“Jurassic World (2015) Brings Back Some Luster of the Original


7/10

Jurassic_World_poster

The thing about the Jurassic Park series is that, for all the intelligence built into the concept in the original novel by author Michael Crichton, the movies, especially in the sequels, have been little more than big and small dinosaurs hunting down and eating humans who probably deserved to be eaten with all of their stupidity.  The novelty of this wears off rather quickly, so it’s good that the makers of “Jurassic World” (2015)  waited nearly a decade and a half to pack some imagination into the franchise that sorely needed it.

“Jurassic World” takes place 22 years after the events that took place in the original “Jurassic Park” (1993), in which the dream of creating an amusement park of real dinosaurs came crashing down even before the park became fully operational.  The vision that was dashed then has now come alive on the same island of Isla Number, where InGen has finally built and operates a fully-functioning park called Jurassic World with various state-of-the art rides and exhibitions to show off the dinosaurs.

The star of “Jurassic World” is this park.  One of the strengths of the original “Jurassic Park” was that Steven Spielberg successfully evoked emotional attachment to Jurassic Park by depicting glimpses of how amazing in scale and experience the park was meant to be before the dinosaurs destroyed it.  The park in “Jurassic World” is the fulfillment of all of the possibilities envisioned in the original and more.  The visitor center is a high-tech upgrade from the visitor center from Jurassic Park and the gyrosphere that protects the guests in a safari-like ride through the fields where dinosaurs roam free is an imaginative improvement over the Jeep Wrangler from the original.  There are also new attractions in Jurassic World, like a small zoo that allows kids to ride a harmless dinosaur and a Sea-World type exhibition for underwater dinosaur called Mosasaurus, complete with water-drenching experience.  A lot of money and energy was spent trying to make the park a cool place both kids and adults, not to mention the audience, would want to go, and the filmmakers succeeded.

This modern dinosaur park is run by operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), a bean counter who sees the dinosaurs as nothing more than an asset to be monetized.  Her model of how Jurassic World should be run is based on the premise that a park needs a new attraction every couple years so that people continue to show interest in the park.  Because the success of Jurassic World has made people bored with real dinosaurs, her idea for attracting new visitors is to engineer a genetically-modified dinosaur called Indominus rex that is bigger and scarier than any real dinosaur they’ve managed to bring back.

Predictably, Indominus rex escapes from its cage by outsmarting the humans.  The release of a dinosaur that park operations know little about is a disaster for the park, but for Dearing, it’s particularly bad timing because she has been entrusted with the care of her two nephews, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), who are visiting the park on vacation.  When she finds out that the two have wandered off into unrestricted area as Indominus rex runs around loose in the park, she turns to Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a park trainer who has managed to domesticate the lethal Velociraptors.

Because Pratt is a talented actor who can project presence while he’s on screen, the movie is a lot of fun so long as he is at the center of action, predicting that the Indominus rex will kill every living thing in its path and escaping the creature by showing some wits.  Unfortunately, there is little that Grady or anyone else at the park can do to stop Indominus rex from wreaking havoc, so the powers at be comes up with the brilliant plan to have Velociraptors that Grady purportedly can control to take on Indominus rex.

This is about where the movie loses its luster.  For one thing, Indominus rex looks too much like the evil Godzilla from the disastrous Roland Emmerich flick “Godzilla” from 1998, so the more Indominus rex makes an appearance, the less “Jurassic Word” can be taken seriously.  And the more “Jurassic World” plays, the more it begins to look like all the other movies in the Jurassic Park series, which is to say that there is little character development in a plot that devolves into bad people being eaten by dinosaurs and good people always managing to escape.   By the end, when Indominus rex, Velociraptors and eventually Tyrannosaurus rex battle it out and humans turn into a sideshow, even the audience feels like they’ve overstayed the welcome.

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