less whether they survive or end up as part of a T-Rex’s next shite.

"I'll have a cone and a packet of salt & vinegar please"
“I’ll have a cone and a packet of salt & vinegar please”

Speaking of big Rexy, it’s once again the tyrannosaurs who steal the show despite the obligatory raptor scenes. The scene in which two T-Rexes push the team’s trailer off a cliff is impressive stuff, and when a solitary Rex discovers a large group of Ingen workers camping out chaos ensues.

By far the most memorable (and opinion-dividing) moment however is the film’s last fifteen minutes, in which Ingen manage to get a T-Rex back to the US and it starts running riot through the streets of San Diego. This is clearly Spielberg’s attempt at Godzilla and while it’s fun, it’s a bit of a jarring change of tone that doesn’t really sit well with the rest of the film.

The Lost World was never going to better the sheer novelty and innovation offered by the original Jurassic Park, but as sheer spectacle it’s still up there. It loses a little personality and while it’s still good fun to watch it does start to feel more like a generic monster movie by the end… but hey, you haven’t seen anything yet. Just wait until I review the third one.

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Jurassic Park (1993)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum

HAMMOND – “All major theme parks have had delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956, nothing worked!”
MALCOLM – “But John, if the Pirates Of The Caribbean breaks down the pirates don’t eat the tourists.”

My childhood memories of Jurassic Park are a mixture of peaceful moments involving brachiosaurs and a triceratops, and loud noises played over a bright lime green colour.

You see, when it first hit cinemas in 1993 I was ten years old and I, my mum, my dad and my dinosaur-mad brother went to see it. Signs at the cinema warned that, although Jurassic Park was rated PG, there were some scary scenes that would be unsuitable for young children.

Anyone seeing us go into the cinema would think my seven-year-old brother was a potential problem, but in fact the opposite was the case.

"Look at the side of that car, my dear. I'm very proud of the sides of my cars. I do hope nothing happens to my cars, in particular the sides. I can't stress how important the sides of my cars are."
“Look at the side of that car, my dear. I’m very proud of the sides of my cars. I do hope nothing happens to my cars, in particular the sides. I can’t stress how important the sides of my cars are.”

For want of a better phrase, I was a bit of a pussy when I was younger, whereas at the tender age of seven my brother loved A Nightmare On Elm Street, Child’s Play and the like.

That’s why, when the T-Rex attacked the jeeps in the pouring rain and ate the annoying lawyer, or when the Dilophosaur spat on the double-crossing Dennis Nedry and attacked him in his car, or when the raptors were chasing Tim and Lex in the kitchen, I never saw those scenes – I only heard them, with my lime green t-shirt pulled over my face in fear.

Despite this fear I still loved Jurassic Park, and the majority of 1993 and 1994 was spent playing with the toys (remember the ones that roared when you moved their hand, and the Dino Damage ones that had chunks of flesh you could pull off?), playing the video games (the Mega Drive one let you play as the raptor) and re-watching the VHS over and over again, the smaller telly and lower volume providing me with a safer environment to watch the dodgier scenes. It was a part of my childhood and now, aged 28, I still love it.

"Well, that's the sides fucked"
“Well, that’s the sides fucked”

For the sake of procedure I feel obliged to explain the story of Jurassic Park, this being a review and all, though you really should know it by now.

Eccentric Scottish billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) has opened up a theme park in a remote tropical island, a theme park that features real life dinosaurs he’s managed to clone using the DNA extracted from blood found in fossilised mosquitoes.

Excited about his park, he invites some guests – palaeontologist Alan Grant (Neill), palaeobotanist Ellie Sattler (Dern), theorist Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) and the aforementioned annoying lawyer – to see the park before it opens and get their expert opinions. Oh, and he’s invited his two grandchildren too, because things definitely won’t go tits-up.

"It's a fossilised penis. It must have fallen out of my pocket when we were being chased"
“It’s a fossilised penis. It must have fallen out of my pocket when we were being chased”

After a while, things go tits-up and, thanks to some underhand subterfuge from park IT nerd Dennis Nedry, the electric fences around the park go down, leaving the dinosaurs free to run riot and do what they feel like. And, somewhat unsurprisingly, what they feel like doing is munching on humans.

It’s up to the gang (who are scattered around the island) to regroup and get the fuck out of Dodge before a raptor puts them between two slices of bread.

Even watching it eighteen years later on Blu-ray, Jurassic Park still looks sensational. There are one or two moments where the CGI now looks ever so slightly dated (most notably the scene with the brachiosaurs where everyone sees the dinosaurs for the first time), but the fact that all of the dinosaur effects are still infinitely more convincing than the tripe churned out today – I’m looking at you Dinoshark, Lockjaw and Mega Piranha – just shows what an incredible achievement this film’s special effects were at the time on computer hardware that nowadays would be, if you’ll pardon the pun, prehistoric.

"When you told me we were going to meet your horny friend this wasn't what I had in mind. But hey, every hole's a goal"
“When you told me we were going to meet your horny friend this wasn’t what I had in mind. But hey, every hole’s a goal”

It’s just a perfect film that works on so many levels for all ages. Children get a kick out of seeing people interact with dinosaurs – something we’ve all wanted to do at some point – while adults can appreciate the arguments the characters have over the ethical and moral implications of cloning and disrupting the laws of natural selection by bringing back extinct animals, topics that are still strikingly relevant almost two decades later.

If you’ve never seen Jurassic Park, I feel like crying right in your face then whipping my head left and right so the tears slap across your inexperienced eyes. It’s simply an essential film that everyone with any sense of wonder or imagination has to see.

At the time it was released it was a revelation in filmmaking and its use of CGI changed the way movies were created, while these days it’s become a demonstration that even though its special effects DNA has been cloned and misused so many times since, when used properly it can make for some of the most spectacular cinema ever seen.

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WHERE CAN I GET IT?
Jurassic Park was recently released in a lovely Blu-ray trilogy boxset. UK peeps can get it by clicking here or get the DVD trilogy by clicking here. If you’re a Yankee Doodle Dandy you can get the US Blu-ray trilogy here or the DVD trilogy here.