Jurassic World: Review #2

Welcome…to Jurassic Park. That’s the franchise, not the theme park. It’s been 65 million years in the making plus another 22, but finally we have the next film in the powerhouse franchise that Steven Spielberg made iconic. I’m not quite sure how no one in this new feature learned anything from the events of the previous installments, but nonetheless, there’s a new dinosaur park this time around called Jurassic World, and it just happens to be the title of the film.

Admittedly, the park looks pretty darn amazing. Sprawled out over the original island of Isla Nublar, it’s a tourist attraction in the same vein as Disney World, except the main attractions in Jurassic World can tear you to pieces and there’s nowhere to run. We see Jurassic World for the first time through the eyes of brothers Zach and Gray Mitchell (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins respectively), whose parents have sent them there to visit their aunt, Claire Dearing (an overacting Bryce Dallas Howard), which happens to be the park’s operation’s manager.

As the boys pull back the curtains from their hotel window, we’re taken right through it to soar over the park in a truly breathtaking sequence set to one of the most recognizable themes in movie history composed by the legendary John Williams. Then, we’re taken to ground level to see the main street full of restaurants and gift shops, children riding Triceratops, a waterfront stadium where guests watch some of the aquatic behemoths a la Sea World, and a variety of beautiful buildings housing the other attractions. The first act introduces us to this new world, while allowing us to enjoy the nostalgia of the old one.

The nostalgia is fun, but it’s also a problem. After the first act, the movie relies too heavily on what we’ve already seen. The park begins its downfall (to be expected), but so too does the movie. And both have Indominus Rex to thank for that. To boost attendance, Claire explains that InGen has created this new, genetically modified dinosaur made from the DNA of several dinosaurs and other animals. This very plot point is enough to give one pause.

The dinosaur, as well as the park itself, is supposed to represent our culture’s need for excess and profit. I’m just wondering if writer/director Colin Trevorrow and his team realized what movie they were making. There are some welcome moments that verge on self-deprecation, as in a scene where Claire explains that the easily marketable name, ‘Indominus rex’, is meant to be more palatable to guests and is the result of several focus groups. For the most part though, the movie takes itself too seriously and will make too much money to be considered a smart commentary on the film industry. Though, that might be asking a lot.

Right before Indominus goes on a rampage, we meet Owen Grady played by Hollywood’s own new attraction, Chris Pratt. He’s a Velociraptor trainer and I suppose, the main character because the marketing campaign tells us he is, although he doesn’t have much of a story save for his special bond with the Velociraptors and his failure to woo Claire on some date. In all honesty, he’s more of a supporting character to Claire and her nephews. The rugged Owen is somewhat charming and his knowledge of dinosaurs is somewhat convincing in this somewhat entertaining dino tale. He’s supposed to be a serious character, but you can just see Pratt struggling to hold back his Peter Quill/Andy Dwyer personas. Though it’s clear he’s all for dinosaur rights from a heavy handed scene in which he debates the idea of using them as weapons while Vic Hoskins (a slimy Vincent D’Onofrio), the head of security, suggests they do. You just know this character is going to turn into ‘the bad guy’.

As the action commences, it’s ‘been there, done that’ territory, except with a lot less suspense, sympathetic characters, well-crafted action set pieces or any real awe-inspiring moments; elements that a director like Spielberg can produce with ease. While management and security deal with the dinosaur threat, Owen and Claire search for her nephews as they bicker; she’s the uptight business women while he’s well, the opposite. So yes, you know where this is going. Although, it’s a miracle she gets anywhere running around in those heels.

Meanwhile, her nephews have gone off the beaten path with their ‘gyrosphere’, a ride that has ‘lawsuit’ written all over it, although it contains some pretty amusing educational videos from one of our greatest entertainers. Even when the dinosaur turns the motorized capsule into his own personal pinball machine, the sequence feels flat. It’s a feeling that permeates most of the film. Critics and audiences are praising the visuals, yet the movie is saturated with CGI and the dinosaurs look only mildly convincing. Okay, that might be a little harsh, but go back and look at the original—which was made 22 years ago—and tell me which effects look better.

Surprisingly, it’s Simon Masrani, the owner of Jurassic Word, who’s one of the film’s most interesting elements. He’s filthy rich and cares about the bottom line, to be sure, but there’s some humanity and humor behind the capitalism. He doesn’t want to kill the valuable asset who’s terrorizing the island that’s being evacuated, but he never falls into the cartoon villain category. He’s also not afraid to take action when the occasion calls for it. Beat that, Gates!

And, I suppose, B.D. Wong’s return as Dr. Henry Wu is pretty neat.

There’s a little too much ‘neat’ in this film, though. In the last few years, we’ve seen a complete rejuvenation of another lucrative series in the Planet of the Apes reboot films. Those movies are an example of how to breathe new life into a series and advance it in relevant and innovative ways. Jurassic World feels less like a rejuvenation of a series 22 years later and more like that stale 4th installment tacked on to a trilogy two years after to increase revenue. Welcome…to Jurassic World!

NR 2 Atoms - D

Facebook Comments