22 years ago, Steven Spielberg did the impossible; he brought dinosaurs back to life. Well, artificially at least, but for every kid (and even some adults) that watched the original Jurassic Park, they were as real as they possibly could be. The effects in that film went beyond anything movies had done at that point in time and influence many other movies going forward. Two sequels followed the original film, and while they failed to live up to the original’s sense of wonder, they were highly entertaining as well. I can’t overemphasize how much those movies mean to me, I must have watched each of them at least fifty times when I was a kid. They were a staple of my childhood, so you can believe that I was really excited to see the current installment: Jurassic World.
Years after the events of the first three movies, the dream of creating a theme park with real life dinosaur attractions is finally a reality as Jurassic World is open to the public. Owned by billionaire Simon Masrani (Irrfan Kahn), and operated by Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park is a huge success, but as the years pass by, people are getting tired of seeing the same old dinosaurs, forcing the scientific team that created them, led by Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong), to invent all new hybrid dinosaur to keep the public’s interest. Unfortunately, the monster they have created named Indominus Rex, is much too smart and powerful to be kept in captivity and breaks free, intent to kill anything in its path. It’s up to Claire and raptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to take the beast down and find Claire’s nephews, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) who were visiting the theme park.
The movie knows exactly how to play on the emotions of fans of the first three movies, complete with the original John Williams score which, as predicted, brought a tear to my eye when I heard it played as the camera first glides across the park. Although Williams himself is not providing the score, Michael Giacchino does good work in imitating the sound of the originals. The sounds the dinosaurs make are as terrifying as ever, and the dinosaurs themselves are absolutely gorgeous looking. Modern day CGI has definitely enhanced what the dinosaurs can do as compared to the first movies, but there will always be a unique charm in the animatronics that Spielberg used. Relatively new director Colin Trevorrow does an excellent job bringing the world to life and capturing the full scope of the dinosaur populated island. It’s especially impressive considering his only previous directing credit was the low budget indie flick Safety Not Guaranteed.
The film’s first act spends a lot of time introducing us to the human characters and showing you all the various attractions and dinosaur species in the park, making you completely believe that a place like that would be a popular vacation destination. After the newly created dinosaur escapes, the film sprints forward at a rapid pace and never slows down. What I love about the original Jurassic Park is that it was essentially a horror movie for kids, and that’s present in this one as well. Even though there is very little blood, each time a dinosaur kills someone, you feel it in your gut. The scenes in which the Indominus Rex stalks its victims are all really tense, even though you can already guess that the unknown people are doomed to die and the main characters will most likely escape.
Watching the movie, you can see why Chris Pratt has become the leading man he has, because he brings in all the charisma and charm that made him shine in Guardians of The Galaxy. He is the modern day Harrison Ford, able to step into a film franchise and play a cool, likeable badass without breaking a sweat. As far as Bryce Dallas Howard’s character goes, it’s a thankless role in the movie’s first half as she is introduced as the stereotypical uptight joyless corporate busy-body, but by the end she became pretty badass in her own right. Before that, however, she is relegated to being a damsel in distress, with Chris Pratt saving her multiple times. The movie also has some great minor performances by actors, like Omar Sy, playing Owen’s fellow raptor trainer, and Jake Johnson as the tech guy running the control room who serves as an avatar for the audience. There are also some genuinely funny moments throughout the movie and the humor never undercuts the seriousness of the situation.
Of course, it can’t be forgotten that Jurassic World, at its core, is a summer blockbuster, and as such falls into many clichés and tropes that come with the territory. For one thing, the events that lead to the Indominus Rex being unleashed upon the park are full of pretty stupid decisions made by people who really should know better. Even after this monstrous creature is unleashed, the people in charge of the park are much more concerned with how it will affect the park’s bottom line than in actually saving the visitors. Like Howard’s character, a lot of the humans are stereotypical archetypes, with Vincent D’Onofrio playing your run of the mill generic military guy who wants to use the dinosaurs as weapons, and BD Wong playing the slightly mad scientist whose sole concern is in protecting his work. But you can tell both actors are having fun with the roles.
The kid characters can also be a little annoying at the film’s start (the oldest in particular) but the fact that they aren’t given very much back story doesn’t exactly help them seem very sympathetic. You’re just supposed to root for them simply because they are kids trapped in a dangerous situation. And sure enough, once the action starts and you get to see how resourceful they are, you start to like them more and even root for them by the end. As you would guess, there is a romance between Pratt and Howard’s characters which not only feels completely forced, but is also really unnecessary and unbelievable. Not every movie needs a damn romantic subplot, especially when said romance plot is a derivative of thousands of other blockbusters love stories. It’s a complete afterthought.
But this is a dinosaur movie after all, so the humans play a secondary role to the film’s prehistoric stars. When the last act begins, all those clichés and poor plot decisions associated with the humans disappear as you are made witness to an all out dinopocalypse in all its crazy glory. Every dinosaur species you saw in the first act gets it’s time to shine, performing their own particular type of anarchy on the unsuspecting visitors. Some select dinosaurs are even given personalities, like the various raptors that Pratt’s character trains. You’ll even find yourself actually rooting for some of them to survive more than the humans. That’s because they serve as reluctant heroes who can see that the Indominus Rex poses a more immediate threat to them than the humans do, leading to some spectacular scenes of dinosaur on dinosaur combat. One other stand out scene was a moment where the movie slows down to show us the damage the Indominus Rex is causing to the other dinosaurs’ ecosystem and it’s a very emotional moment.
No sequel will ever be able to recapture that pure sense of wonder that the original inspired, but Jurassic World comes pretty close. When tourists visited Jurassic World, they were transported back in time to a world where dinosaurs still roam the earth, and when I watched Jurassic World, I was transported back in time to when I saw the original, starring in marvel at the cinematic magic Spielberg created. It made me giddy and excited like a little kid, and that’s more than most movies could ever do. It hit me in the heart like a charging T-Rex and gave me all the thrills I could ever want from a Jurassic Park movie. It’s definitely not perfect, but Jurassic World is exactly what it wants to be, a fun family blockbuster to enjoy with a big bowl of popcorn.
Final Score: 8/10