Movie Review: Jurassic World
In 1993, Steven Spielberg introduced us to Jurassic Park, a mad scientist’s fantasy theme park where genetically modified dinosaurs first thrilled and then murdered the guests. In 2015, Colin Trevorrow (with Spielberg looking over his shoulder) attempts to recreate that same awe and fear by showing us Jurassic World, a mad corporation’s fantasy theme park where genetically modified dinosaurs first thrill and then murder the guests. If you noticed that the plots of the two films sound very similar, you’d be right. As the fourth movie in the series, Jurassic World isn’t trying to reinvent the franchise…just give you bigger and toothier thrills. It mostly succeeds.
Jurassic World (2015)
An idealistic and wealthy business mogul named Simon Masrani has finally made good on poor John Hammond’s dream: Jurassic World is a fully functional theme park full of un-extinct dinosaurs that has been operating successfully for decades. The boys in the lab have to keep cooking up new and exciting monsters to keep the audiences (and board of trustees) happy, and they may have hit the mother-load with a T-Rex hybrid that is sure to scare the wallets right off of the tourists. Unfortunately, the genetic tinkering causes unforeseen consequences (well, unforeseen unless you’ve seen literally any other film in this series.) Long story short, the park goes haywire just as Zach and Gary, our court mandated human interest angle, arrive to visit at the behest of their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is a senior member of the parks management. When the boys go missing, Claire has to turn to the park’s security chief/velociraptor enthusiast Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to help find the children before they get eaten by the parks latest attraction.
Dinosaur Paint by Numbers
Jurassic World sticks to the plot points of Jurassic Park so closely that you could insert a summary of the first film into the section above and be 99% accurate. There’s the naive and exuberant millionaire completely oblivious to the rampant danger of his creations. There’s the two children who become lost and hunted in the park. There’s the mad scientist in bed with a competing corporation trying to steal the dinosaurs. There’s even the genetic hiccup that causes all of the carefully planned safety features to fail spectacularly. It’s almost exactly the same story…and the director knows it.
Much like the dinosaurs themselves, this films has developed an awareness of the boundaries restricting its movements and is smart enough to turn those limitations into advantages. Jurassic World is self referential and sarcastic about its roots: one techie is chided for wearing an original Jurassic Park t-shirt, Chris Pratt is constantly quipping about the hokey nature of the park and the uncanny resemblance it bears to the first tragedy, and everyone in general seems to be in on the joke. Where the film cannot wink-and-nod its way past copying the first film, it opts instead to out-spectacle the original. Instead of feeling like a retread, Jurassic World feels like a reunion, and like any self-respecting reunion, everyone involved is trying their damnedest to show how much cooler they are now than 20 years ago.
They Got a Bigger Boat!
What we end up in Jurassic World is a greatest hits tour where all of the best moments of the earlier films (even the god awful third film) are recreated and then ramped up to eleven. The Indomitus Rex is the T-Rex from the first film on steroids, and it manages to terrorize its way into almost every iconic location that the original big baddie was in. The first half hour consists almost entirely of recreating the sprawling herds of herbivores shot that each of the first three films used as their opening salvo to show how absolutely jam packed with dinosaurs the film was going to be. The avian section from Jurassic Park III is even expanded upon (and that was probably the only cool part of that movie!) The raptors and their hunting patterns are not only back, they’re made into a pivotal (and completely thrilling) part of the story. Even the spitters that killed Nedry in the first film is given a funny cameo. The only thing original to Jurassic World is the aquatic environment…and if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen that bit almost in its entirety!
New King of the Jungle?
The first film made its bones (he he) on the strength of its special effects, most of which were models and animatronics. As the series has progressed, CG has taken over the role of the puppets, and until now it has been decidedly less impressive. Jurassic World shows how far the technology has come since the last film, and while I prefer the weight of practical effects, this movie only rarely suffers from overuse of computer imagery. A few of the aerial shots involving the helicopter, and one sequence involving a safety gyro-vehicle being pin-balled off of a herd of dinosaurs have that over-shiny and plastic look common to CGI, but almost everything else is spot on. The pterosaurs interact extremely convincingly with the actors and the scene where Pratt goes out hunting with his pack of raptors looks so good that it really got my blood pumping!
Jurassic World manages to hit all of its marks. The acting is pretty good (Howard and Pratt are good together and each comes away as a real character, not just a placeholder) and the plot is exactly what you would expect from a Jurassic Park movie. The visuals have been improved to such a degree that this is almost on par with the first film for absolute wow-factor. The action is engaging and exciting. If you wanted to see more monster fights after watching Godzilla, you’re going to love Jurassic World, because you get almost nonstop creature-feature with a human element that is actually engaging. If you loved the original film, this movie is a welcome trip back to Jurassic Park that will remind you of all your old favorite stomping grounds.