by Jeff Walls
The original Jurassic Park from 1993 is a legitimate classic, but its two sequels were underwhelming to say the least. They each had individual scenes that were exciting, but on a whole they came nowhere close to the awe-inspiring, majestic thrill ride that was the original. Enter Colin Trevorrow, a director whose only feature film to date, 2012’s Safety Not Guaranteed, as great as it was, doesn’t necessarily scream blockbuster potential. Whatever the producers saw in that movie, however, pays off big time as Jurassic World proves to be the Jurassic Park sequel that we always wanted.
It has been twenty-two years since the incident depicted in the original movie, and John Hammond’s dream has finally been realized. The Jurassic World theme park is open for business and has been for ten years already. Although attendance is still good and people are obviously still enthralled by the various attractions—including a kayaking cruise, underwater exhibit, and even a chance to ride a baby Triceratops—the powers that be believe that public interest is waning and they will need to keep developing bigger and better attractions to maintain the public’s interest.
To accomplish this, the scientists in the lab—including Dr. Henry Wu, the only returning cast member from the original movie—begin genetically engineering new dinosaurs, blending the DNA ingredients of other species together. Their latest creation is the Indominus Rex, a giant carnivore that immediately ascends to the top of the world’s food chain. As you might expect, the new creation gets out of its enclosure and begins terrorizing the park. Mayhem ensues.
It is okay if the basic premise sounds too much like the original movie, because Jurassic World is not necessarily going for originality in structure, but rather attempting to return the series to the formula that made the original such a success in the first place. And succeed it does. From the moment the Indominus Rex is set loose on the park, the action is nonstop and consistently thrilling. The pacing of the movie is perfect as the excitement never lags and the movie gives the audience just enough time to catch its breath between action sequences. The special effects, too, are top-notch and the dinosaurs all look fantastic in 3D (see it in IMAX, if you can).
The movie’s signature sequence is definitely the Raptor pursuit. The sequence seen in the film’s trailer in which star Chris Pratt is riding a motorcycle flanked by a team of Raptors has been snickered at leading up to the movie’s release, but the movie does such a good job of establishing the relationship between Pratt’s Owen Grady and the Raptors he has been attempting to train that it works really well. The sequence also ends with one of the movie’s biggest “Aha!” moments, which makes it even better.
Although the prehistoric characters are the true stars of the movie, the human characters serve the story strongly as well. Chris Pratt has one of those classic movie star parts where he gets to be attractive, funny, and heroic, while Bryce Dallas Howard’s no-time-for-family-I’ve-got-work-to-do Claire is the character that gets the biggest arc. There are once again two kids caught up in the danger, but they felt like real characters and the movie wisely stayed away from giving them that-one-specific-thing-they-can-do that ends up saving everyone (no gymnastics sequence here, thank goodness). The only character I didn’t like so much was Vincent D’Onofrio’s Hoskins. He’s the one human villain in the movie (a more macho Dennis Nedry), but the character’s evilness is pushed too far into our faces. If they were going to do that, at least they could have given him a better death scene (like Nedry’s).
The movie also arguably uses product placement better than any movie I have ever seen. There are products everywhere, but they fit perfectly within the confines of the corporate-run theme park environment that is cleverly set up. The movie even finds a way to use its own product placement to satirize our current culture that is dominated by brand names.
There are a couple of classic movie clichés that get a little annoying, such as how cell phones and walkie-talkies never seem to work when you need them to, or how hordes of people seeking shelter run in every direction but the shelter, but these are minor quibbles in an otherwise incredibly fun movie that has the audience cheering by the end. There will never be another Jurassic Park movie to truly capture the wonder of the original, but Jurassic World comes about as close as you can get.
Jurassic World opens today at the AMC Southcenter 16 and the AMC Kent Station 14. Won’t it be nice when Des Moines has its own theater again? Eat local before you go!