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THEATRICAL REVIEW: Jurassic World

Jurassic WorldDirected by: Colin Trevorrow
Produced by: Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley; Steven Spielberg, Thomas Tull (executive producers)
Screenplay by: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow
Story by: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Edited by: Kevin Stitt
Cinematography by: John Schwartzman
Music by: Michael Giacchino, John Williams (themes)
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Omar Sy, B.D. Wong, Irrfan Khan, Katie McGrath, Jake Johnson, Lauren Lapkus, Judy Greer, Andy Buckley
Year: 2015

 

By now, you probably don’t need for me to review this film, as it seems like the whole world has thrown their money at it. However, I went bonkers a couple years ago when the original film was re-released in theatres in 3D, prompting me to do a complete run through of the entire then-trilogy. As a result, I kind of feel obligated to review the latest one. Besides, some of you might be insane or too “hip” to buy into this dinosaur spectacle “nonsense” but might be thinking of giving it a go on DVD or something in what is, for me, the future, so, yeah, I’m here to help.

Jurassic World - Velociraptors, Chris Pratt

It’s been fourteen years since the last film seemingly slipped into theatres unceremoniously and disappointed fans of the previous films with the ironically toothless, lackluster final product. Regardless, Hollywood isn’t about to let a good money-making franchise die without a fight, and they’ve spent the last several years trying to figure out how they might revive it, at one point even seriously considering having the plot center around a team of dino-human hybrid commandos sent into combat alongside their human counterparts, including a bipedal, giant triceratops one. No, seriously, look at it!

Source: Slashfilm

Jurassic Park 4 concept art. (Source: Slashfilm)

Luckily, that also got stuck in development hell, most likely because nobody in their right mind was able to figure out how to make that movie not be ridiculous and also fit into the Jurassic Park universe without tainting at least the first film’s legacy. After much waiting, however, somehow Universal Pictures decided to take a look into the artsy indie scene, as many studios continue to do for their major franchises, and settled upon the unlikely choice of Colin Trevorrow, director of the quirky indie sci-fi romcom Safety Not Guaranteed, as the man to take the helm once occupied by Steven Spielberg and his protégé Joe Johnston and bring their franchise back from that punnerific brink of extinction. Despite the director’s previous inexperience with action, however, I do believe that the gamble was ultimately a successful one.

The nature of this new film’s story actually mirrors the concept behind how the dinosaurs themselves were brought back from the dead, actually. It’s as if the filmmakers unearthed the perfectly preserved remains of the original film, extracted a lot of its DNA, and then cloned it, with slight modifications to make the film a bit more palatable to audiences. As such, this fourth film often feels as much as a soft reboot as it does a sequel and retread. Much like its central big bad dino, however, as ridiculous as it often is, I’m still ultimately pleased with the final results. The film returns to the concept of opening up a park to the public, only this time, they’ve actually successfully done it. The park administrators largely believe they have total control over the situation, and, this time, they have evidence to back up their claims. No inside job sabotages, no ineffective security fences, and dinosaurs that actually show up for each gig, and not one person has had to run away from anything in the park that’s trying to eat them.

However, success seems to be its own curse, to the point where the world has pretty much gotten used to the idea of these long extinct creatures now being brought back to life and is beginning to become a little less fascinated by it all, save for a few obligatory dino enthusiast kids thrown into the mix. The solution seems obvious to these people who believe that they hold the key to do whatever they want with these creatures in the name of a profit: If they’ve run out of real dinosaurs, why not make new ones? Thus the creation of a high-tech hybrid designer dinosaur named “Indominus rex,” which is specially designed to scare the pants off visitors, thus making it less awkward for the suits to pick their pockets. Naturally, playing God in this franchise has a way of backfiring in horrific ways that still somehow brings together the people who get caught up in the chaos to either fall in love or learn a lesson and reconcile with one another through their shared traumatic experiences.

Jurassic World - Bryce Dallas Howard

Look, I’m not going to pretend like Jurassic World is the most original or even intelligent film ever. It is pretty much a giant retread of the first film with less brains and more action. And far, far more self-awareness. Even more so than Jurassic Park III, only this time, it’s a lot more enjoyable. They’ve even thrown in New Girl’s Jake Johnson into the mix as a sarcastic hipster programmer who makes comic relief references to the original park (and, for us, the original movie). This might sound annoying, I guess, but, in practice, it’s actually pretty amusing. This retread stuff is also livened up by a wide variety of setpieces, too, most of which I wouldn’t want to spoil here, as that would basically give the whole film away, but I can at least let you know that the ones shown in the trailers were just small slivers of what’s in store for you. This movie’s packed with ridiculous fan service, and if you can look past the tonal shift from the more serious first movie (which did still have some silly moments, don’t kid yourself), you should be good to go. That being said, there’s also quite a bit of gruesome violence, both on screen and suggested. That pterosaur attack that’s in all the trailers, for example, is actually one of the film’s scariest and violent scenes. There were times that the movie reminded me of slasher films with the indiscriminate blood splattering. It was pretty satisfying, to be honest, but also kind of surprising, so… parents, you’ve been warned.

Jurassic World - Indominus rex

This retread also wouldn’t have been nearly as tolerable without the cast, too, and, luckily, Chris Pratt’s charms have not yet worn out their welcome, with the goofball-supporting-actor-turned-leading-man playing his velociraptor trainer hero as a notch more serious and cool than Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy. (Yes, you heard that right – he’s a velociraptor trainer, and the movie makes that little aspect work surprisingly well, too.) Bryce Dallas Howard is also present as the COO of the park, standing in for the John Hammond role as well as the love interest to the leading man. Previews made her look like your typical career-minded rich you-know-what, but that’s really not the case here. Both she and Pratt are undoubtedly playing the stock bickering former couple doomed to fall in love with each other again, with Howard playing the humorless stiff and Pratt the charming rogue, but, as Red Letter Media’s Mike Stoklasa pointed out, it’s actually more reminiscent of the relationship between Han Solo and Leia instead of… say… Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen. It’s a fun relationship, and the actors are perfectly likable in their stock roles.

Jurassic World - Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson

The kids along for the ride are Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson playing brothers whose parents are not-so-secretly divorcing while their kids are sent off on a nice expensive vacation before returning to a family in shambles. Simpkins seems to be playing the younger brother as being on the autistic scale – which apparently was a story beat that was dropped, though the characterization mostly remains – but, regardless, he’s actually quite good and is most definitely the best, most natural child actor the series has seen since Lex and Tim. Robinson gets the thankless role of the self-absorbed older brother, and I don’t the plot gives him much room to develop beyond that angry teen persona, though closure for their story is actually something the kids never really get a hint of in the end. I don’t really know what to blame Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance on, though. He seems to be playing this film’s equivalent to the smarmy lawyer, here a military contractor who wants to weaponize the dinosaurs (notes of the earlier scripts), but he plays it so over-the-top, it’s hard to really see him as anything but a mustache-twirling villain, whereas the lawyer was at least just a clueless and cowardly nitwit, but not outright evil. D’Onofrio’s character is basically emblematic of some of the film’s problems, but none of them are ever really so egregious as to bring the film down entirely.

Jurassic World - Mosasaurus, pteranodon

Jurassic World is no masterpiece, and it was likely never going to be as well remembered or respected as the first film. It has its issues, including an abundance of goofiness that sometimes comes off as tone-deaf, and there’s not much of a resolution in terms of character arcs, either. The CGI is more advanced than the previous films, and yet it’s also probably going to age the most, visually, in the shortest amount of time, and it’s sometimes very distracting. (They really could’ve used more animatronics, but at least the Indominus rex is actually pretty awesome!) However, for a popcorn blockbuster and a sequel to an over 20-year-old film series that already kind of derailed with the second film, it’s most definitely one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had this year at the theatre, and I’m going to be very happy to both see it again as well as add it to my library. Cynics might only see it for the cash-grab that it admittedly is, but everyone else might very well find themselves finally transfixed again by the excitement and terror of seeing these creatures back on the screen. Jurassic World is most definitely the new second best in the series.

The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 3.5 / 5

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  1. February 20, 2016 at 2:26 am

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