Review: Jurassic World

Jurassic World is the fourth film in the Jurassic Park franchise. Since the filmmakers have said they are ignoring Jurassic Park III and The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Jurassic World is pretty much a direct sequel to Steven Spielberg’s beloved action-adventure classic. So yeah, expectations are high. After three films of Dino-mayhem, they have finally opened up a successful theme park full of brand new dinosaurs. After years of success though, “No one’s impressed by a dinosaur anymore.” It seems the fictional park inhabitants and today’s film audiences something in common, they’ve seen it all and they want more.

The story solves the “we want more” problem as we witness the creation of a new, genetically modified dinosaur. As you may guess, things go downhill from there. The Indominus Rex is the central idea in the film our characters must interact with and respond to. There is Claire (Bryce Dallas-Howard), the park’s operations officer, her nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) who have their own family drama to deal with and then there is Owen (Chris Pratt), the ex-military character who is in charge of training the Raptors. Though there are other characters and subplots, it is those four that we spend the most time with and that serve as our makeshift family on this crazy island.

As you can tell by my character descriptions, Jurassic World features many cliches and doesn’t shine when it comes to strong character development. Let me tell you where it does shine, dinosaurs. The inhabitants of this park may not be impressed with dinosaurs, but I am. Let me say this as clearly and professionally as possible, DINOSAURS ARE AWESOME. Director Colin Trevorrow knows this and spends a great deal of energy making sure we are wowed by the creatures (and terrified by them when the time comes). These are extinct beings that only live in our imagination, seeing humans interact with them in a domesticated environment makes for an incredibly entertaining film.

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While the dinosaurs are magnificent and attendees of the park have fun watching them do tricks, we all know that their new creation, having been raised in captivity, is not going “interact” with humans in ways the stockholders want. Once the Indominus Rex plot kicks in to full gear the movie is a blast and totally works. The creature is scary and the filmmakers know how to communicate that terror. There are multiple scenes that soar as a tense thriller and surprisingly, a horror film. Whether it be Jaws or Aliens, the filmmakers show their horror influence in Jurassic World and the Indominus Rex makes for a serious threat that is to be feared.

Jurassic World is defined by two ideas, standard characters and amazing dinosaurs. Many have been quick to point out the cliche nature of these characters and hold it against the film. Honestly, the film is so thrilling/entertaining that I found myself accepting these character types. A woman who is set on her career goals (which alienates her from her family)? Check. Two brothers, one a teenager and one an optimistic kid (I wonder if they will reconcile by the end?). Check. A military character who “understands” the dinosaurs and wants to defend the raptors? Check. A military character who wants to militarize the dinosaurs and have them follow orders? Check. Again, maybe I’m just naive and too forgiving, but I accepted these characters for what they were. The cliche nature aided in my enjoyment of the film in that it felt like a throwback to and 80’s-90’s action adventure film.

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Is the film dumb at times? Yes. Are the character extremely cliche? Yes. Are there some subplots that have zero bearing on the film as a whole? Yes. Is this a good movie with likable characters and magnificent dinosaur action? YES. Though there is nothing ground-breaking with the plot/character design, I found myself fully invested in the film and rooting for our protagonists. Bryce Dallas-Howard gets in on the action and Chris Pratt has proven that he is not one-note (Jurassic World is NOT Guardians of the Galaxy with dinosaurs). I’ve mentioned the action and horror elements, another huge surprise was the amount of humor in the film. Jake Johnson (of New Girl fame) is a control room character and he steals the show every time he is on screen. Big thrills and big laughs go along way in making up for a film’s lacking elements.

The Ty Simpkins character is your standard 11 year old boy obsessed with dinosaurs. He loves them, he’s fascinated by them and going to this park is a dream come true. Though I may be accused of “turning my brain off,” I found myself loving this movie and experiencing it like a young boy would. The filmmakers know that these creatures are magnificent beasts and make for great cinema. Trevorrow follows Spielberg’s example in the way he shoots the dinosaurs. He shoots the fun dinosaur scenes from the perspective of an audience member, displaying their wonder. He shoots the action scene from the poor souls trying to take them down. Its a hopeless endeavor and scary for all those involved.

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Talking with my wife after seeing the film, we found ourselves talking about how much fun the film was and how much we enjoyed ourselves and then she gave the perfect description of Jurassic World. “It felt like I was on a Disney World ride.” That’s it. Does a theme park ride have the best characters? No. You are the character going on the adventure and that was my experience with Jurassic World. Whether it was Pratt’s charisma, the Indominus Rex’s terror, Simpkins’ awe and wonder or just the pure ridiculousness of a dinosaur park, Jurassic World is pure entertainment and an incredibly satisfying film.

Grade: A-


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