Jurassic World is not Jurassic Park

Jurassic World, the fourth movie in the Jurassic Park series is worth seeing, but it’s not on par with the original.

(Spoiler Alert: plot points revealed ahead)

The movie is based on an interesting premise: it’s now more than two decades after the disastrous incident that occurred at on the original island, but somehow the company has managed to survive and John Hammond’s dream of building a biological attraction unlike any other has finally been realized.

Jurassic World is Jurassic Park on steroids. That part of the movie works — seeing the technological marvel of a functioning zoo built to hold dinosaurs is the most interesting part of the movie. And the movie’s depiction of what that might look like is done well: it has a petting zoo, an area where children can ride young triceratops, concession stands, bored ride operators, and unkempt security guards who have been around the dinosaurs long enough to no longer be wowed by them — the dinosaurs are just an attraction like any other.

But that is part of the problem with this movie: it has none of the wonder of the original. It’s taken a big idea and made it small.

The reason for the lack of wonder in this movie compared to the first isn’t just because CGI was new when director Steven Spielberg first brought dinosaurs to life in 1993, and we are used to them now. It is because the movie intentionally ignores the wonder element. One of the main characters is so bored with the zoo that he doesn’t even look away from his phone to see the T-rex.

And since real dinosaurs are apparently not exciting enough to hold people’s attention, genetics company InGen has decided to make something even bigger and scarier: A genetically modified dinosaur that, as it turns out, can see infrared, change its body temperature to avoid being seen on thermal cameras, has the ability to camouflage itself like a chameleon, is super intelligent, and distempered from being raised in total isolation.

And things go predictably wrong.

Worse than losing the wonder of the original is that Jurassic World has none of the suspense of the first movie: think of the T-rex attack, or turning the power back on, or the velociraptors in the kitchen.

This isn’t a case of just having too high of expectations that cannot possibly be met: the tyrannosaurs scene in the 1997 sequel The Lost World was every bit as suspenseful as the original.

Jurassic World doesn’t create an emotional bond with any of the characters. It doesn’t even establish most of them well enough for the audience to remember their names, or care when they die. One death midway through the movie that should be considered tragic generated laughter.

The idea that the dinosaurs could be genetically modified to be more suitable for a zoo is not outrageous — in fact, the idea is explored in the original book by the late author and Kauai resident Michael Crichton. That’s what makes the movie frustrating: it is fun to watch, but it had the potential to be much, much better.

The fault of this movie is entirely due to the poor storyline (which includes a subplot involving a guy who wants to use the velociraptors as weapons to hunt terrorists). There is too much exposition trying to shoehorn in a philosophical debate. The laugh lines are stilted. The actors at least make the movie watchable — it never feels like it drags.

There are many plot holes that are hard to ignore. Anyone living on Kauai knows what a tropical environment will do to a vehicle that has been left outside; a Jeep that has been abandoned for 20 years in isn’t going to start. And no one is riding a motorcycle through a jungle.

There are a number of enjoyable, although heavy-handed, callbacks to the 1993 blockbuster, but it often feels like they were included for no other reason than to evoke feelings from the original movie. And it’s fun to see scenes shot on Kauai, although recognizable portions are few. KipuKai beach and Kahili Ranch were used as shooting locations.

Jurassic World is fun to watch, but it isn’t Jurassic Park.

Jurassic World opens nationwide on Friday; it opens on Kauai June 26.

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