It seems like forever that we’ve been hearing about the film that would eventually become Jurassic World. Between human/dinosaur hybrids, raptors with guns strapped to them, and a number of other aborted attempts, it’s kind of a wonder that they did finally find a script they felt comfortable enough to produce, and a director in Colin Trevorrow (of Safety Not Guaranteed, that I’ve not seen) that they felt confident in.
When the original Jurassic Park came out in 1993, I remember vividly seeing it on opening night. The theater I saw it in had the largest screen in the area, and one of the best sound systems around. I was 13, and the film terrified me. The T-Rex and the raptors were so effectively scary that the thrill of watching the movie made me want to see it again and again. No one does “family scary” quite like Spielberg. When he ventures into this territory, his films have violence, but not gore, thrills and scares appropriate for pre-teens and above. The movie, appropriately, became a sensation and one of the highlights of an already amazing film career.
Unfortunately, Jurassic Park II and III weren’t quite as successful. Though I prefer the third film over the second, there’s no denying that both of them aren’t terribly great. They’re flawed and sadly devoid of originality, and not anywhere near as memorable as the original.
Jurassic World openly admits to disregard the previous sequels (something that is a bit of a pet peeve of mine – even if the films aren’t great, you can’t just ignore them), without directly contradicting them (Isla Sorna just isn’t mentioned, really). Instead, World attempts to provide a sequel to the original, taking place in real time (22 years later). As such, it wears its nostalgia on its sleeve, while not getting lost in it.
Jurassic World tells a similar story to the original, but, as is the case in the modern blockbuster, amps it up to appeal to audiences today. Rather than a small group of survivors trying to escape the island, we’ve got twenty thousand people, and more, bigger, badder, dinosaurs (the film is very meta in its message of having to go more and more extreme to appeal to kids today). And while it attempts to replicate the sense of wonder that Spielberg so aptly captured in the original Park, it does so with far less success. We’re introduced to characters who are more flawed than those of the original and thus, less instantly likable than our original heroes. That isn’t to say they’re not likable – in fact, Chris Pratt’s Owen steals the film, as we’ve come to expect from Pratt. Bryce Dallas Howard comes the furthest as far as character, but even then, the film doesn’t leave time for that much character growth.
In an effort to increase attendance, the scientists of Jurassic World (let by Dr. Henry Wu from the original movie) splice together DNA to create a super-dinosaur. The ultimate predator (a surprisingly apt comparison, given some of the dinosaur’s “powers”). The Indominus Rex is terrifying, and absolutely effective and though there’s a mystery surrounding the creature that, well, a five year old can see coming, it doesn’t really matter when your movie monster is as amazingly rendered as this one. Not since the T-Rex of the original has the series so successfully created a villain with character, while still embracing its beastly nature.
Though some minor flaws in the films logic really take you out of the story (seriously, they let people guide the gyroscope around, essentially, a safari, not on rails and without supervision?), Jurassic World is amazing effective in keeping you on the edge of your seat until the credits roll. Despite many references to the original, the film does feel like it’s genuinely moving the franchise forward – we see NEW dinosaurs. We see them do NEW things (some to varying degrees of success). As such, World firmly plants itself as not quite the classic the original is, but worlds better than the last two sequels.
I saw Jurassic World in IMAX 3D. I can’t imagine its much different than seeing it in regular 2D, save for a special 6-minute look at Ant-Man. The 3D itself doesn’t add much to the experience. Still, this film is one that begs to be seen on the big screen. Dino vs. Dino action is something that needs to be seen in a theater.
Overall – I loved Jurassic World, but it’s not perfect. There’s less wonder and less charm, but there sure are a lot of scares, and a ton of action.
Score – 4/5 (great, and worth the price of theater admission)