The Dinosaurs In “Jurassic World,” Ranked From Worst To Best
Parks come and parks go, but the Gallimimus is always just running, running, running. Some day, the world — Jurassic and otherwise — will end, but the Gallimimus will keep going. But where are they running to? They’re on a goddamn island.
Stegosaurus does some hanging out by the river and some lumbering through the field, content in the knowledge that Jurassic World is concerned with carnage, not herbivores.
The original 1993 Jurassic Park was an early example of what computer effects could do, though a lot of that was in combination with animatronics. It’s been 20-plus years since then, in the real world and the one in the franchise, and almost all the dino creations in 2015’s Jurassic World creations are computer generated. Some — like the film’s Big Bad, the Indominus rex — feel solid and substantive, and others, like the Stegosaurus, tend to come across more like weightless set dressing.
The notable exception is a wounded Apatosaurus who gets an animatronic close-up, all the better to teach a painfully stereotypically uptight workaholic (Bryce Dallas Howard) that dinosaurs have feelings too. But giving the animal humanoid, Ryan Gosling-blue eyes feels like overkill, especially in contrast to Indominus’ intensely reptilian ones.
While quickly upstaged by the Indominus rex, the heavily armored Ankylosaurus does get a sequence in which it uses its club tail to rocket the movie’s obligatory children around in a gyrosphere like some giant, dino-powered pinball machine.
There’s a vivid, curious streak of self-loathing in Jurassic World, courtesy of director and co-writer Colin Trevorrow’s you asked for this meta-sensibility. The movie ignores the franchise’s second and third installments, but includes multiple nods to Jurassic Park and its own unlikelihood. The refrain of “you wanted more teeth” is used to explain both the thrill-seeking theme park — which needs new attractions to please jaded onlookers for whom dinos are old news — and the movie’s push for the ever louder and more brutal. It’s all embodied in Jurassic World‘s signature baddie the Indominus rex, a genetically engineered hybrid who’s one part Tyrannosaurus and other parts classified, for no reason other than to allow a gradual reveal of terrible talents.
Indominus was created to be scary, but she’s more like Cartman in the South Park ninja episode, in which he wants his character to have all the powers. Indominus is larger than the T. rex, kills for the fun of it, can change colors to camouflage herself, and has other secrets in store. But she’s artificial — literally, and in the way that every element about her seems to have been chosen to fit a pre-written action sequence rather than the other way around. The most frightening thing about poor Indominus is how much of a screenplay contrivance she is.
Jurassic World is a more bloodthirsty movie than Jurassic Park — its location, after all, is actually up and running and being visited by thousands of people when the Indominus rex escapes. The scene in which the Pteranodons (and the occasional fellow flier Dimorphodon) get out of the aviary and descend on the unwitting guests waiting to be evacuated in the park’s Main Street, U.S.A. equivalent is, for a while, a destructive delight — fanny-packed tourists run, shrieking, from creatures able to pick them up but not really able to carry them.
There’s even a guy who insists on taking his drinks with him while fleeing the flying dinos — and who can blame him? Those things probably cost, like, 25 bucks a piece. It’s unfortunate that the sequence also includes an unduly cruel, prolonged death for an innocuous minor character. Donald Gennaro, the lawyer in Jurassic Park, was at least established as terrible before the T. rex ate him off that toilet. This Jurassic World kill is jarringly sadistic.
Things escalate and go to hell so quickly in Jurassic World that we don’t get much time with the park when it’s functioning normally. It’s unfortunate, because what we do see is cleverly imagined, from the nightmare fuel that is the aquatic attraction to the Gentle Giants petting zoo. The petting zoo is actually ingenious, right down to the baby Triceratops that are available for rides — an awesome offering that probably only rarely ends with someone getting gored.
Chris Pratt’s Owen is a Velociraptor trainer (as well as an all-around badass and Guy Who Is Always Right). His attempts to manage the killer pack dinosaurs make for the movie’s most satisfying storyline, even if it’s one wedded to an insane scheme in which Vincent D’Onofrio’s character plots to use the raptors as weapons. (If taking dangerous, inconsistently controllable animals into battle made any sense, we would have started toting tigers and hippos to the front lines long ago.)
The raptors may have lost their mystique, but they’re still the franchise’s favorite things to choreograph for a reason. They’re strategic and fast, and their birdlike movements are still spooky. And unlike the other dinos, they have personality — and personality goes a long way.
Jurassic World may pay tribute to Jurassic Park, but it doesn’t have the 1993 film’s sense of patience. When you consider the build-up to seeing both the raptors and the T. rex in Jurassic Park, the emergence of the Indominus so early on is practically businesslike. The one new dino who retains a sense of wonder is the Mosasauraus, whose marine park-style emergence in an arena to chomp on a shark is surreal. The straightforward pleasure the audience takes in seeing this massive monster leap out of the water is an effective shorthand for how the park has commodified and sanitized its beasties, even as further appearances from the Mosasauraus confirm it’s hardly safe to keep around.
Still the king, after all these years — the Tyrannosaurus actually benefits from receiving less screentime than the raptors and the Indominus. We first see the T. rex in a witty update of the scene in Jurassic Park in which the dinosaur is tempted into the open with a sacrificial goat. The Jurassic World folks have this process down to a science, not that we get to see it behind the wall of gawkers and picture-takers.
Fittingly, it’s all just kiddie stuff to the teenage Zach (Nick Robinson), who ends up in the foreground on his phone, more focused on girls than the formerly extinct creature. By the time the T. rex reappears, it’s in an fitting place of pride in a movie that otherwise feels like it has the volume numbingly turned all the way up from its opening scenes. Jurassic World may be one self-aware excursion into bigger, stronger, and faster, but its ultimate lesson is: less is more.
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