"Jurassic World" Review
It's been 22 years since John Hammond first introduced the world to the many wonders (and dangers) of Isla Nublar. After two underwhelming sequels, the wait for a worthy follow-up to Steven Spielberg's classic 1993 sci-fi film is finally over.
Jurassic World begins a brand-new continuity stemming from the original Jurassic Park. The events of The Lost World and Jurassic Park III are all but ignored. This latest adventure shows us what Isla Nublar would be like if Hammond's vision had been fully realized. Jurassic World is a fully-functioning theme park designed around prehistoric marvels, evoking some of the cornerstones of family vacations and mass-market entertainment that audiences are all familiar with. Monorails to and from the park's resort hotels as well as the central discovery center (a kind of outdoorsy "Cinderella's Castle") evoke fond memories of Disney World; the Mosasaurus arena is reminiscent of Shamu's at Sea World. The main thoroughfare is flanked by corporate-branded shops like Starbucks, Oakley, Dave & Busters, and Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville.
Jurassic World is visibly a marketing cash cow, but all that product placement is there for a reason. It calls to mind the corporate involvement that frequently goes along with blockbuster movies like Jurassic World. All the while, the main characters behind the scenes (Jake Johnson, Lauren Lapkus) crack wise about audiences demanding attractions that are "bigger, better and scarier" with "more teeth," kind of like what mass entertainment has become. Everyone is looking for the next big thrill, especially at movie theaters. That's why we have so many mindless, mega-budget event movies like Transformers, The Avengers and, well, Jurassic World. What sets this movie apart from the rest of the summer pack, however, is self-awareness. After discussing the risks posed by a new genetically-modified dinosaur hybrid, Johnson's character, sporting an illicit "Jurassic Park" t-shirt, says something to Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), JW's head honcho, along the lines of "new" not always being "good" or "better" or "right." It's a wink to the audience that lets us know that this movie has no intention of trying to outdo a classic.
Added to the fold are Claire's nephews Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson), because what would a Spielbergian thriller be without children in peril? They aren't present in the film for any other reason really. I find it sketchy that any parent in their right mind would send their children to an island off of Costa Rica by themselves to catch up with a workaholic aunt who hasn't seen or spoken to them in seven years. I found the kids to be the worst offenders in a cast of thinly-sketched characters.
Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio) is a weak excuse for a human villain, and Claire (Howard) isn't bad but could've been far more interesting with a richer backstory. The only main character worth his salt is Owen (Chris Pratt), the park's velociraptor specialist. It's easy to see that Pratt is having fun with this role. His performance elevates the material as he confirms our suspicions that he could be a superstar in the making. Guardians of the Galaxy was no fluke. If Pratt is ever finally approached for Indiana Jones 5, consider Jurassic World his audition tape.
It doesn't surprise me that the characters are fairly weak and that the plot leaves a few loose ends untied, probably for sequel potential. A team of four screenwriters (Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly) were commissioned to assemble this beast, and it's been rumored that the didn't see eye to eye on several things. Not to mention it took 14 years for someone to finally come up with a story worth telling for $150 million. Knowing that going in, it's fairly easy to let those sins be to pass, especially when the dino action is so f**king awesome.
When the kids aren't around, the film is everything I never knew I wanted from a Jurassic Parksequel. I want suspense, terror, high stakes, and after 20 years, I want some clever nods to the original. The film delivers on all those fronts, although not to the extent of the original. Nothing can ever top that first scene with the Tyrannosaurus Rex in the rain from JP1. But I never thought I'd enjoy watching domesticated raptors run side-by-side with a man on a motorcycle. It's just dumb fun this time around, which is all a film about humans and dinosaurs together in the present day should be.
I won't spoil anything more, but I just want to add that the last 15-20 minutes of Jurassic Worldare perfect for the way this narrative progresses. If somehow you are unable to appreciate the ending, then your expectations may be misaligned. I, for one, led our sold-out IMAX theater in thunderous applause.
In the end, Jurassic World is a brainless summer romp of the highest order as well as a satisfying deconstruction of blockbuster culture. Director Colin Trevorrow has delivered the finest Jurassic Park sequel yet, despite several shortcomings in characterization. Be sure to catch this one in 3D on the biggest screen you can find.
Written by Ben C. of The Reel