Brave New Jurassic World

There ought to be a word for that feeling you have right before you watch a reboot of a beloved classic. You’re excited because you love the original and you want to spend more time in its universe, but you’re terrified because what if it doesn’t live up the original’s standards or — even worse — what if it’s so bad that it tarnishes the original, making it impossible to enjoy it the same way ever again? Let’s just call the feeling being jurassic-to-my-stomach, because that is how I felt leading up to the premiere of Jurassic World.

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As you may recall, I love Jurassic Park. And so it may not surprise you to learn that my initial reaction when I first heard that the franchise was being rebooted was to bristle. How dare they? How dare they attempt to resurrect my baby? For years I had rolled my eyes at people who gnashed their teeth over reboots of films like Psycho and Ocean’s 11. Big deal, I thought. Get over it, I shrugged. Us young folks can’t enjoy the originals the way you did, so why not let us have our own versions, I pleaded. And then just like that, the mention of a Jurassic Park reboot opened my jaws and dumped buckets of crow straight down my throat. I was thrust onto the other side of the coin: Can’t they leave a classic alone? What else could they possibly do to the story? If Michael Crichton isn’t involved, surely it will be awful. (A stance, by the way, that has kept me from seeing Jurassic Park III, even to this day.) Eventually I calmed down a bit and unbristled with the help of these words from Jurassic World‘s director Colin Trevorrow last year: “We’ve all been disappointed by new installments of the stories we love. But with all this talk of filmmakers ‘ruining our childhood,’ we forget that right now is someone else’s childhood. This is their time. And I have to build something that can take them to the same place those earlier films took us.”

I hate when people are right. Well, I hate when people are right if it means that I was wrong.

Slowly, my anger turned into curiosity and resigned excitement. I came to accept that the movie was happening, and I forced myself to limit my expectations. Eventually I realized that I was going to go see it no matter what, and if that was true, I needed to resist my two biggest temptations: to expect the worst and to hope for the best. Inevitably, those expectations and hopes shade the first viewing of a movie in ways you can’t recover from. If you’re primed to see something bad, you’ll pick apart every fault; if you’re hoping for something great, you’ll be soured by every letdown. Pushing those feelings aside isn’t easy, though; I really, really wanted to love Jurassic World, and I really, really didn’t want my love for Jurassic Park to be tarnished by a bad reboot experience. Hence, my jurassic-to-my-stomach feelings as I walked into the theater to see Jurassic World on opening day.

And do you know what? My muted expectations seemed to work: I was pleasantly surprised by how thoroughly I enjoyed the movie, from start to finish. Colin Trevorrow managed to do two simultaneous things successfully in Jurassic World: he paid wonderful homage to the original film in fun ways that drove the heart of my 10-year-old self wild, and he also created a totally different movie for a present-day audience. I went into Jurassic World ready to compare it closely to Jurassic Park, but what I discovered was that there is no comparison. Jurassic Park to me is a sci-fi movie with some terrific suspense/horror scenes. Things go horribly wrong in the end, but a lot of the movie is about the science and the mystery of the park, about genetics and engineering and life finding a way. Jurassic World doesn’t try to recreate all of that; instead, I think of it as a full-fledged disaster/horror movie that takes place in the sci-fi world already established by the original.

There’s a completely different feel to the reboot, and not in a “better or worse” sense. It simply doesn’t try to be the same type of movie as the original, and if this were a movie review I’d try to pick apart what was “good” and what was “bad,” but this isn’t, so I won’t. I will only say that this movie did not disappoint the Jurassic Park fan in me, and instead delighted me in surprising ways. Will I ever come close to feeling about Jurassic World the way I feel about Jurassic Park? I think that’s doubtful, if for no other reason than the mountain of nostalgia and re-watchings that it would need to climb. But for all of my jurassic-to-my-stomach feelings, I’m certainly glad I gave it a fair chance.

Read more from Jeremy here and on Twitter: @jereminate.