Let’s face it, the concept of the original Jurassic Park is absurd these days. I was enchanted by Michael Crichton’s novel that spun a yarn combining probable 1980s genetic science with the desire most young children have had since the day they learned the word “dinosaur”. That’s what makes the premise of Jurassic World, now the fourth movie in a franchise that has had multiple failed sequels its fans clearly never asked for, so easy to pick apart. Couple that with the fact that the original film is more than 20 years old and that all of the ideas seemed to dry up in the fantastic nature of the first film and I went into Jurassic World with extremely low expectations. Whether this factors in to my enjoyment of the film or not is up to the reader, but there’s no doubt that you’ll have a good time watching the extinct walk again with this newest summer blockbuster. It’s a popcorn flick through and through, but one that proves that with the right story and circumstance, dinosaurs can still be damn cool and tons of fun to watch.
The vision of John Hammond’s hybrid dinosaur zoo and theme park has become a reality. With the original park and scientific experimentation squelched, Isla Nublar has re-opened as a successful tourist attraction in Costa Rica as Jurassic World. Gone are the days that handlers fear a T-Rex attack or Velociraptors opening doors in a troubled visitor’s center, now replaced with commerce and the need to create the next big attraction. In today’s landscape, especially from the controversial world of genetic analysis and manipulation, it can be easy to believe the premise of Jurassic World even if it comes with having to believe in re-creating dinosaurs. The movie takes off as the inevitable occurs – a very dangerous predator gets loose – and the thrill ride begins with another romp through a world of dinosaurs brought to life and humans leaping several stories down on the food chain. That’s about where your ability to guess what will happen next probably ends as the story shows it’s got a few tricks up its sleeve and won’t rely on recycling the same concept beyond the previous sequels. Don’t think what you’ve seen in the trailers necessarily gives away as much of the perceived plot as you think, and although nothing unique, the climax of the film impressed me as being a bit off the beaten path. That’s not to say you haven’t seen some of these moments before – I still can’t believe any filmmaker would integrate something in the previous films without thinking most of the avid fans would notice – but these defamatory scenes are few and far between. Putting the storybook ending aside, I have to admit that I was entertained and somewhat unsure of the film’s direction as time passed.
There’s a decent amount of screen talent here, each offering a respectable performance with a few standouts. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire, a CEO type that can’t help but be typecast of almost every role she’s previously had, although to be fair our leading damsel in distress gets some opportunities to flex her acting chops. BD Wong reprises his classic role as Dr. Henry Wu, the genius behind the re-creation of dinosaurs, but ultimately the character falls flat due to a lack of lines and a script that doesn’t allow for much interpretation. Jake Johnson and Vincent D’Onofrio step in for equal character actor roles that suit both of them well and kept the film not only entertaining, but reminded us that it’s more than just explosions and people screaming. Of course it wouldn’t be a Jurassic Park film if the raptors weren’t somewhat of a focal point, this time being a bit less of the villain than previous films but also not the highly evolved intelligent lifeforms we see in Jurassic Park II and III. That just leaves the male lead, Chris Pratt, in a role no one would turn down and one that suits our courageous hunk, especially coming right off the coat tails of Guardians of the Galaxy. Just in case you don’t get it, the film continually tells you what kind of a badass he is, but as the pseudo reprise of the Muldoon character from the original I found his abilities hard to swallow. None of this matters, of course, because Pratt nails it and proves that he can sway your attention away from how absurd his actions are because he’s just so fun to watch on screen. Not since I saw Jaws blown up by a shot air tank have I so blindly accepted what’s on the screen, but respectfully he earns it with countless moments of entertainment and you can’t deny he’s the most interesting character in the film.
In the end it all comes down to whether or not you want to see dinosaurs run amok while everything goes to hell in a hand-basket. If that’s the case, I think you’ll find Jurassic World to be the most redeeming of the sequels and it’s only a matter of time before movie bloggers start suggesting you ignore the middle two other films. Personally I feel it’s the appropriate evolution that gives way to a potential sequel, of which I would be wary of despite the rock solid plot points, because I think I’m good from this point on. I love dinosaurs and I love Jurassic Park, so Jurassic World was a welcome addition to the high budget films of the summer and probably my most anticipated summer film of the last few years. That said it’s not a sustainable formula and while I commend the effort I hope Universal can hold back on future sequels, at least for a few years or more. Don’t get bogged down in the details, over thinking the possibilities, and wanting this film to live up to the first, because without those caveats Jurassic World is a thrill ride that continues to deliver during the entire two hours I barely noticed had passed. In my humble opinion, this is a one-trick pony, but I’m just fine with that because I couldn’t stop smiling both during the film and upon leaving the theater.