**** 1/2 out of 5
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril
Article first published The Reel Place.
When it comes to movies, nostalgia is so powerful it can make or break our sense of wonder. Things can take a turn for the worst if saddled with a director who doesn’t understand the material. Michael Bay has made a box office career out of ruining childhood properties, see Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So it should come as no surprise that Steven Spielberg has transported us to 1993, leaving us breathless at the sight of dinosaurs back on the big screen with Jurassic World. Leaving the Park behind, director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed), pits man against dinosaur with spectacular results.
Jurassic World realizes a fully functioning park, chock full of living biological attractions so astounding that they’ve captured the imagination of the entire planet. Siblings Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) are seen off at the airport by their parents Karen (Judy Greer) and Scott (Andy Buckley), headed to Isla Sorna for a weekend at Jurassic World, to spend some family time with their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park’s operations manager.
Also arriving for the weekend are new investors and park owner Simon Masroni (Irrfan Khan), CEO of the Masroni Corporation, the park’s owning company. Masroni has arrived to check out the park’s newest attraction, the Indominus rex, a hybrid dinosaur meant to pique interest in the park. Every time they’ve introduced something new attendance spikes with the public eye putting them back in the spotlight. Audiences want something bigger, louder, and with more teeth.
Meanwhile, raptor whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) has proven his bond between himself and his toothsome foursome Charlie, Echo, Delta, and Blue, and is dealing with the harassment of Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) who wants to weaponize the raptors. Hoskins might finally get his chance after the I-rex escapes and turns the park into her own personal buffet as she tries to find her place on the food chain.
Full disclosure: Jurassic Park is one of my all-time favorite movies. So Jurassic World had a lot to live up to. Could it possibly ever top the original? Absolutely not. Does it at least hold its own and stand as the best sequel so far? Absolutely yes! Ever since the first Super Bowl teaser premiered back in January, all signs pointed to Trevorrow nailing it — and he does. This is the sequel we have been waiting for. It also makes you wish it was a real park. Embrace the running and screaming, because I am happy to report the oohs and ahhs are back in force.
As many surprises as there are in Jurassic World, the biggest may be that Pratt isn’t the comic relief this time. As entertaining as he is, he’s way more serious than usual. It’s nice to see a dramatic flair to Owen, playing the take charge captain to a park falling down around them. However, don’t expect the film to be super serious, there are definitely breaks in the tension. But this time around, it’s courtesy of Jake Johnson’s Jurassic Park/dino-nerd Lowery who works in the park’s command center. There are plenty of stabs abound at sequels and spectacle in general. When it’s questioned why they felt the need to genetically hybrid a new attraction, it’s finally mentioned that the whole park is artificial since all of the dinosaurs are created in a lab. This is something that’s never been mentioned before aside from when Ellie Sattler calls the park an illusion in the original.
But oh, what a grand illusion it is. While not the pioneer of technology like the first film was, the geniuses at ILM and Hybride have concocted some amazing displays of dinosaur realism that’ll make you feel like a kid again. From the towering Apatosaurs and tail-swinging Ankylosaurs, let alone the terrifying Indominus Rex, seeing is believing. Even the Mosasaurus looks better than everyone’s been complaining about with the trailers. The finished effects should prove naysayers wrong.
The cast are all having a blast, with their tongues firmly planted in cheek. Let’s face it, this is the fourth Jurassic movie after all. Thankfully, Treverrow and co-writer Derek Connolly — and credited screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver who supplied an early draft — fill the park with a cast of characters we actually like and care about. This easily could have turned into waiting for the next cast member to die. But the brothers feel like real brothers while Pratt and Howard play off each other very well. Even Khan as the CEO could have been just another grimy moneygrubber, instead he loves the park and wants to see it thrive and live up to John Hammond’s expectations.
If there’s one throwaway character, it’s Katie McGrath’s glorified babysitter role, stuck trying to keep up with two teenage boys in a theme park filled with 20,000 people. Let’s face it, we came for the dinosaurs, and Jurassic World more than brings the goods. Some aren’t as heavily featured as you’d think, essentially making for a last act money shot that’s so unabashedly outlandish it totally works. Some might complain that it turns into just another monsters on the loose tale, but what else would you expect.
The final word is that Jurassic World is exactly the kind of popcorn escapist we’ve been lacking this summer and audiences will eat it up. Exciting, exhilarating, terrifying, and even heartbreaking — giving Michael Giacchino another chance to kick you right in the feels, next he’ll get you with Inside Out — this should satiate anyone looking for their next blockbuster night out and will leave fans salivating for more. Treverrow was nice enough to leave a few dangling threads that set up future installments. The best news is that anyone who was left dissatisfied with The Lost World or Jurassic Park III can come back to the park, the jungle’s just fine!