8 out of 10
Chris Pratt as Owen Grady
Directed by Colin Trevorrow
While not as awesome as Jurassic Park, Jurassic World is a worthy sequel that features some cool new iconic scenes and some satisfying dinosaur mayhem.
Twenty two years after the incident at Jurassic Park, the island has been rechristened as Jurassic World and now is a fully-functioning theme park. Simon Masrani has taken over InGen and has fulfilled John Hammond’s original vision for the island. Families by the thousands can watch a T-Rex devour a goat or a Mosasaur eat a Great White shark. Children can ride baby triceratops or kayak with Apatosaurus. Owen Grady has even managed to train a group of raptors to follow his commands, a fact that is of great interest to Vic Hoskins, who would like to use the raptors for military purposes. But Masrani, true to Hammond’s vision, only has his sights set on the health and happiness of his guests and dinosaurs.
Unfortunately, the newness and wonder of the dinosaurs has worn off and the company’s investors are looking for something bigger, cooler, and scarier to wow visitors and bring in more money. Claire Dearing has been tasked with delivering on that request, but she may have been too successful. Dearing and Dr. Henry Wu create the Indominus Rex, which is a mix of many different dinosaurs and other animals. However, it surprises them in unexpected ways. As Dearing deals with Masrani and the I-Rex, she neglects her nephews Gray and Zach who are visiting the park for the first time. But when things eventually go wrong, Claire discovers what really matters most to her in Jurassic World.
Jurassic World is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.
As a huge Jurassic Park fan, I was very excited to see Jurassic World. The idea of investors and the public ignoring the cautions of the earlier films and building a full-fledged park seemed realistic, and the idea of disaster in such a park seemed true to a Michael Crichton thriller (ala “Westworld”). And as a fan of the earlier films, I was pleased to see numerous throwbacks to the originals. The T-Rex is fed a goat alongside a road flare. Mr. DNA has a cameo. Ian Malcolm’s book can be seen in the background on a shelf. And there are several other surprise references along the way. You’d do well to go back and watch the original Jurassic Park one more time before seeing Jurassic World.
It’s quite thrilling to see John Hammond’s original vision for the park fully realized on the screen. Kids feed baby dinosaurs in a petting zoo. Safari trucks drive through herds of Gallimimuses. Tourists learn about DNA reconstruction and watch eggs hatch. As John Williams’ theme sweeps you away and you get glimpses of the park, you start to think such a park would actually be a pretty cool thing to visit. But then there’s the running and screaming….
Fortunately, Jurassic World doesn’t simply retread the old films. It does break new ground and expand on the dinosaurs and the world. We learn more about the raptors and their personalities as Owen Grady trains them. And as you’ve seen in the trailers, he teams with them to go on a hunt. In one scene, the raptors go on a mission alongside a group of fully-armed commandos in a moment that would make Aliens proud. There’s also the Mosasaur, which takes a bite out of Jaws and should be a new fan-favorite. Then there’s the Indominus Rex itself which would give the spinosaurus from “Jurassic Park 3” a run for its money. If the purpose of the I-Rex is to scare the crap out of kids and function as Jaws on land, it does that pretty well.
But while the action is a major draw, the film does take time to offer some quiet scenes that add weight to the story. When the I-Rex goes on a killing spree, the movie slows down and takes time for Owen and Claire to care for a dinosaur as it takes its last dying breath. It adds personality to the dinosaurs, makes the I-Rex seem more of an abomination, and adds urgency to the mission to stop it. The film also takes moments here and there to show how society is numbed to the wonders around us. A teenager is more interested in girls and his phone than a T-Rex walking by him. It’s a bit more social commentary than we’ve seen in the previous sequels.
Each of the “Jurassic Park” sequels have added iconic moments and Jurassic World is no different. Colin Trevorrow uses glowing eye effects with the dinosaurs in effective ways. In other scenes, the camera flies along with the raptors as they race through the jungle. And in another moment, we see the raptors racing towards the camera at full speed, their heads practically motionless as they zero in for the kill. One favorite scene of mine is when the Pterodactyls and Mosasaur team up for one of the most brutal human kills in all four films. Dino lovers will really enjoy it while simultaneously cringing. And on an IMAX 3D screen, it’s even more impressive.
The cast of Jurassic World is pretty solid. Bryce Dallas Howard is good as Claire Dearing. She has the biggest story arc of any of the cast as she realizes what’s truly important in her life. (For the record, Joss Whedon’s criticism of her character was pretty unfounded. She evolves as a character through the course of the film and judging her by a scene taken out of context was unfair and unprofessional.) Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson are also good as the young brothers terrorized by the I-Rex. A big subplot of the film is the brothers reconnecting after the older sibling drifted away into the teenage years. While it’s a bit sappy, it hit home with my young son, who is in a similar stage of life with his older teenage brother. As for the rest of the cast, Irrfan Khan and Vincent D’Onofrio are fun additions, but it’s Jake Johnson as Lowery who ultimately steals the show. He’s the new computer nerd of the film but with a fanboy slant. He provides a lot of the comic relief of the story. BD Wong is also the only returning member of the original cast as Dr. Henry Wu and he’s a key part in setting up the inevitable sequels, which I’m already ready to see.
What Didn’t Work:
If you saw the trailers and TV commercials, you’ve unfortunately seen about 3/4 of this movie. I went out of my way to avoid the scenes online, sneak previews on TV, etc. I wanted to go into this movie fresh. Unfortunately, there were very, very few surprises in the film despite my efforts. This took away from the impact of what should have been cool scenes like the Mosasaur eating the shark, Owen on the motorcycle with the raptors, and more. And when the movie does venture into the big finale, you can piece together pretty quickly how they will defeat the I-Rex. So for me, I was a bit letdown.
While Jurassic World has some undeniably awesome action scenes, you start to appreciate how impressive Steven Spielberg’s scenes were in the first film. Nothing in Jurassic World has the intensity, suspense, and emotion of the T-Rex attack in the first movie. Or the raptor attack in the kitchen. Or even the Dilophosaurus’ attack on Nedry. It’s hard to put your finger on why it works better for Spielberg, but I think it has more to do with how the characters are set up before the action scenes than anything. You care when the kids are in peril. You cheer when the hero risks life and limb to save them. You root for the bad guy to get eaten and then cringe when he does. I think Jurassic World tries that but isn’t quite as successful. (And I realize what a lame critique it is to say someone isn’t quite as good as Spielberg. Trevorrow would probably agree!)
Finally, while I’m a huge fan of Chris Pratt, I didn’t feel he was used to his full potential in Jurassic World. He’s an undeniably great leading man and action star, but he plays the role surprisingly straight this time. There are very few jokes and little of the charm we know he’s capable of. This is not “Star-Lord with Dinosaurs” or “Jurassic Parks and Rec.” I kind of wish he had cut loose a little more.
The Bottom Line:
While Jurassic Park is still my favorite, Jurassic World is a worthy sequel. I took my wife and 10-year-old son to it and everyone loved it. In fact, my son declared it “Better than Jurassic Park!!” as the credits rolled. While I don’t quite agree with him, I do think it’s a fantastic popcorn flick you must see on the biggest screen possible.