Saturday, June 13, 2015

Jurassic World (2015)

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Notable Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, Vincent D’Onofrio, Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, B.D. Wong

With the crazy ‘reboot’ trend of anything that was popular in decades past, it was only a matter of time before someone kicked the Jurassic Park franchise in the dino-ass for a kick start. My skepticism as a longtime fan of the series was decently high thanks to a Roger Corman-esque idea that drove the movie. I’m all for B-movie hijinks (I write for a damn cult cinema site for shit’s sake), but we all know what happened when the series went too far into B-movie realm (The Lost World: Jurassic Park) and those were disappointments I did not want to live with again. Luckily, the fourth film in this 20+ year old franchise is anything but a disappointment. Jurassic World might lack the awesome animatronic effects of the first three and it certainly keeps the characters simple, but the entertainment value of our modern day trip to the land of genetically engineered dinosaurs is a blast. This might be one of the best blockbusters we see this year.

Claire (Howard) is in charge of running Jurassic World, a fully functional dinosaur riddled theme park on Isla Nublar. Her two nephews (Simpkins and Robinson) are there to visit her for the week, but the arrival of her boss (Khan) to see their new ‘asset’ has her on edge. It’s a genetically created brand new ‘dinosaur’ called Indominus Rex and it’s scary. When the animal breaks free of its cage, Claire will have to rely on a raptor trainer, Owen (Pratt), and some unlikely allies to help her save her nephews…and end the tyrannical terror of a beast that never should have been.

For I am the Raptor King.
It’s with some sort of childhood crushing reluctance to realize that nothing, not in this franchise or any other, might ever touch the balance of art and entertainment that has made Jurassic Park the cultural phenomenon that it was and remains to be. So firstly, don’t go into Jurassic World expecting it to come close to that balance. It might be better than both The Lost World and Jurassic Park III, but it’s still just a step below the original in quality. It’s not for lack of effort, as director Colin Trevorrow does his best to replicate the look and feel of the original in this film without being a straight up knock off, and the film adds in enough small homages to the original to keep diehard fans glued to the screen looking and listening for tons of Easter eggs. My personal favorite was the inclusion of Chilean Sea Bass that was announced as the dish at the restaurant in the complex. They spared no expense.

Now that the little footnote of ‘not comparing it to perfection’ is out of the way, let’s discuss just why Jurassic World works so splendidly. Firstly, the pacing is damn near a sprint for two-thirds of the movie. While this does pull away from really developing characters that are deep and unique (two boys that are collateral damage in a divorce? You don’t say. Business woman who has no time for family or personal matters? Who would have thought?), it also keeps the film simple in its connection to the audience. We care enough about these people to not want them horribly murdered by toothy lizards when shit hits the fan, but the film doesn’t need to build them any more than that to get us to the real gem of the film: dinosaur mayhem. The romantic subplot works just enough. The brotherly bond works just enough. It helps that the acting performances are impressive for what little the actors truly have to work with in the script and this is none more apparent than at a tear jerking sequence where Claire and Owen find a dying Brachiosaurus. I had to remove my 3D glasses to get some dust out of my eye at that point…I mean, I wasn’t like “crying” or anything. I swear. It was something in my eye.

Secondly, Jurassic World truly ups the ante on dinosaur mayhem. The inclusion of thousands of innocent people, just piling in to be terrorized by free flying Pteranodons and various other sky born nightmares, lifts the consequences from just a few people to a lot of people. This allows the film to give us the things we expect to see in a Jurassic Park movie: dinosaur chase sequences, crushed vehicles that get flipped around, Raptors jumping on things and screeching, and lots of toothy roars without being redundant. It also allows the film go into some new and very refreshing territory. Dinosaur on dinosaur battles, villains from the military complex, and some increasingly violent content. The sheer terror of having a Pteranodon pick you up out of a crowd only to drop you in water where a fuckin’ Mosasaurus is waiting to consume both you and the damn flying reptile is heart racing. Director Colin Trevorrow handles it with expert ease.

There's teeth at the other end.
Yet, like what Terminator 2 did for the machine that terrified us in the first film of that franchise, the big key to what made Jurassic World work is how much we cared about the damn dinosaurs. With repeated dialogue about not treating the dinosaurs as assets and as living creatures and the acting that makes us believe that Owen has a ‘mutual respect’ and connection with his herd of Raptors or that the damn dying Brachiosaurus will make you…remove something stuck in your eye, Jurassic World makes us care about both sides. It also vilifies the new genetic abomination Indominus Rex as the ultimate killing machine that needs to be stopped. It’s this balance that makes the last 20 minutes of the film so utterly awesome and satisfying. Not to give too much away, but the final showdown in the main street of the amusement park might be one of the greatest sequences to grace the silver screen all year. Both the 8 year old in me and the 30 year old I am rejoiced at its grandeur.

All in all, Jurassic World might carry a lot of B-grade concepts and thin plot/character work to get us back into the park, but the results are spectacularly efficient and entertaining. It’s built on a script foundation that holds far more weight than it would seem and the combination of thrills and kills that match the heart and energy of the film make it a guaranteed multi-watch experience. Jurassic World is silly, but it’s all the right kinds of silly to make it a great blockbuster for all generations of Jurassic Park fans.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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