To me, Jurassic Park was above all a descent into darkness. The special effects needed the cover of darkness and rain, which conveniently let them set it in a jungle, reinforcing the Joseph Conrad reference. It had quite a bit of comic relief (Jeff Goldblum’s tics, Newman from Seinfeld, and some guy getting eaten in the outhouse), but it was also a movie about hubris, the kind that results in dismemberment. Like a good tragedy, Jurassic Park took its personalities as archetypes, and let them interact to prove the plot. Like a good thriller, you couldn’t be too sure who would get eaten … but like a good Hollywood movie, in the end it was all the evil, irritating, and minor people.
With Jurassic World, the studio figured they could finally make realistic dinosaurs up close, in daylight, and the result is a movie awash with light. One whole terrifying night is skipped without a word (maybe the director’s cut will fix that dramaturgical problem, among others). Even the last night’s action takes place in a brightly lit boulevard, the better to show off their CGI fight choreography.
In the new movie, the characters are all meant to evolve, at least the ones who didn’t start off as images of perfection. They are all tested; some improve and some decline. This is the only aspect of the movie that attempts real drama. In all other respects it is almost pure comedy. Even the action shocks are a bit like physical comedy, because after 20 years it’s abundantly clear that they are never going to gruesomely murder any of their likable main characters.
They can play with tropes (Will the token black guy get killed? No, we’re not doing that anymore; it’s too racially charged.), and self-conscious self-references all day long, but in the end, they’ve made the same old movie again, only brighter and hammier. It’s entertainment, fine, but it’s not movie magic anymore. We know you can make good dinosaurs on screen. Now tell us a new story about them.