It’s always a toss-up whether a long-awaited sequel will measure up to the original — lately, however, we’ve been lucky enough to return to the worlds of Mad Max and the Jurassic and experience the magic and nostalgia of the first stories while being treated to new, exciting chapters.
While Jurassic World didn’t quite measure up to the beautiful badassery of Mad Max:Fury Road, it definitely upped the ante of dino tales and gave us a deeper appreciation of certain species, animal behavior, and the ties that bind us to one another.
There’s been a lot of back-and-forth about the relationship between the two leads, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), and I have mixed feelings about it too. I don’t think it was completely necessary for it to be a love story — the kiss was in the wrong place, thematically, and frankly, wasn’t even needed.
I wish the dynamics of Jurassic Park had been preserved (the male and female paleontologists, the older sister-younger brother dynamic), which would have made Jurassic World a stronger film. Jurassic World managed to avoid most, if not all, tropes, even though it failed the Bedchel test (and no, conversations among the dinosaurs, who are all female, do not count). Where are the nerdy little girls that were around in previous films? What would be so wrong with having female dino trainers? And what about people of color in lead roles and not just secondary roles?
There were some other hiccups too, like Dearing’s sister pushing motherhood onto her (despite her own familial problems), Grady subtly insulting her (which she called him out on) while maintaining that relationships are about respect, and the direction that at one point she drape herself on the ground like a classic Hollywood damsel in distress, but this is more a systemic problem than an individual film problem, and it requires more conversation than just pointing out all the issues in any one film. That being said, it’s a problem we need to keep talking about until it gets resolved.
I did, however, love Claire Dearing’s heroics in heels. She is a smart, savvy businesswoman (organized, professional, and firm), but when confronted by the chaotic, tragic upheaval of the park, she doesn’t snap. She uses her strengths to survive and save the ones she loves.
She’s the most three-dimensional character in the film, in fact, and carries the story on her shoulders. Bryce Dallas Howard has been one of my favorite actors since I saw her in The Village, and she has continued to shine in every story since. Her range of emotion is superb, and her eyes manage to telegraph every single one.
Claire Dearing’s journey from a person who prefers to stand alone to someone who recognizes that there is also strength in standing together (an interesting parallel with the Indominus Rex and the Raptor Squad) is one we can all take to heart.
Bryce Dallas Howard’s portrayal of Claire Dearing inspired me. She didn’t apologize for herself, she called people out on their problematic behavior, and she was incredibly brave in the face of almost certain death. She’s the sort of hero I want to be.
I love that she was able to convey so much emotion without being made fun of or belittled by the storytellers. We need more films with emotional heroes, because we are emotional creatures. The idea that heroes should be stoic is frankly, ridiculous, and while acceptable as a stylization, should not be the standard.
Seeing Claire Dearing cry over the death of one of the dinosaurs made me cry, and her terror catapulted the tension into hyperdrive. The tears in her eyes as she tried one more desperate measure to save the park gave the situation gravity.
I want to know more about Claire Dearing. There’s a lot that went unsaid in her character development, hints left tantalizing us with her story. There’s more to her than meets the eye and I hope that people will give her a chance. She’s one of the better heroines we’ve been given of late, and I’m grateful we’re finally beginning to see more three-dimensional female characters in action films.
The rest of the movie gave a nostalgic nod to the past, most recognizable in the return to the original film’s theme of control, Michael Giacchino’s beautiful, haunting score, Dr. Henry Wu’s continued scientific experiments, and the old logo returning as Claire Dearing’s nephews discover an old bunker we saw in the original film. There’s even a cheeky wink from the film to the audience about how people aren’t wowed by just dinosaurs anymore — they need to be bigger, cooler, with more teeth.
Overall, I loved Jurassic World. Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing, secondary characters played by Lauren Lapkus (Orange Is The New Black), Jake Johnson (New Girl, Safety Not Guaranteed), Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi) and Omar Sy (X-Men: Days of Future Past), and the loving homage to the first film was well done.
If I could have added one more thing, though, I would have included an after-credits scene of an interview between a newscaster and Dr. Ian Malcolm talking about the inevitability of chaos and the absurdity of believing we ever have control over nature. That would have been the icing on the cake for me.
Here’s hoping there’s a sequel.Image Credits: Universal Studios