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Jurassic World Review

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RATING:
(3 STARS)

For the third straight Jurassic film, no one has a good answer to the obvious question: Why are we doing this to ourselves?

Why is Isla Nublar a place human beings want to visit? Why are parents putting their kids on planes in order to be in the immediate vicinity of giant, uncontrollable, and hungry reptiles?

Jurassic World—a direct sequel to the now 22-year-old Jurassic Park—doubles down on this crazy lack of hubris by telling us dinosaurs aren’t cool enough for the general public anymore. John Hammond’s dream park is a reality, but people want more, so we’re genetically engineering super species of dinos that are bigger than a brachiosaurus, meaner than a raptor, and scarier than a T-Rex.

Writer-director Colin Trevorrow and his fellow screenwriters—Derek Connolly, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver—offer money and the military as reasons for this dangerous expansion. OK. The former is believable enough. The latter is handled with the dexterity of an elephant doing needlepoint.

Ultimately, though, that doesn’t matter much. Jurassic World wants us to believe that while thrilling and entertaining its audience, it’s also offering smart commentary on mankind’s insatiable need for more and the way that fuels a pro-corporation, anti-creativity streak in Hollywood. It fails to do much more than skim that surface, but when it comes to the thrilling and entertaining part, it’s aces. With the exception of one awful, sadistic moment that sticks out like a sore thumb, you likely won’t have a more purely pleasurable moviegoing experience this summer.

The film starts out brilliantly. It’s hard to top the scene in Jurassic Park where Dr. Grant (Sam Neill) first glimpses a dinosaur and playfully turns Dr. Sadler’s (Laura Dern) head in its direction as John Williams’ iconic score swells. It’s a transcendent moment in film history, but Jurassic World‘s opening 15 minutes actually come close.

We’re first introduced to this film’s two underage protagonists—Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins)—in their Madison, Wisconsin home. Their parents are sending the kids to the Jurassic World theme park to be with their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who runs the park, while they work out a divorce settlement. Gray is dino-crazy, and his first moments on the island are simply wonderful. His giddiness is palpable, and when he flings his hotel windows open to give himself and us a first glimpse of the park, it’s magical. (Give composer Michael Giacchino credit for knowing when and how much to rely on John Williams’s score vs. his own original work.)

From there, we spend time with Claire as she shows off the park’s genetic advancements to potential investors and her detached billionaire boss, Simon (Irrfan Khan). Meanwhile, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) has made a breakthrough with the raptors he’s training. They’ve become responsive to his commands, and Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), a shady private security contractor, that’s enough to say they’re ready to be unleashed for a military-style field test.

You probably know where all this is going, but it doesn’t make it any less fun getting there. Pratt is a little dialed-back as Owen, but Bryce Dallas Howard seems to be having fun. Her role isn’t exactly progressive—especially when you compare her to the original film’s female lead—but Howard gives it her all, and I found her quite engaging.

Even better are the effects-laden homages. Jurassic Park‘s famous jeep scene gets a high-tech upgrade. There are lots of well-placed shots of dinosaurs slowly sneaking around corners in order to put us on edge and scare the shit out of these characters. Like the original, it’s a monster movie, and with that classification comes every trope you’d expect, right down to the helpless men and women running through the streets—only this time, they’re double fisting margaritas while pre-historic terror rains down from above. Yeah, it’s got that kind of sense of humor.

I eluded to one really cruel scene, and it’s during this pterodactyl attack. A woman with whom we’re acquainted, but only barely, is picked up, tossed around, dumped in the water, pecked at, and then swallowed up by an enormous underwater dinosaur. Words don’t quite do the sequence justice, but it’s straight up sadistic in its execution, which is showy and exclusively for laughs. The audience I saw the film with ate it up, and it’s not hard to understand why. But when you consider that genuinely bad people are granted the dignity of dying off screen, it’s perplexing why the filmmakers would go this route. Perplexing and disappointing. It spoils just a little bit an otherwise very fun motion picture.

The film sort of skates by that scene and its other issues, however, with an otherwise dynamite sense of humor. Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus are hilarious as two of Claire’s employees who are basically watching the world burn from the control room. Ty Simpkins is quite endearing as Gray, who arguably likes dinosaurs a little too much. Irrfan Khan’s billionaire character is rather delightful.

I thought Trevorrow (of Safety Not Guaranteed fame … and nothing else) seemed like an odd choice to direct a film of this scale, but he’s got a solid enough handle on the action and effects and a surprisingly great handle on character. Yes, they say and often do impossibly stupid things, but charm and heart go a long way in helping the viewer get past that.

I got past it, despite arguably knowing better, and for that, I’d recommend Jurassic World to just about anyone.

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