Movie Review: Jurassic World

JSW_Raptor1Sht16_NoBill_RGB_0416_1_rgbNutshell: Writer/director Colin Trevorrow does exactly what Jurassic World‘s theme park does; makes things bigger, faster and more dangerous in order to whip audiences into a frenzy.  Pratt and Howard look great as Smart Tough Guy and Willfully Clueless Woman In Danger, but let’s face it; it’s dinos you’ve come for.  So if you like mind-blowing CGI?  An uninspired story and lack of any themes beyond “don’t mess with nature” may be a small price to pay. Check your brainpan at the door, and dig in. Grade: B

It’s been 14 years since Jurassic Park III hit theaters.  And I’ll admit, I enjoyed the film, but the bare-boned “putting people in danger, then getting them out” storyline could have been so much more.  I had that same feeling as Jurassic World unspooled.  This go-round, the park that John Hammond dreamed of — and later warned against — is a reality.  And in this Disney World: Dinosaur Edition of a park, there’s Starbucks, Margaritaville, park merch up the yazoo…and genetic experiments that have created an even larger, more lethal dino.  Because focus groups!  Yep, dinos have gone commercial. What could go wrong?

Anyone thinking that this new entry into the Jurassic saga will be anything close to the deep thoughts on chaos theory and genetic tinkering in Jurassic Park and The Lost World will be sorely disappointed.  But at least the film is better at avoiding disaster than that doomed park.  (What?  Y’all saw the trailer.) Jurassic World may be just as cut-n-paste as III, but puts plenty of dinos in your face all through the film.  From watching the Indominus Rex hatch during the beautiful and creepy opening credits, to a lone dino’s awesome roar at the end, nobody can say that World isn’t dino-tacular.

Nobody can say the film is surprising, either.  If you haven’t seen where each character’s storyline is going from at least 10 miles away, then you haven’t seen a movie ever in the history of ever. Still, even with the bare-bones “run run run, crisis solved, the end” storyline, there’s plenty of dino-tastic CGI eye candy to keep things fun.  In fact, with all the dinos (and dino-on-dino throwdowns),  Jurassic Park feels like a Destroy All Monsters revamp, but with dinos rather than kaiju.

Everything in Jurassic World is breathtaking.  My favorite? Though I’ve always loved Ankylosaurus, the Mosasaurus rocks my World.  (If you’re a dino junkie like me, head to Mental Floss for some cool Mosasaurus facts.)   Quality production is the name of this game, from John Schwartzman’s crystal-clear cinematography that does equally well in wide shots and extreme close-ups, to Michael Giacchino’s gorgeous score that echoes the earlier films without feeling like a ripoff, to a 3D conversion process that is actually worth your hard-earned (hell, spring for “X D” if you can.  It’s that good.)  Visually, this film is an on-point summer spectacular.  Even the blood and destruction is beautiful.  It’s like an action film Pollock, the blood landing all over the place, creating a weird kind of beauty.

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard give A+ performances as Owen (dinosaur behaviorist/stud muffin) and Claire (park manager/token disaster film clueless chick).  Owen’s work with the raptors is laced with enough animal behavior 411 to make it believable enough to hang your hat on once things rev up.  Vincent D’Onofrio’s blowhard know-it-all Hoskins is given just enough screen time for me to wish his character had been fleshed out beyond a boo-hiss baddy. Hoskins’ subplot — dealing with SWAT-like InGen employees that seem a bit too interested in Owen’s research — feels stuffed in, as if this side journey can take the place of in-depth themes in the overall film.  But for me it only highlighted that issue.

But hey!  If you jettison the idea of a plot that has more than folks running around and/or getting eaten by the wayside?  This is a beautiful film.  Have I mentioned that often enough?  Because it’s true.  The usual action film formula (Buildup!  Trouble!  Solution!) is almost comforting here, as blood is spilled and tons of flesh is rended.   There’s a happy ending (um, for most) comin’ down the pike, so relax and enjoy the gore.  (NOTE: this ain’t nobody’s kiddy film.  Anyone who brings young children to see this film deserves all the sleepless nights they’ll get when their kids wake up shrieking that dinosaurs are coming.)

In fairness, I only wanted to check my watch once during the movie, because as much as I enjoyed the mayhem, I couldn’t have cared less about Claire’s nephews Gray and Zach. Kinda zoned out on their scenes, at least ’til the dinos show up. (Though I did love their stateside parents, played by Julie Greer — one of my favorite character actors — and The Office’s straight man, Andy Buckley.)

Be prepared for the 5-year-old kid in you to be blown away by the Dino Ex Machina of a climax, a heckuva payoff after all the high-octane mayhem.  Is the door left open for a sequel?  Duh.  Will I be there if that happens?  Duh.

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