The theme park-level thrills of Jurassic World hit where they need to.
As far as blockbusters go, 1993’s Jurassic Park, based on the book series by Michael Crichton, stands tall among the pack as a sci-fi parable about messing with forces we can’t control wrapped up in dinosaur theme park wish fulfillment wrapping paper and *just* a touch of childlike whimsy and wonder thrown in for good measure. Throw in endlessly quotable lines and the appearance of geek culture deity Jeff Goldblum and you’ve spliced together one potent specimen that’s fueled the imaginations of 22 years worth of movie fans.
So imagine my lack of surprise when word got out that Universal Studios’ Jurassic World, this hotly anticipated followup opening today, was a direct sequel to that first project instead of following in the footsteps of the more divisive sequels The Lost World and JPIII. By bringing the franchise back to its roots and core principles, co-writer/director Colin Trevorrow has attempted to recreate the conditions that spawned the anomaly that was the first Park – and he’s ultimately succeeded here. Jurassic World lacks novelty and doesn’t quite live up to the iconic standard of Park as a result, and its fan service borders on the obnoxious (techie explaining how/why be bought a “Jurassic Park” shirt on eBay), but the theme park thrills are still there where it counts, and kids not already familiar with the property will be down with paleontology come Monday.
22 years have passed since Dr. John Hammond spared no expense in bringing dinosaurs back to life, and even the colossal failure that was Jurassic Park couldn’t convince us to stay away. Jurassic World is now a fully realized, fully functional park, complete with glass ball tours of apatosaurus herds, prehistoric fish that dwarf great white sharks, and lots of corporate schilling (Starbucks, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, etc). In an attempt to boost sales even further, operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) commissions the making of a bigger and scarier dino with genetic codes stamps from all over. One problem: this super-dino gets loose, putting the lives of park-goers, especially her visiting nephews, in danger. Dearing works together with velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and the rest of park security to bring it back in; their trip even brings them back to the overgrown ruins of Jurassic Park.
It’s almost impossible to separate World from Park in the broad strokes, considering that a decent chunk of the plot takes place there and that all the elements; human meddling with things they can’t control; multiple storylines happening across the park; and a destructive walking tour of the entire park are all present and accounted for, and the distinct lack of, well, distinction in the characters and the dialogue waters down what should be a varied and interesting world; the cast gives it everything they’ve got, especially Howard who, contrary to the ad campaign, is the protagonist of the movie. She and Pratt have dopey chemistry together, while character actors the likes of B.D. Wong, Irrfan Khan, and Vincent D’Onofrio inject as much personality into their stock characters as they can; nternational superstar Omar Sy is the most underused as the co-trainer of the raptors.
Truth be told, any sequel to a movie as chock full of quotable lines (“That’s a great big pile of shit”, “Clever girl”, “Hold onto your butts”, “Woman inherits the Earth”) and well-structured thrills has a lot to live up to; look at Avengers: Age Of Ultron and The Godfather II for examples of bigger sequels that don’t enjoy the same status as their big siblings. It’s more of the same, but bigger and better, which is the double-edged sword Jurassic World lives and dies by. The fan service teeters on unbearable at times, sometimes mistaking shoving nostalgia down people’s throats as intensive world-building.
The action is gripping, even if some of the dinos look strange in complete CGI. Points to Trevorrow, whose only other directing credit is the romantic dramedy Safety Not Guaranteed, for pulling together hell of a roller coaster ride with raptors, T-Rexes, and other surprises all singing, all gnashing. Jurassic World is fun white-knuckle entertainment and will bring back some memories, both good and bad, but unless this is your first trip out to Isla Nublar, it’s perfectly heated but under seasoned leftover brontosaurus cutlets.
– Dylan “CineMasai” Green