Dances with Raptors
A return visit to Jurassic Park was inevitable, even as it became more creatively unlikely after two wanting ventures back to Isla Nublar. The original is arguably the last great addition to the Spielberg genre typified by sweeping yet hummable John Williams themes (perhaps the last timeless theme composed by that legendary scorer of film) and family-
friendly theme park thrills. (One could make a case for War of the Worlds, but it feels less like a Spielberg film than a film inspired by Spielberg à la Super 8.)
The meh sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III, certainly have high points. For a while, I played the role of Lost World apologist and still favorably recall the T-Rex run amok through San Diego last act; however, that gymnastic raptor beatdown is as awful a scene in a Spielberg film as they come (I’m including Shia swinging through the trees in Crystal Skull). JPIII had Sam Neill (but sadly no Jeff Goldblum) and finally introduced flying dinosaurs (pteranodons, not the more popular pterodactyls). Otherwise, I do not recall a single thing from that flick.
Enter Colin Trevorrow’s third JP continuation, an effectively entertaining blockbuster filmed in the style of Spielberg. After the disasters under the guidance of the late John Hammond (the late Richard Attenborough), who is wastefully commemorated at the new park with a statue that we strangely never see in close-up, Jurassic Park has rebranded itself Jurassic World, under the leadership of ordered redhead Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard).
A new attraction is needed to keep the 20,000-plus daily visitors, already enjoying regular T-Rex feedings and Mosasaurus shows, hopping on the mandatory boat ride. Unfortunately, the geneticists create a dangerous new dino from the DNA of a T-Rex and other classified animals (you can probably guess one of the secret ingredients) and call it Indominus Rex.
Naturally, on the day when filmgoing audiences arrive, the Indominus escapes from her cage. The clever girl wreaks havoc while dinosaur trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) helps the pretty redhead rescue her cute teen and preteen nephews (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson, who could have stepped right off a Goonies remake).
Trevorrow steps to the plate and cranks at least a double in his call-up from the movie minors; his feature debut was 2012’s quasi-sci-fi romance, Safety Not Guaranteed. His hiring by executive producer Spielberg was risky, but it works out. The sequences depicting a regular day at the park are some of the series’ best-constructed and most interesting. This flick is the closest any of us will get to visiting Jurassic World. I wanted to spend more time simply exploring.
Jurassic World’s major woes are script-inflicted. What is Owen doing, where and for whom? For whom exactly does Vincent D’Onofrio’s classic corporate villain work? Early introductions are self-contained and disconnected, but these questions matter little once the carnage starts.
And, oh my, is there carnage! Jurassic World is more a horror film than its predecessors, what with all the nasty dino deaths. Once the movie revs its action-horror engine, the film runs smoothly until its gratifying dino vs. dino climax.
Pratt’s hero is also disappointingly serious. Whether or not that is another deficit of the script or a conscious decision by actor and filmmaker is not clear, but it does slightly detract from the film’s pre-appeal. The bright actor has such great comic energy that one expected Owen to be more Indiana Jones than Alan Grant. If anything, the entire movie lacks much of a sense of humor, though its sense of adventure is heightened. More script woes, one assumes.
Despite constant callbacks, Jurassic World is no Jurassic Park redux, but this World is nowhere near as lost as its last two predecessors. With no lines, plenty of air-conditioning and no chance of death by dino, you won’t regret this one-day ticket.