Jurassic World (2015) / Adventure-Sci Fi
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril
Running Time: 124 min.
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Vincent D'Onofrio, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, BD Wong, Judy Greer, Lauren Lupkus
Small role: Jimmy Fallon, Colin Trevorrow, Brad Bird (voice)
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Screenplay: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly
Review published June 13, 2015
Siblings Gray (Simpkins, Insidious: Chapter 2) and Zach (Robinson, The Kings of Summer) are sent on vacation to visit their Aunt Claire (Howard, Terminator Salvation), who is the manager of operations at the Costa Rica island resort known as Jurassic World, a tourist attraction funded by mega-billionaire named Simon Masrani (Khan, The Lunchbox) that takes its basic idea from the original Jurassic Park but seeks to do the formula right (i.e., more profitably). In addition to the assortment of dinosaurs, the corporation is looking into creating their own hybrid dinos through experiments in genetic engineering that are sure to draw in even more interested visitors year after year. Their biggest creation is the Indominus Rex, a creation that splices the T. Rex DNA with a hodge-podge of other predators of various strengths, that just might be the most deadly creature that has ever roamed the Earth. (I suppose it's not a good sign that 'indominus' is Latin for 'untamable'.)
Navy vet Owen Grady (Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy) is a behavioral research consultant and talent trainer at the facility, looking into the ability for these dinosaurs to learn from human instruction, and he's especially made progress at whispering to velociraptors, which may prove to be a much needed thing now that Indominus Rex has gotten out of its cage and is prepared to hunt and kill whatever it can on the island, which ultimately could mean the slaughter of 20,000 visitors trapped in the theme park.
Jurassic World benefits not only by its 22 year distance from the original Jurassic Park, but also that JP was not able to follow up with a decent sequel, despite the great Steven Spielberg having directed one of them. As such, this production, helmed by Safety Not Guaranteed director Colin Trevorrow, need only be enjoyable to pass the low bar of expectations among a legion of fans loving the original and wanting someone to do something worth going back to the island for. Trevorrow and the other three credited screenwriters wisely avoid most things related to the sequels, which would have not only polluted the plotting, but would have made little sense, given that The Lost World saw a T. Rex rampaging through San Diego. I don't suspect parents would willingly send their kids to a theme park full of genetically jacked-up dinosaurs when we've proven to not even be able to handle the run-of-the-mill ones three times over.
Playing more like a fan film based on the franchise than as a serious, linear sequel to the Spielberg opus, Jurassic World misses the boat a bit by not drawing out more of its winking irony that the plot of the film mirrors the production of the film itself. Just like the theme park attraction, we need more than just run-of-the-mill dinosaurs to get us excited to return, so they're tinkering with the formula, borrowing elements from not only Jurassic Park, but Aliens, Predator, Jaws, Indiana Jones, and a host of other properties to form the ultimate hybrid of many of the best and most thrilling movies you watched growing up. In other words, this is Indominus Rex incarnate in movie form -- a bigger, louder, more toothy corporate decision to get butts through the entrance, not trying to inspire so much as to make money for its investors. What better way to show wrong-headed corporate decision-making than in a movie that itself is an exemplification of it?
Unfortunately, like the Indominous Rex, that borrowing from the best also nearly proves to be this attraction's undoing, as it soon becomes the kind of monstrosity that can't be tamed by someone without the skills to do so. If Spielberg stumbled to one-up himself with The Lost World, what chance does Trevorrow have with one mere indie flick few people saw under his belt? Not a lot. The "wow factor" of Jurassic Park can never be re-created, so Trevorrow is already handcuffed in, something the movie itself seems to ham-handedly comment upon by its story, but what's really missing is the "fear factor". Unless you almost never watch anything remotely built to elicit fright in the theaters, it's just not well-built for scares.
The acting is...well, it's what you get from actors who are given awful lines to recite and a tone that doesn't really settle in between camp comedy and eerie frights. They seem to be playing for a movie more amusing than Jurassic World has an intention of being, but you also can't take the film seriously, given the kinds of ridiculous things that occur in the plot, especially as we delve full bore into a climax that is probably as absurd as anything you'll see all year. Obviously, most people are coming in for the dinosaurs, which is not lost on the movie's producers, as far more time and care has gone to getting the look of them right than on bothering to give us any human characters worth investing our interest in.
Bryce Dallas Howard has been good and appealing in other films but she seems way out of her element trying to corral the god-awful, schizo, overly made-over characterization that is Claire, who has to be detestable in the beginning and likeable by the end, but without compelling enough reason to have us feel she is either. Chris Pratt goes for leading man status, drained of nearly all of the boyish charm that made him a star, trying instead for a highly idealized but disappointingly generic man of adventure. The result should have played out more like Romancing the Stone, but we're given short shrift in the comedy and romance departments to truly buy into their banter and flirtations as entertainment enough between dino appearances.
By the end of the film, you may find yourself willing to forgive Jurassic World for its devil-may-care, head-first dive into utter idiocy, primarily because of overriding nostalgia, and, more directly, those crushingly disappointing sequels. I'd wager that, had those follow-ups been good, or had never existed, that many of those who praise this long-in-coming continuation would find themselves on the opposite and of the opinion spectrum with this release. Whereas Jurassic Park goes down like a full-course meal delivered by some of the best cooks in the business, Jurassic World is content to deliver nothing but fast food, and a lot of it, meant strictly for those who are craving a sloppy, greasy meal, brain-belch inducing experience -- it's the Brontosaurus Burger of cinema.
©2015 Vince Leo