Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Jurassic World

For the first time in 14 years we get a new entry into the Jurassic Park franchise with Jurassic World. Far from a reboot, Jurassic World takes place in the same world as the previous films (and even has a few homages to the original), although no human characters return. Jurassic World doesn't stray far from the template of the previous three films (and not nearly as much as I'd like recycling the same themes already well-mined by the franchise), but it does offer a new twist or two to give the latest sequel a fresh feel.

The set-up is roughly the same as something inevitably goes wrong and people run for their lives from dinosaurs for two-hours or more. What Jurassic World adds to the mix is to fully fill the operating theme park this time around with thousands of innocent bystanders (something the script sadly doesn't use to its full advantage). The new film also offers up a new beastie in Indominus Rex which is more movie monster than true dinosaur cooked up in a lab to be the ultimate attraction. If the movie fails to use the vast crowd to up the carnage (most of the action takes place off in the wilderness with a small group of characters running for their lives) the film certainly trumpets the big bad selling it as the most dangerous creature the park has ever produced.

With no Alan Grant (Sam Neill) or Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) this time around Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt star as a high-ranking executive and dinosaur wrangler respectively. In typical romcom fashion the pair can't stand each other but throw a little disaster porn their way and guess what happens? And, because at this point I guess it's contractually obligated, the sequel throws in a pair of kids (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) to get lost in the chaos. As cliched as all that sounds the movie is surprisingly entertaining even if it does suffer when the action slows down in an attempt to inject family drama into movie distracting us from the far more engaging disaster porn.

Once again the series finds time to plaster the screen with all manner of dinosaurs who look as good as they ever have thanks to the continued advancement of CGI. The idea of Indominus Rex, a Frankenstein-ish monster cobbled together from the genetic make-up of several other creatures, was more intriguing to me than the result as the dinosaur becomes less cool each time you see it. I actually thought the dinosaur kept in the Sea World-style water tank was at least as visually impressive. The super-dinosaur may be intimidating, but the raptors, trained by Owen Grady (Pratt) and on the side of the humans this time around, continue to be most interesting of the prehistoric characters.

Jurassic World isn't everything I wanted but it's far better than I was expecting. The park is fully realized for the first time becoming its own character in the film. By far the best sequel to Jurassic Park, it stays too mired in the rigid templates of the franchise (smart kids, awkward romance, greed and unchecked hubris leading to costly mistakes, etc.) but offers enough new elements (such as Pratt and his ridiculous but cool pack of Velicoraptors, and an insane amount of pterodactyls in a Birds-style attack sequence) that director Colin Trevorrow and his four screen writers use to deliver an enjoyable summer popcorn film which should please fans of the franchise. Jurassic World is the first must-see popcorn movie of the summer.

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