Understandably lacking the awe and wonder of “Jurassic Park” (1993), “Jurassic World” is a well-made blockbuster ride with many dinosaurs to watch. While the advance of digital special effects during last 22 years makes the dinosaurs roaming on the screen look far more mundane than before, the movie is a little better than expected at least, and I sometimes enjoyed its good parts as feeling nostalgic about the 1993 film directed by Steven Spielberg, who participated in the production of “Jurassic World” as an executive producer.
The movie brings us back to Isla Nublar, a remote Costa Rican Island which was the main background of “Jurassic Park”. Despite what happened there a long time ago, more dinosaurs have been brought to life through the advance of biological technology (do people ever learn?), and these dinosaurs have been the main attractions of Jurassic World, a big theme park which can accommodate more than 20,000 visitors every day. While many visitors enjoy watching dinosaurs during their tour, living dinosaurs now become less wondrous than before, so Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), the current owner of Jurassic World, wants a new attraction to draw more visitors (and more money) to the park.
Thanks to Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong, who reprises his role in “Jurassic Park”) and his technicians, Jurassic World is about to introduce a newly created dinosaur species: Indominus rex. While being a sort of cousin to Tyrannosaurus rex, this dinosaur also has several genetic elements from other species in its genomic design, and Dr. Wu’s ‘scientific’ explanation of his creation will probably draw lots of guffaws from my former lab colleagues studying on DNA biochemistry.
For getting some consultation on the security measures on Indominus rex, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the supervisor of Jurassic World, goes to Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a Velociraptor expert who has been trying to train a quartet of Velociraptors for his small project. Being close to those reptiles with big, sharp claws is one of the last things I want to do, but our tough hero shows no qualms about his highly risky work while always being cautious and tactful. He may form a relationship bond between him and his reptiles, but they are still wild, dangerous animals as shown during one tense scene where he must risk his life in front of them. W.G. Sebald once said: “Men and animals regard each other across a gulf of mutual incomprehension.”
Meanwhile, Claire’s two young nephews, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Sympkins), visit the park. As their aunt is going through one busy day, the boys eventually go around the park for themselves, and that turns out to be not a very wise choice – especially after Owen and others belatedly realize that their new dinosaur is nastier and cleverer than they have ever imagined. There is also a nefarious plan by Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onoffrio), the shady and sneering head of security, and that does not help the situation much, of course.
As the park is being swept into terror and chaos as a consequence, the movie provides a number of big action sequences. There is a terrifying sequence a la “The Birds” (1963) where a flock of Pteranodons and Dimorphodons swoop upon terrified visitors with no mercy in the ensuing pandemonium, and we also get a good chase sequence involved with Velociraptors tenaciously running after a vehicle on the road. Although this is his first trial of blockbuster film, the director/co-writer Colin Trevorrow, who previously directed a small but witty SF comedy film “Safety Not Guaranteed” (2012), did a smooth job of handling actions on the screen, and we seldom get lost even when the movie becomes loud and busy.
The movie also allows us to be amused by small moments between its spectacles. Besides a goofy tourist guide video featuring Jimmy Fallon, I like how numerous recognizable elements from “Jurassic Park” are nicely incorporated into the story, and Michael Giacchino’s score pays enough respect to John Williams’ famous theme, which makes a grand appearance when the movie shows us Jurassic World in full view around its beginning.
In case of the special effects in the film, they are flawless and the dinosaurs on the screen certainly look and move better than before, but they also feel rather plain compared to what amazed and astounded us in “Jurassic Park”, which still remains as the groundbreaking point in the history of movie special effects even when it looks relatively dated at present. The movie indirectly recognizes its predictable attempt to be bigger and louder as throwing some self-conscious humor at itself, but that does not change its overall impression much, and it begins to lose its steam around the climax part accompanied with lots of CGI actions which I observed with mounting weariness. They are not bad at all, but, like many other run-of-the-mill CGI actions, they are not very exciting either.
In addition, the story and characterization in the film are riddled with flat characterization and questionable choices, and good actors in the film are often hampered by this problem. Chris Pratt is dependable as usual with his likable screen presence while showing again here that he is a capable action movie actor, but he does not have much to do with his colorless archetype character. Bryce Dallas Howard gets a more thankless job of playing an uptight female character, and some of you may be uncomfortable with how her character is negatively depicted as a career woman too busy with her work to care about the boys she was supposed to take care of – but, thank to Howard’s feisty performance, you may admire how her character manages to run and do some tough actions while wearing her high heels all the time. The other actors respectively fill their thin stereotype roles as demanded, and I can assure you that it will not take much time for you to guess who will be on the menu in the end.
On the whole, “Jurassic World” is improvement over the unsuccessful sequels preceding it, and it gives us a fair share of thrill and excitement, though it is not as memorable as “Jurassic Park” and feels bland at times. To be frank with you, I am not so sure about whether it is necessary or not (there may be another sequel following it, by the way), but it mostly succeeds in evoking, if not recreating, the fond memories of a film which entertained me and others a lot a long time ago, and maybe I should not complain even though I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it.
Sidenote: I saw it in 2D. I do not think you have to pay extra money for 3D.
The first half is reasonably good but the movie lost me completely when Howard and Pratt kiss passionately while the park’s visitors are getting devoured by the flying Pterodactyls.
And I think you are right Seongyong, it could not have been easier to guess which characters would eventually be devoured by the dinosaurs if they wore a t-shirt that said so.
SC: So far, the movie is the best sequel in the franchise, but I didn’t like it enough.
I loved this line, “I can assure you that it will not take much time for you to guess who will be on the menu in the end.”
Some of us were screaming in our heads…they aren’t dinosaurs. They can’t do that. I think the dinosaurs would have learned to play soccer with their tails, using that clear ball with people in it.
SC: That could have been a lot of fun.