From the perspective of character and story, Jurassic World doesn’t leave much of an impression, but based on spectacle alone it packs a wallop. Don’t for a second consider why anyone would visit a park where 22 years ago the attractions ate the guests, or how none of the danger would exist without the stupidest decisions from what are considered the film’s smartest characters. To do that would be to ruin the fun and director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) does his absolute best to make sure you don’t dwell on these facts — even though every frame consists of one dumb decision after another — by packing it full of action that quite simply wows the audience into submission under the weight of what’s taking place.
A clumsy opening introduces us to brothers Zach and Gray (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) along with the unnecessary information that their parents are getting a divorce. While mom and dad deal with their issues, the two brothers are being shipped off to spend some time with their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who’s responsible for the day-to-day operations at the new and improved dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World.
The only real character development for these two is the younger of the two, Gray, is a dinosaur nut and Zach is entering puberty and only has an interest in staring like a serial killer at any young girl that wanders into his field of vision. Upon arrival to the famed Isla Nublar, the same island that featured John Hammond’s Jurassic Park in the 1993 original, Claire is quick to hand the children off to her assistant while she deals with the park’s newest attraction, a genetic hybrid dinosaur called the Indominus Rex.
Commissioned by the park’s owner, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), a jovial and clueless fella with a wide-eyed sense of wonderment, the Indominus is eventually running free throughout the park, killing everyone and everything in its path. How it escapes is an example of some of the laziest screenwriting you’ll see in a Hollywood blockbuster, not to mention a secondary plotline, which has Jurassic World co-financiers InGen on site looking into weaponizing velociraptors to fight terrorism. Seriously.
Led by Vincent D’Onofrio, InGen is impressed with the work of Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and his ability to get the raptors to respond to his commands, but a near-death situation at the beginning of the film serves as a pretty clear sign you’re not likely to want to be going into war with dinosaurs any time soon. No mind, D’Onofrio doesn’t care, offering up lines such as “This is going to happen with or without you.” Oh, really tough guy?
What’s amazing is, within all of this stereotypical and cliched nonsense, Trevorrow and his team somehow manage to deliver a piece of blockbuster entertainment with tension, a massive amount of spectacle and even a surprisingly emotional moment as Claire and Owen tend to a dying dino left in the Indominus’ wake. You could nit pick every inch of this picture (and throughout the film you better believe you will be), but once it’s firing on full cylinders you won’t be able to help but lean in a little closer to the screen.
The threat of the Indominus is real, as is the might of the water-bound dinosaur the Mosasaurus, which is first introduced as it munches on a Great White shark, and the Pteradons threatening park guests from the sky. In fact, it hasn’t been since the first Jurassic Park that the dinosaurs have felt like actual characters. Trevorrow and the fleet of writers that put this story together (Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly and Trevorrow) forgo the decision to develop human characters, opting instead to develop the dinosaurs and it’s only emphasized how successful they were in so doing come the film’s conclusion, which psychologically ties directly into the first film in a way I never would have expected they could have achieved so effectively.
Additionally, Jurassic World isn’t afraid to kill off a few characters. In fact, one death features a certain character being toyed with before meeting their ultimate demise and even though you’re not really expecting any of the main characters to die, there’s a sense of dread that permeates throughout the film and the cardboard cutouts that are the film’s leads are established just enough for you to begin to fear for their safety.
It isn’t often a blockbuster can be this clumsily conceived and yet still work on a level of pure entertainment. The visual effects are spectacular and not in the least bit overused as I couldn’t have cared less whether I was watching a digital dinosaur or a practical one, they felt real and just as much a part of the film as anything else. The sound design is rocking and Michael Giacchino does his best to mimic the iconic John Williams score and it works… for the most part.
It would be easy enough to rip this film to shreds for its stereotypical plotting and cliched story beats, but it’s just too damned fun to worry about all that. It’s absolutely a worthy sequel to the 1993 original, paying homage every now and again, though fully realized as its own beast. I would add to that you most definitely should make an effort to see it in theaters as a home viewing won’t do the size and scope much justice. My screening was in true IMAX and the sound and fury of every step, roar and crunch was felt and I’m even debating seeing it again.