If you’ve been waiting impatiently for news about Jurassic World, the upcoming fourth film in the Jurassic Park franchise, we finally have some news for you. And it’s big news, too: Ty Simpkins, best known for playing the role of Harley in Iron Man 3, has been cast as the film’s lead. Despite being only 12 years old, Simpkins has racked up an impressive résumé, with roles in Stephen Spielberg’s remake of War of the Worlds, Revolutionary Road, and both Insidious and its sequel. Jurassic World would be his first leading role. Rumors are also circulating that New Girl‘s Jake Johnson and Bryce Dallas Howard will also be cast in the upcoming blockbuster.
Fans were divided in opinion over Simpkins’ Iron Man character: some thought he did a good job of helping explore Tony Stark’s character, others thought he was a merely tolerable child sidekick, while still others thought that the character was useless and annoying. In general, adding a child character to an action film is going to cause a great deal of complaint and debate, as it is one of the least popular film tropes. For Jurassic World to make a kid the hero of the film is a risky move. There is bound to be a great deal of overlap between audiences who enjoy both franchises, and the film may be setting itself up for a loss if most of that overlapping audience disliked Harley. Plus, it’s always difficult to make a child the protagonist of a story that is catered towards adults, and could result in grown-up movie-goers skipping Jurassic World because it seems like too much of a kid’s film.
Furthermore, while Harley was an important character in Iron Man 3, he serves primarily as a plot device for Tony Stark, rather than as a separate entity. The character is designed to help explore Tony’s PTSD, and his own childhood issues. Harley — precocious, inventive, and alone most of the time — is a parallel to Tony himself, and therefore exists as a way to help the audience understand Tony’s psyche better as well as to give him someone to whom he can be a role model. With the exception of bailing Tony out of trouble, Harley has no real influence over the plot, and exists mostly as a way to explore what’s going on inside Tony’s head.
Whichever character Simpkins takes on in Jurassic World, then, will hopefully be more fleshed-out. It’s possible, of course, that Simpkins could be playing another version of Jurassic Park‘s grandchildren characters, played in the 1993 film by Joe Mazzello and Ariana Richards, and serve a more supporting, plot-servicing part in the film. However, if his character is indeed the hero of the film, it will be interesting to see whether Simpkins can carry a whole film by himself. It’s a difficult undertaking for any actor to support a franchise, but the pressure will be even greater for Simpkins, who is not only playing his first lead, but will barely be a teenager when he does it.
A great deal of the film’s success relies on Simpkins’ character, which puts pressure on both the writers and the actor. Sure, dinosaurs can make up for a multiple of sins, but without a compelling lead, any film will fail, regardless of how invested its fans are or how many velociraptor attacks occur. That being said, having a kid as the hero of Jurassic World could work, and work well, with the right approach. As long as Simpkins’ character is fully realized and multi-dimensional, then the film should have no problem getting good reviews in addition to the big box office numbers it’s destined for.
Or, failing that, just scrap the human characters all together and make a film solely about the dinosaurs. Everyone should be happy with that.