The original ‘Jurassic Park,’ released in the summer of 1993, was a huge blockbuster hit for Steven Spielberg. Its’ now classic elements of wonder and awe quickly turning to fear and horror, still resonate in the collective movie-going psyche. The sequels could never live up to the original, upping the ante on fx and action, but losing that sense of wonder and discovery. It is that particular mix that the makers of franchise reboot, ‘Jurassic World,’ understand, including new kid on the block, writer-director, Colin Trevorrow.
There is nothing in his resume that screams ‘competent wrangler of huge summer blockbuster’, but he was able to prove to Universal and exec producer Spielberg that he was the director for the job, and his affinity for that original masterpiece of popcorn entertainment shows throughout this production. The story wisely unfolds from both the perspectives of wide-eyed visitors (brothers played convincingly by Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) and those familiar with the inner workings of the park. The order-fueled, corporate business representative Claire, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, is an obvious mark for redemption as a classic Type-A personality driven by all work and no play. The action falls to raptor-trainer and all-around blue collar hero-type, played by summer movie MVP Chris Pratt, again making the most out of rote material by truly having a blast. This is classic movie construction, but somehow it’s handled without cynicism – the actors build enough into their characters so that the audience does actually care what happens to them as they are attacked, repeatedly, by the most convincing dinosaur effects yet.
Of course the scenery and the dinosaurs are the real draw, just as they are in the fictional park, and there is a new level of reality and personality imbued into these CGI costars. The raptors are a pack, led by trainer Owen (Pratt), who has inserted himself as the alpha of the group – while this development seemed ridiculous in the previews, Pratt and the filmmakers make it work in these tense, well-crafted scenes. The herbivores are imbued with dog-like personalities, and one particular Brontosaurus death is surprisingly moving. The big baddie, a genetically modified beast, named Indominus Rex via corporate marketing, is an inspired design (think T.Rex with full-sized, powerful arms and claws), and is pure killing machine due to her Skinner Box upbringing of isolation.
The dinosaurs-as-military-weapon side-plot is totally ridiculous, fronted by a very hammy and over-the-top Vincent D’Onofrio, but at least he is able to make viewers hate him enough to wish for a satisfying comeuppance. Of course the biggest question is why would parent company inGen still think this type of amusement can be family friendly, but kudos to the filmmakers for realizing a fully functional, state-of-the-art park stocked with over 20,000 potential victims. Basically, a viewer that can’t get over this fact will not enjoy this movie. For maximum enjoyment, sit back, relax, enjoy the ride . . . fans of the original will not be disappointed.
Directed By: Colin Trevorrow
Written By: Rick, Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, & Derek Connolly
Running Time: 124 min.
* * * 1/2 (out of 4 stars) -or- B+