Jurassic World (2015)

22 Jun

114

Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

22 years since the events of “Jurassic Park,” the theme park with real dinosaurs as its major attractions is finally opened. To talk about why that’s probably the worst idea imaginable, considering everything that happened before, would take too long, so let’s just move on. The park looks great! The visitors’ center has holographic, life-size dinosaurs, children can ride little Triceratops, the dinosaurs are seen by traveling via monorail and giant glass spheres, there’s an underwater dinosaur that eats sharks and splashes a viewing audience, and so on. If I didn’t see the first movie (and even today, I pretend not to see its first two sequels; I think the creators of this movie pretend that too), I’d want to visit this place in the hope that these things don’t suddenly break free and attack me! And of course, in a “Jurassic Park” movie, things must go wrong on the particular day this movie is set.

One of the more brilliant touches added to the story is that people today are so used to seeing a Tyrannosaurus Rex or a Brachiosaur that they’re just sort of bored by it. Even when tourists are near a T-Rex, some of them are just on their phones and ignoring it. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) compares them to elephants and wonders if there’s something bigger and scarier for today’s generation. Thanks to the gene-splicing done by a research team done by the only remaining cast member in this sequel, Dr. Wu (B.D. Wong, from the first movie), a new creation is awaiting approval to be released to the public—the 50-foot Indominus Rex, who apparently ate its only sibling.

Well, there’s only one way this can turn out, right?

Enter Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a former Navy man who now works as a Raptor Wrangler & Whisperer. No, seriously—he can communicate with Velociraptors using a clicking device and a stern voice. This gets the attention of the obvious villain, the unlikable military-type (Vincent D’Onofrio), who wants to use the Raptors as weapons. But enough about that, Owen says. I gotta check out this Indominus Rex thing!

Claire brings Owen in on the new dino, and of course, he thinks this was a very bad idea. Further proving his point too late is when the creature manages to break out of its paddock, heading toward the park, where thousands of people are! So now it’s up to Owen, Claire, Claire’s assistants at the electronic monitors (including Lowery, played with Jeff Goldblum-style cockiness by Jake Johnson), and even the military to bring this beast down before it causes any more damage. On top of that, Claire’s nephews, teenage Zach (Nick Robinson) and his precocious little brother Gray (Ty Simpkins), are in the park, have escaped from Claire’s assistant, and have separated from everyone else to have some fun. After a T-Rex attacks them, they lose their way in the park.

This is a much better “Jurassic Park” sequel than 1997’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and 2001’s “Jurassic Park III.” It captures the feel of the original while knowing that it’s not enough to give us what made it popular but to add its own inventive elements as well. What do we come to expect? Fun action scenes with some scary dinosaurs. What else do we come to expect? Something new to add on to them. Setting the film in the fully functional park was a good way to start, and even making this new vision of a dinosaur theme park better than what Richard Attenborough’s John Hammond would’ve imagined was a good idea too. There are so many things that can be done with this version, and director Colin Trevorrow and his team of writers take advantage of most of them (if not all of them). They also give the central characters (Owen, Claire, Zach, Gray, Lowery) enough appeal and personality to make us care for them, even if they’re more two-dimensional rather than three-dimensional. This is especially notable since I couldn’t give a damn about most of the characters in the other sequels.

The action scenes are a lot of fun and even almost rival the best in the original. I have two particular favorites—one is a sequence in which escaped Pterodactyls attack the visitors’ center, picking people up, eating them, dropping them, etc., and the other is the intense climactic battle between beast and…beast. (That’s all I’ll say about that.) And of course, being a monster-movie, there’s also room for social commentary and satire—is it worth it to amp up the thrills in an amusement park? And let’s not forget D’Onofrio’s logic in using dinosaurs as weapons: technology will fail, so nature will continue to help us. Maybe this guy should watch “Aliens” and learn something about military-industrial complexes. Oh, and how are the effects? The film uses both CGI and animatronics—while it’s more effective when the animatronics are used (such as a rare tender moments when Owen and Claire comfort a dying Brachiosaur), the CGI dinosaurs are fine. (Just don’t see this movie in 3-D—they look more fake in that process.)

“Jurassic World” is the “Jurassic Park” sequel I was waiting for. It’s fun, inventive, and even works well as a stand-alone thrill ride. This may inspire more sequels to be made, though I don’t think they’re needed. I think the filmmakers have already done for this film what’s left to do with its concept (unless the sequel wants to go for the R rating and do things audiences wouldn’t expect). But for now, be glad there’s fresh, new life brought to a cherished franchise.

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