‘Jurassic World’ (2015) Film Review

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Rated PG-13

124 min.

Directed by Colin Trevorrow

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Jake Johnson, BD Wong & Vincent D’Onofrio

In 1993, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park hit theaters and changed the summer blockbuster forever. Ushering in new advancements in digital technology, the film industry embraced these visual effects and never looked back.

The year is now 2015 and you’d be hard-pressed to go to a movie theater on any given weekend and not find some movie playing that uses some form of CGI. That latest blockbuster that owes a huge debt to Spielberg’s original dino experience is fittingly the fourth film in the series, Jurassic World.

Colin Trevorrow’s sequel takes place on Isla Nublar, returning us to the island location of the original film for the first time, where the Disney World-esque Jurassic World is now fully functional and open to the public. The thing is, the public has now grown accustomed to experiencing dinosaurs up close and personal and in order for the park to deliver excitement to their customers once again, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her team have developed a new hybrid breed of dinosaur, one that isn’t exactly easy to keep caged.

Positives:

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  • The Dinosaurs – Let’s face it, when movie goers are going to see a film called Jurassic World they’re expecting one thing and one thing only: dinosaurs. Thankfully, the film has an array of interesting dinos on full display, including the water-dwelling Mosasaurus, the classic T-Rex and everyone’s favorite pack of hunters, the Velociraptors. And that’s not even mentioning the new hybrid dinosaur, the Indominus Rex. They each serve their own narrative purpose in the film, the most interesting of which is predictably the Raptors, who are being trained by ex-Navy man Owen (Chris Pratt) who has had a relationship with each Raptor from birth. Together they form a unit not unlike a wolf pack, Owen serving as the Alpha of the group and the female raptor Blue serving as the Beta. Owen’s relationship with the raptors forms the heart of the film, and without it the film’s climax (which I won’t spoil here) wouldn’t nearly have the impact it does.
  • The Nostalgia – I can imagine one of the main reasons the powers at be decided to set Jurassic World in the same location as the original film was to provide audiences with a sense of nostalgia. Well, mission accomplished. There are many references and call-backs to the original film throughout, but none of which call too much attention to themselves. We return to the Visitor’s Center where the climax of the original film unfolded all those years ago, and if you don’t get a little choked-up at this sight, well, you’re a stronger person than I.
  • The Action – Without question the film’s primary strength, the action sequences on display are about as good a calling card as any for director Colin Trevorrow in advancing his filmmaking career. Jumping from an indie project to a massive blockbuster like this couldn’t have been an easy decision for Trevorrow, but boy did it pay off. The second half of the film is pretty much non-stop, as we see the array of dinosaurs wreak havoc all across the park, and each action set-piece is as exciting as the next. We’ve never seen dinosaurs in action quite like this, and despite being bombarded with all types of CGI blockbusters nowadays, there’s still no alternative to seeing the Tyrannosaurus Rex in action on the big-screen.

Negatives:

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  • The Characters – While the dinosaurs are undoubtedly one of the film’s strengths, the same can not be said of their human counterparts. Much like the other two Jurassic sequels, none of the characters are particularly well-developed or half as interesting as Dr. Ian Malcolm, Dr. Alan Grant or Dr. Ellie Sattler. While the relationship between Chris Pratt’s Owen and the raptors does stand out as a positive, Owen’s relationship with Claire stands out as an under-developed, needless romantic sub-plot. Throughout the film’s first act we are introduced to an array of characters, none of which inspire much of a connection to the film’s audience. I’m all for trying to develop some interesting characters in a summer blockbuster, but when they are this uninspired, it perhaps would have been better to just forgo even trying and to jump right into the dino action.
  • The Plot – To be honest, there isn’t much in the way of a plot to Jurassic World, but given the little we do hear of it early on, it’s probably for the best. Dino escapes, hell breaks loose, RUN! I can dig it.
  • The Franchise Building – One of the biggest trends in the film industry as a whole currently is the idea of franchise building. Marvel has an entire cinematic universe, and each of their films not only tells their own self-contained story but also serves as a set-up for the next film or sequel coming down the pipeline. The Jurassic Park franchise wasn’t exactly going to buck this trend, so of course late in the film we are treated to a phone conversation between Vincent D’Onofrio’s hammy InGen employee Hoskins and BD Wong’s dino expert that serves to set up a potential sequel. Hey, here’s a novel idea, how about you try and focus on telling the best story you can in the film that is currently playing out on the screen, rather than tease what may be happening in the franchise next? I don’t know, at least give it some thought.

Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World is most certainly the best sequel in the Jurassic Park franchise, but what that exactly means is up for debate. Neither The Lost World nor Jurassic Park III set audiences ablaze with excitement upon their release, but regardless, Jurassic World is something that neither of those sequels is: it’s actually fun.

Jurassic World isn’t a great film, but it is a fun popcorn blockbuster that sets out to entertain its audience and does so. It doesn’t have the intelligence or the awe factor Spielberg’s original did all the way back in 1993, but it never could.

We as an audience have been spoiled (or is that tortured?) with CGI blockbuster upon CGI blockbuster for well over a decade now. The question is, will that trend continue or will it give way to something new in the film industry? It’s impossible to know, but we’ll keep thinking about it regardless.

Jurassic World isn’t something new, but when a blockbuster sets out to entertain us and maintains a sense of fun throughout its running time like this movie does, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

7/10