**** (out of 5)
June 12, 2015
Chris Pratt as OWEN
Bryce Dallas Howard as CLAIRE
Vincent D’Onofrio as HOSKINS
Ty Simpkins as GRAY
Irrfan Khan as SIMON MASRANI
Nick Robinson as ZACH
Jake Johnson as LOWERY
Omar Sy as BARRY
BD Wong as DR. Henry Wu
Judy Greer as KAREN
Lauren Lapkus as VIVIAN
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
It’s hard to believe that Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” came out 22 years ago, especially when you go back and watch the movie and realize how well it holds up even by today’s standards. Of course, there’s a lot of nostalgia to go with it, and there’s an irreplaceable newness factor that surrounded the film, hot off the best-selling success of Michael Crichton’s book.
Still, it does hold up, as evidenced by how great the 3D conversion looked when it was released in theaters for its 20th anniversary. And while the sequels range from downright terrible (meaning “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” easily one of Spielberg’s worst directing jobs in his career that reduced him briefly to studio hack) to the passable and fun but unremarkable (meaning “Jurassic Park III” which had some really good action but almost not story), it’s equally hard to believe that it has been 14 years since a brand new installment in the series has hit theater screens.
Well, that time has come now, and “Jurassic World” has been unleashed on the planet. In this installment, we go back to the original island where John Hammond’s dream of a family amusement park built around living dinosaur exhibits has been fully realized. No one thinks twice about being left on an island full of vicious predators that want to eat you and your families because the humans have total control of the situation.
What could possibly go wrong?
Of course, like any “Jurassic Park” movie, things do indeed go wrong, and the action mounts with the unexpected-yet-totally-expected escape of the creatures from containment. It’s up to a velociraptor trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) and the uptight park executive Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) to save as many people as they can.
All the elements form the previous film are brought back. You’ve got the kids in peril (who happen to be Claire’s nephews on holiday); you’ve got the naysayer who predicts the problems (Owen’s more down-to-earth delivery rather than the esoteric lecturing of Ian Malcolm from the first two films); you’ve got the businessman who wants to exploit the creatures (Vincent D’Onofrio as a military-minded contractor); and you’ve got a big, bad dinosaur that makes the most formidable opponent (in this case a genetically modified T-rex hybrid called the Indominus rex).
If you’re expecting some deep, philosophical contemplation about genetic engineering or animal captivity (I think I’ve heard people wish for a “Blackfish” with dinosaurs more than a couple times over the past few weeks), you’re not going to get it here. This is franchise filmmaking and nothing more. It’s not here to answer the bigger questions of life and man’s domain. Even though that was in the original book to a degree and dumbed down a bit for Spielberg’s film, the entirety of “Jurassic Park” has been about the spectacle first, with all other considerations secondary.
And make no doubt, this is a spectacle. This is the big-screen event of the summer, featuring some beautiful scenery, sweeping shots with real scope and some top-notch visual effects. Sure, you’re going to hear plenty of people complain about too much CGI, but this is a dinosaur movie, after all. And it’s more than two decades after the first film was made. It’s no surprise that the animatronic creatures were kept to a minimum. (And this is also obvious when you know that the reliance on animatronics in the first film was a result of limited time and budget for the now-rudimentary computer systems used to animate the dinosaurs. In short, CGI dinosaur shots were not easy back then and had to be cherry-picked for their best moments.)
Still, there is some cool commentary on the series to be found, in particular when the movie becomes self-aware. For example, John Williams’ trumpeting fanfare is reserved for the gee-whiz factor of entering the park, not for the dinosaur shots. This is further commented on when the characters point out that no one is wowed by a dinosaur any more, and they’re absolutely right.
People under 30 years old forget how crap-your-pants awesome the original film was because no one had seen fully-articulated, photorealistic, computer-animated creatures like the ones in that movie. Now, they can be found on your average kids’ TV show. So, just like the theme park organizers in the film, the movie makers had to step up their game to make the creatures bigger and badder. Is it realistic? Hell, no. But then again, it’s a movie about cloning dinosaurs from mosquitoes trapped in amber. That sounds cool on paper, but it’s utter scientific nonsense.
In the end, “Jurassic World” is a real thrill ride in the tradition of the series. It’s not going to win any writing or acting awards, but for big summer popcorn spectacle, this film is exactly what it needs to be.