Remaking a movie is sort of like trying to recreate a recipe from a history book. You can’t just follow it verbatim, because a lot of the ingredients don’t exist anymore and the spices all have different potencies now. So the proportions are all out of whack, to say nothing of people’s changing taste buds – elements that once tasted exotic are now familiar to the point of blandness.
Jurassic World is basically an attempt to recreate the Jurassic Park recipe without access to the most important elements – Steven Spielberg, the cast – for an audience that’s no longer that impressed by CGI dinosaurs. It fares much better with the dinosaurs than with the people. It wisely tries to give us human characters we’ll be invested in enough that it’ll be thrilling when the dinosaurs chase them, but inexplicably seems to believe the best way to do that is to write a lot of scenes where they cry for some reason.
Jurassic Park had Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards as Tim and Lex Murphy, the dinosaur-obsessed brain and boy-crazy tween invited to the park by their eccentric grandfather, John Hammond. They were believable, and they felt like reasonably necessary foils for Sam Neill’s character, a crotchety archaeologist who was terrible with children. Jurassic World, by contrast, has Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson as Gray and Zach, nephews of Bryce Dallas Howard’s corporate ice queen park director. The first problem with this is that Simpkins has the most infuriating hair helmet I’ve seen since this kid in The Lucky One.
His highlit Storm Trooper helm takes me out of the story instantly because everything about him screams “CHILD ACTOR,” like he wandered onto the set from a Disney sitcom. It feels like some casting director’s nauseating attempt to maximize the kid’s Hallmark cuteness, like they stopped just short of giving him painted on freckles and false eyelashes.
Helmet is supposed to be the brain of the duo, who spouts important dinosaur facts while his ladies man older brother ogles chicks, but even aside from his bad acting and preposterous amount of hair, this entire plotline is a mess. The most baffling moment of the film comes when he starts crying because he’s convinced his parents are getting a divorce. His offscreen parents who are in the movie for a grand total of 90 seconds, that is. This crying jag also comes as he’s riding a VIP tram through a lavish amusement park he’s dreamed of his entire life. As if eating cotton candy at the apex of a roller coaster was a logical time for introspection.
In another scene, Ladies Man and Helmet’s mom, played by Judy Greer, calls her sister, Bryce Dallas Howard, and finds out that (gasp) she’s not even accompanying her nephews on the tour! She just gave them free VIP tickets to the park and promised to meet them for dinner later like some monstrous, Dickensian dungeon master! This elicits another crying jag, from Judy Greer this time (at least we know where Helmet gets it). Why is everyone crying about their stupid problems? Aren’t there genetically hybridized dinosaurs to worry about?
Spielberg used his actors for comic relief, he didn’t expect us to be invested in their bedwetting drama. Moreover, when Ladies Man tells his brother “aren’t you supposed to be the genius?”, the genius part seems out of character. Like the Jurassic World writers are trying to imitate the original’s character dynamic more out of superstition than for any useful effect, like the dudes with bras on their heads in Weird Science.
Jurassic World is best when it’s not trying to imitate. If the theme of the original was mankind’s hubris, Jurassic World, when it’s coherent, is about the corporation’s never-ending need to maximize profits. BD Wong plays the slippery scientist who created the new genetically hybridized dinosaurs like the Indominus Rex. When Corporate Boss Guy (I think?) Irrfan Khan presses him on why he gave this new killing machine super intelligence, the ability to camouflage and alter its own heat signature, the gist of Wong’s answer is that you can’t have “more claws, more teeth” without a whole host of unintended side effects.