Jurassic World

Posted: June 13, 2015 in Movie Reviews

Jurassic World's Owen Grady uses equal respect as a way to tame the franchise's most terrifying creatures.

Jurassic World’s Owen Grady uses equal respect as a way to tame the franchise’s most terrifying creatures.

The art of filmmaking was changed forever after Jurassic Park proved that if you can think it, you can make it. Dinosaurs alive on screen—–living, breathing, terrorizing—–wowed an entire generation of people young and old into believing in the power of the cinema. As a film, Jurassic Park itself demonstrates an astounding astuteness at wowing one moment, dabbling in a bit of human psychology, throwing in the humorous one-liners, and becoming totally frightening the next. It remains to this day amid Spielberg’s most audacious and outstanding achievements. It only stands to reason that anyone who even remotely appreciated the original Jurassic would want these same elements manifested in its sequel.

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Summary: (No spoilers)
For 10 years Jurassic World has wowed millions of people with genetically created dinosaurs, an achievement that John Hammond only dreamed of but never saw to fruition. But in a world of people who quickly tire of even the most novel and astonishing of creations, living dinos are no longer fascinating nor intriguing, much like the NASA Space Program. So Jurassic World’s scientists take to the drawing board to create a new carnivorous beast: a hybrid of the DNA of several predators that combined creates the largest, fiercest, and most intelligent animal ever bred.

But, as Ian Malcolm so famously once said, “Life finds a way. Life will not be contained.” And life does indeed “crash through barriers painfully, maybe even dangerously”. As the Indominus Rex makes her way across the island creating carnage in its path, animal handler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt—-Guardians of the Galaxy) is called in to bring down the terrible creature, bringing with him his team of trained velociraptors.

Also starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, B.D. Wong, Judy Greer, and Irrfan Khan.

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It’s been 22 years since Jurassic Park changed our perception of films. Before then, there were limitations as to what could be accomplished on screen. Massive armies on a battlefield could only be imagined using real actual people; starships flying through space were small-scale models; and any creature concocted for the big screen was either a man in a suit, a product of mechanical puppetry, or created with stop-motion (the 1933 King Kong). But then Jurassic Park made dinosaurs real. Not merely men in suits or mechanical creations (though it did employ those things), but dinosaurs that could be fully imagined and seen. And when we all saw these dinosaurs at a young or older age, we were astonished.

But it’s been 22 years, and computer generated imagery has progressed to the point of conventional. No longer are we astonished at the sight of monsters creating mayhem, superheroes flying through the sky, or spaceships racing through the stars.

In this sense, Jurassic World’s plot predicament isn’t so incomprehensible: people are no longer wowed by dinosaurs. As incomprehensible as this may seem, aren’t we no longer wowed by dinosaurs? As amazing as our earliest experiences with Jurassic Park were, dinosaurs in the flesh are no longer novel, and CGI itself is commonplace. Thus there’s little to contemplate when Jurassic World’s scientists create something “bigger, scarier, cooler” just as today’s directors are out to create the next big thing.

Part of what made Jurassic Park so memorable, however, was not merely the dinosaurs—–but the characters. Dr. Grant was that everyman with a passion for his livelihood and a disdain for youngsters; Ellie was beautiful and loyal, but became fierce when the jaws started snapping; Ian Malcolm was the witty and charming Tony-Stark-like mathematician; and John Hammond gained the sympathy of anyone who ever had to see a dream snuffed out in front of them.

Jurassic World’s cast, however, isn’t quite as memorable. With the exception of Pratt who plays the rugged Owen Grady with Indiana-Jones-like suave, many other characters are merely caricatured. Bryce Dallas Howard plays head of operations at Jurassic World, a woman whose flawlessly neat white dress, high heels, perfectly applied lipstick, bob hairstyle, and immaculately detailed persona makes her more of a girly girl to Laura Dern’s stronger female presence (think Temple of Doom’s Willie to Raider’s Marion). Which would be fine if she weren’t scrounging around in the mud with her park ranger boyfriend.

Her two nephews, however, provide some sort of backbone to the story. The older brother isn’t much of a fleshed out character and is interested in creepily staring at girls rather than being a good older brother. The younger brother, however, offers a bit of feeling to the story. His naiveté and love for dinosaurs and science coupled with his sorrow for family matters at home evoke sympathy. Other characters unfortunately don’t offer much to the story and become more of expository pawns rather than characters with true purpose.

Jurassic World offers many opportunities for fans of the 1993 original to be nostalgically whisked back to Jurassic Park. John Williams’ classic theme plays above the sight of the newly reimagined park in a way that will make more than a few Jurassic enthusiasts tear up. Subtle nods and references to the original are scattered throughout, with one scene even taking place inside the old Jurassic Park visitor’s center. And yes, the fallen banner is still on the floor where a certain T. Rex made his (or her) triumphal farewell 22 years ago.

As far as the dinosaurs themselves are concerned, this is perhaps the most exciting of the Jurassic entries. Scale is a major factor in this film, with many brand new dinosaurs making their debut. As a giant mosasaur leaps out of the water and snatches a shark the size of the one in Jaws, you quickly realize how unequivocally massive these creatures truly are. As much as CGI has come under fire in recent past due to its overuse, the men and women at Industrial Light & Magic are to be commended for some of the best visual effects work ever done on a Jurassic Park film. With the additional employment of animatronic dinosaurs for several close-up shots, these prehistoric giants have never looked better.

Indominus Rex_Jurassic World

Numerous scenes of dino carnage (especially in IMAX) are so palpitating and vigorous that they come off as purely frightening. Much as is expected of a film with this title, Jurassic World  takes its cues from its predecessor. There may not be a kitchen scene or anything that reproduces that sense of sheer panic-inducing stress, but this film does manage to imitate its sense of terror. Fans of the series will be wholly pleased at seeing one dinosaur in particular that makes an earth-shaking (pun intended) reappearance. While the third act becomes largely convoluted with mediocre action, I will say that the grand finale sees one of the most satisfying battles in the entire franchise.

Yet amidst the nostalgia and wonder and rediscovering, a disheartening truth emerges: Jurassic World comes off as merely a cool action film rather than a great Jurassic Park sequel. It would be folly to anticipate this film as greater than the original. We all knew it wasn’t going to approach Jurassic Park’s magnitude and caliber. But there were certain elements that I was expecting from it—–suggestions and indications of human psychology (heck, even The Lost World got into that), the instability and unpredictability of nature and life itself, the whims and irrationality of humankind—–the things that were a theme of Jurassic Park. I wanted this film to expound on those pre-set themes, to build upon and embellish them.

The stark truth is that Jurassic World is merely a dinosaur film with a Jurassic title. It’s lively and frightening, and at times gives you the Jurassic Park feels. But when it isn’t accomplishing this, it’s simply existing as a clichéd action flick. With the exception of Pratt’s Owen Grady, everyone in this film is an idiot and obviously felt no need to learn from the dire mistakes of the last attempt at breeding dinosaurs. There isn’t even a conversation or even a mention of anybody rationally stating how this all was tried before and failed.

Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins_Jurassic World

It’s obviously predictable in so many ways. The characters you know would never die are invincible. The characters who have no reverence for the dinosaurs as intelligent creatures are obvious choices for termination, and they do indeed face elimination. With the exception of a few surprising turn of events, everything plays out exactly how you foresee it. Misplaced lines of humor become diluted, minor characters desperate for more thorough exposé come off as tacky and unnecessarily portrayed, and action scenes that should be mesmerizingly terrifying become mere action on a catastrophic scale.

In a nutshell:

It may not be the great Jurassic Park sequel that we all wanted, and it should have elevated above mediocrity in so many areas. But despite its shortcomings and disappointments and hit-and-miss style, Jurassic World is still an often-times moving film (with one scene in particular that manages to evoke tears with nostalgia) and great fun to watch. If you are a Jurassic Park aficionado, you will certainly find numerous things to appreciate, and a couple things even to love. Ultimately, Jurassic World should have been in the hands of a more experienced director to give it the bravado and energy it needs and deserves. Here’s hoping that the next film will accomplish what this one strived so fervently to do.

7 stars

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