By Jon Gallagher
Jurassic World (Amblin/Universal, 2015) – Director: Colin Trevorrow. Writers: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, & Derek Connolly (s/p). Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (story). Michael Crichton (characters). Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, B.D. Wong, Judy Greer, Lauren Lapkus, Brian Tee, Nick Robinson, & Katie McGrath. Color and 3D, 124 minutes, Rated PG-13.
It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon and the theater in our small town is offering matinees for a buck off the regular $5 admission price. Jurassic World has just been held over for a second week and my oldest daughter and two oldest grandkids have recommended it. Then again, I have to remember that they recommended Transformers, so I gather my four bucks together and walk across the street.
Jurassic World is the fourth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise which began all the way back in 1993 with Stephen Spielberg directing Michael Crichton’s screenplay of his own novel. Sequels would follow in 1997 and 2001 with Jurassic Park: the Lost World and Jurassic Park III.
SPOILER ALERT: No lawyers are eaten during this movie. Damn!
The other movies followed a similar plot path: scientists recreated dinosaurs, put them on display for the public to see, and then were surprised when the dinosaurs broke loose and started munching on people. I wondered what a fourth movie would add that was new.
The answer is, “not much.”
In this movie, scientists have genetically engineered a dinosaur, bigger than any previously known overgrown lizard. This one is bigger, badder, faster, more intelligent, and seemingly unstoppable. Fortunately, he’s in a special pen on the north side of the island.
The south side of the island has reopened to tourists and features the very latest in dinosaur technology. There’s a petting zoo (I did not make that up), an archeological dig, and a “ride” where you are seated in a “hamster ball” that keeps you upright all the time but rolls amongst the roaming wild dinosaurs.
Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire, an administrator with the Jurassic World owners who is trying to increase attendance at the theme park while playing host to her two teenage nephews who are visiting her while their parents sort out a potential divorce. She is in charge of the project that will unveil the “Indominus Rex,” the villain of the movie who is available for naming rights. The teens are played by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins.
There are plenty of mid-level bad guys to choose from as well. Irrfan Khan is Masrani, one of the owners of the park; Vincent D’Onofrio, who plays the military guy who sees the new creation as the Army’s new secret weapon; and B.D. Wong, who is the guy who mixed the DNA to create the new species.
Our hero is Owen (Pratt), a bad ass animal trainer who has developed a relationship with four Velociraptors (a velociraptor whisperer???) who also somehow has all the skills of a special ops/Jedi knight.
The plot goes the way of all these types of movies whether it’s Jaws or Predator. The big bad freak of nature (or the lab or aliens as the case may be) gets loose and starts to terrorize innocent people. The administration keeps denying the danger until the body count is too high to ignore at which point the good guy (Owen) starts to right the ship. In this case, the two teenagers are in the park in danger and Claire enlists Owen’s help to try and rescue them. Meanwhile, the Indominus Rex is able to survive attacks from other dinosaurs, humans, and machines with no real damage.
The movie is heavy with CGI, but then, where do you find stock footage of dinosaurs attacking each other and terrorizing humans? If you go into the movie accepting that fact, you’ll like it a lot better than if you don’t. If you can’t accept the CGI, then you may expect Fred and Barney to come rolling to the rescue at any moment.
Pratt is nothing special in the starring role. Of course, they weren’t looking for Academy Award winning performances here. This movie was driven by visuals and not by plot nor performances. Owen is a likeable hero, but he really brings nothing special to the role. I think any of today’s leading men could have been put in the role and the results would have been the same – a likeable hero.
D’Onofrio is quite different from his Law & Order character and does show off some of his acting chops here. His character comes off as being a little to the left of insane, creeping that way inches at a time till his true character is finally revealed.
The movie on a whole was fun and enjoyable. It was just different enough from the original three to keep me entertained, and it offered the traditional roller-coaster of emotions expected from a thriller. It also left the possibility open to sequels, and no doubt will, given the box office draw this movie enjoyed.
I’ll give it a solid B. I wasn’t thrilled with the last couple lines of dialogue, as they brought to mind the end of San Andreas (which I previously reviewed). Had they tried to develop the characters a little more and not tried to impress me so much with the CGI, it might have gotten into the A range.
About 25 other people from town also decided that it was a lazy Sunday perfect for taking in a movie. It was a good mix of ages from pre-teen to grandparent age, and everyone seemed to enjoy the film.