Movie Review: Jurassic World

  • Director: Colin Trevorrow
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, Vincent D’Onofrio
  • Screenplay: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, & Derek Connolly
  • Inspired By: Michael Crichton
  • Music By: Michael Giacchino
  • Cinematography: John Schwartzman
  • Running Time: 124 Minutes
  • Premiered: June 12, 2015 (USA)

Synopsis: A new theme park is built on the original site of Jurassic Park. Everything is going well until the park’s newest attraction–a genetically modified giant stealth killing machine–escapes containment and goes on a killing spree. (From IMDb)

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Review: No one is impressed by dinosaurs anymore. Obviously these people have not attended a paleontological convention recently. Dinosaurs have never gone out of style, they just have not been given a Hollywood glamour makeover recently. In 1993 Steven Spielberg redefined the CGI game by delivering remarkably realistically rendered dinosaurs. By realistic, I mean educated guesstimation about how dinosaurs might have looked. So far paleontologists have yet to recover any fully articulated and well preserved soft tissue. Hence, dinosaur skin color remains a mystery. But Spielberg’s CGI experts did an admirable job making the dinosaurs look realistic. Since 1993, two less than stellar sequels debuted and quickly disappeared. The Jurassic Park franchise has languished from inattention for a decade and a half. Apparently popular opinion changed and the movie executives decided everyone was ready for another dinosaur movie. Since Jurassic World has debuted, it has grossed over $500 Million USD at the box office. Clearly dinosaurs are back in favor. Either that or Chris Pratt has an unstoppable grip on the box office.

Jurassic World contains all the hallmarks of a summer blockbuster: it is loud, thrilling, and full enough snapping teeth to make any one jump. Unlike Jurassic Park, this installment is not nearly as groundbreaking or original. However, it is a fun movie that delivers on the heart stopping fun. Also, it is one of the few recent blockbusters that realistically portray teenagers and kids who alternate between impulsiveness, courage, indifference, and fear. Director Colin Trevorrow smartly does not try to mimic Spielberg’s style from the original movie. However, Trevorrow does include several subtle homages to the original film and includes several moments of suspense. According to the IMDb trivia page, 25 characters die by dinosaur in this film. I was quite surprised by the number of young children, under 10, in the theater when I saw this film. Jurassic World carries a PG-13 rating for a reason, it is rather grisly and can be nightmare inducing for young children. While there are plenty of “tame” scenes, this movie is one dinosaur snapping session away from an R rating.

Welcome to Jurassic World, the new park built on the skeleton of the last one. Business is booming. In fact the park has become so popular it is almost boring. The same old exhibits and blood thirsty dinosaurs no longer hold the same appeal. So the park’s corporate investors have decided that a newer, deadlier, and scarier attraction needs to be created. So the geneticists and lab technicians mix together a potent mix of dinosaur DNA and some other sources in order to deliver the first genetically enhanced dinosaur, the Indominus Rex. A new attraction, however, is not all fun and roses. It means an increased work load for the already stressed Claire, the park’s administrator. She is trying to pull all the pieces together to make the new attraction an overwhelming success.  However, Claire’s plans are slightly derailed when her two nephews, Zach and Gray, arrive for a vacation. Things become complicated when the new dinosaurs proves too intelligent for its own good. Enter Owen Grady, the former Navy guy who is in charge of Velociraptor training. When events take a turn for the worse, the four main characters have to come together to keep the park from descending into genetically modified prehistoric terror.

Fans of the franchise will notice that BD Wong, the main geneticist, is the only original cast member to return. Based upon the ending, he will probably be a major player in the sequel. I will always remember Wong as Martin Short’s sarcastic assistant from 1995’s Father of the Bride Part II. In this new iteration the roles of the imperiled children are filled by Nick Robinson, playing the surly teenager, and Ty Simpkins, the dinosaur obsessed younger brother. Both actors put in solid performances and are believable as annoyed siblings. I particular appreciated the evolution of the brothers’ relationship throughout the film. It is always nice when screenwriters focus on the positives in sibling relationships instead of emphasizing rivalry. Vincent D’Onofrio portrays the egotistical security guy who views dinosaurs as the next big thing in military might. D’Onfrio’s character comes the closets to being a human antagonist. He definitely rubs everyone the wrong way and attempts to impose his will on anything that moves. 

Bryce Dallas Howard makes her big screen return as Claire, the beleaguered park administrator. She spends the entire film running around in three inch heels and never tripping once. Apparently Howard had to take lessons in order to learn how to run in heels. That is the modern woman for you, conquering the present and prehistoric worlds one stiletto at a time. Character wise, Claire is rather underdeveloped. Then again, most of the characters suffer from a lack of depth. But Howard does her best to infuse Claire with a balanced mix of ambition and familial craving. Howard is a wonderful actress, as documented in The Help, and I hope Jurassic World leads to some meatier roles for her. Claire’s male counterpart is Owen Grady, aka Chris Pratt aka The King of the Box Office. Grady is a sardonic former US Navy man who has dedicated his post-Navy years to “taming” a pack of captive velociraptors. He also rides around on a motorcycle and just looks cool. Grady is equal parts snarky, observant, and dashing. So he is basically Indiana Jones; except he is chasing after dinosaurs instead of artifacts. Pratt and Howard have excellent on-screen chemistry and help keep the film focused.

Velociraptors continue to gain brain cells between film installments. They have now gained the ability to take commands, but only from someone who possess the correct dinosaur whispering voice and pose. After all, not just anyone can wrangle a group of velociraptors. By now every zookeeper in the world has copied the now-famous posturing pose perfected by Pratt in this film. Jurassic World is just as fun as the original movie, if slightly more polished. Jurassic Park is a stronger movie in terms of character development and story depth. But Jurassic World is a solidly entertaining film and erases the bad feelings left over from the previous abysmal sequels.

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