Why Jurassic World’s mega-success is terrible news for film fans

It smashed box-office records, but it could spell the end for quality cinema.

Peter Iantorno June 30, 2015

Sometimes it’s hard to predict when a film is going to be a big box-office hit, but with Jurassic World, there was never any doubt.

The dinosaur blockbuster racked up a monstrous $511.8 million worldwide on its first weekend alone, breaking the record for the highest-grossing opening weekend in history.

It took the film just two weeks to hit the $1 billion mark – the fastest in history – and at last count the box-office takings were at $1.24 billion and rising.

There are a number of reasons why Jurassic World smashed box-office records, and unfortunately the quality of the film itself is categorically not one of them.

Normally when writing about a film that is still showing in the cinema we would be treading on eggshells, giving cryptic clues and handing out spoiler alerts so as not to ruin the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

However, with Jurassic World, this really isn’t necessary as everyone knows (spoiler alert) exactly what is going to happen before they see the film. There’s a security breach at the park, scary dinosaurs are set loose, for a while it looks like Chris Pratt and co. are going to get eaten alive, then at the last moment everything turns out fine. We’ve seen it all before.

Sure, Pratt does a decent job as the leading man – his rugged charms, prize-winning smile and prowess riding an admittedly bad-ass Triumph Scrambler motorcycle clearly a hit with the ladies – and Bryce Dallas is easy on the eye as the leading female, but neither performance lives particularly long in the memory. 

To be fair to the actors, though, it’s not like they had an awful lot to work with. Every character written into the film was such a stereotypical throwback – Pratt’s rough and ready hero who teaches Dallas’ uptight career-minded character to relax – they never stood a chance of achieving anything other than par for the course.

Don’t get us wrong: Jurassic World isn’t a completely lost cause. The CGI is stunning, and the pre-disaster scenes around the park are intriguing, entertaining and tinged with enough nostalgia from the 1993 original to keep us engaged.

But a bit of nostalgia and some cool CGI shouldn’t be enough to smash a box-office record, should it? The thing is, with Jurassic World, no matter how thin the storyline was, how average the acting was or how ridiculously predictable the film turned out to be, it was always going to be a massive financial success.

It has everything going in its favour: A famous franchise; long enough between itself and the last film – the terrible Jurassic Park III – for any negative association to be forgotten; and a universal appeal, popular with dino-mad children and nostalgic adults alike.

But the really genius thing about Jurassic World is that the story is so predictable and formulaic that it translates perfectly for an international audience. And sure enough, with barely any dialogue of note to be dubbed or subtitled, the film was a massive hit globally – especially in China, where opening weekend box offices alone brought in more than $100 million.

Of course, nowadays the path of the heavily marketed blockbuster is a well-trodden one, after the likes of Jaws blazed a trail for today’s box-office smashes some 40 years ago. But what is alarming is the sheer predictability of Jurassic World’s success.

Ask the bigwigs at Universal if they would take a lukewarm reception from the critics in return for a red hot opening weekend grossing more than half a billion dollars, and they’ll give you the same answer every time. And unfortunately the way things are, we're going to end up with the same movie every time, too.