Jurassic World

(2015) *** Pg-13
124 min. Universal Pictures. Director: Colin Trevorrow. Cast: Ty Simpkins, Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Nick Robinson, Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson, B.D. Wong.

/content/films/4804/1.jpgMaking sequels to Jurassic Park is both a fait accompli and something of a fool's errand. The endlessly popular franchise has brought in nearly $2 billion at the box office, but it also poses a significant challenge to directors and screenwriters hoping to create something fresh while still living up to Steven Spielberg's set pieces and telling the same basic story of dinosaurs run amok as people run screaming. But in the fourteen years since Jurassic Park III, the culture has had just enough time to miss this franchise, and director and co-screenwriter Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) has met the challenges with an appealing self-awareness.

Jurassic World returns to Isla Nublar, the site of the original Jurassic Park (and Jurassic Park). The old park lies in ruins, having been replaced by a gleaming new theme park—filled with genetically engineered dinosaurs—called Jurassic World, complete with shops, restaurants, safari rides, marine show, and IMAX theater (and, yes, you can see Jurassic World, spectacularly, in IMAX 3D). Surprisingly, none of the previous three films featured dinosaurs overtaking a fully functioning theme park populated with tourists, so Jurassic World has a jolt of novelty there that helps to recapture the wonder of the 1993 film. Wide-eyed and gape-mouthed, young Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins) serves as our surrogate when he gets his first glimpse of the super-cool Jurassic World. He's accompanied by too-cool-for-school older brother Zach (Nick Robinson), as focused on girls as Gray is on STEM education.

The boys are V.I.P. guests of their inattentive aunt Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park's operations manager. She's busy touring the ultimate V.I.P.—park owner Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan)—and keeping in line Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), with whom she once had a one-off date. Grady has his own problems fending off InGen head of security Vic Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio), who wants his company's genetic wonders to be weaponized as a military application. The various social tensions—between Claire and her neglected kin; the flirty, flinty never-weres Claire and Owen; and the competing interests of the Jurassic World stakeholders—all come to a head when (shock of shocks) the mother of all security breaches unleashes InGen's latest star attraction: a gigantic, incredibly dangerous hybrid dubbed Indominus rex.

Logic isn't exactly Jurassic World's strong suit, but then it wasn't for Alfred Hitchcock, either. One can feel the influence of the Master of Suspense in this Universal picture (as in the work of his spiritual protege Spielberg), which kicks off with dinos hatching before a shot of a scaly, taloned foot stomping down in close-up. Turns out it's a bird foot in suburbia, and Trevorrow makes it a one-two punch by cheekily showing us some dinosaur ViewMaster images at the outset of his upwards of $150 million 3D extravaganza. Trevorrow's set pieces turn out to be up to snuff, including a sequence of the boys attacked while in a safari gyrosphere, one in which there's (gulp) a breach in the aviary, and the inevitable, old-school showdown between the two biggest dinos on the block.

As always, the story functions as a cautionary tale of chaos and the illusion of control, "mad science" underestimating nature, and corporate interests failing to protect humanity, much less scientific ethics. As Masrani puts it, "Jurassic World exists to remind us how very small we are, and how new." But what gives Jurassic World a kick is how this sequel script (credited to Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Derek Connolly & Trevorrow) has Jurassic Park metaphorically fight off "sequel improvements" by reasserting what made the original work. Claire opines, "Let's be honest, no one's impressed with dinosaurs any more. Consumers want them bigger, louder and with more teeth," and she might as well be talking of jaded sequel thinking. This film's comic relief (an ops tech winningly played by Jake Johnson of Safety Not Guaranteed) sports a "poor taste" collectible "Jurassic Park" T-shirt, B.D. Wong's Dr. Henry Wu plays a part, and the film's climax allows the old to triumph over the newfangled.

Trevorrow also knows a movie like this is bigger than anyone, and he handles the huge scale (including rampant product placement—remarkably, both major colas get a shoutout) with aplomb. It's the film's stock characters that hold it back from greatness: the actors seem almost irrelevant, and the characters—Pratt's always-right ex-Navy alpha male or Howard's tightly wound career woman who's not having it all—more lab-bred than the dinos. So it comes down to the huge-scale and the thrills, and in these respects, Jurassic World doesn't disappoint. Wisely, Trevorrow's already announced that he's one and done before he has to deal with a more personal set of sequel challenges.

Share/bookmark: del.icio.us Digg Facebook Fark Furl Google Bookmarks Newsvine Reddit StumbleUpon Yahoo! My Web Permalink Permalink
Sponsored Links