Jurassic World spoiler-free review: clumsy but still has teeth
Back in 1993 Steven Spielberg released what has become a new classic with the feature film version of writer Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. A potentially worthy sequel to this beloved favorite, Jurassic World has been one of the most anticipated movies in recent years. Does it measure up to expectation? Despite T. Rex-sized issues, Jurassic World roars into theaters as a blend of 1980s action flick throwback and state of the art CGI adventure, with just enough ferocious visual spectacle and exciting action to save itself and insure it becomes a monster at the box office.
Late billionaire John Hammond, creator of the failed and disastrous Dino-safari Jurassic Park, has entrusted the development and expansion of a safe venture to similarly moneyed Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan). He has built up the profitable Jurassic World on the same remote island. Park exec Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) plans to keep reinvigorate tourist interest with a new dinosaur, or “asset”, a genetic hybrid they call Indominus Rex. To reconfirm the pen they’ve designed will keep this new park feature in captivity, Masrani requests his researcher and dino-whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) take a look. Playing in part the wise nay-sayer for which we remember Jeff Goldblum in the original, Grady warns against the dangers of playing god by mixing together DNA of such razor-toothed carnivores. When said carnivore escapes and leaves a bloody trail while stomping in the direction of over 22,000 visitors, including Dearing’s nephews Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zack (Nick Robinson), the horrified park exec and intrepid Grady band together to try to stave off disaster.
It’s really best to concentrate on all the great aspects that make watching Pratt and Howard and the other co-stars attempt to save those trapped in the park and rescue Zach and Grey from becoming dino-snacks. As those in charge of Jurassic World have forgotten, and audiences have learned from Jurassic Park, carnivorous dinosaurs are apt to kill with extreme prejudice. The best and most engrossing parts of Jurassic World are in the interaction between humans and dinosaurs, both positive and negative. The petting and riding zoo with triceratops and other safe, sweet herbivores and the Sea World-styled show with an monstrous sea creature (sorry, I don’t know all my official dinosaur names..) perfectly illustrate the excitement a theme park full of dinosaurs would elicit. The full spectrum of Grady’s relationship with four named raptors is also a highlight. A scene that shows Dearing as she is forced to face dinosaurs not as “assets”, but as living, feeling creatures is decidedly poignant, especially since effects had to play a major part in making an intimate moment believable. The scenes with our heroes narrowly escaping death are tension-filled and engrossing and taken apart from the rest of the film would still be reason to see Jurassic World. For example, the bulging eye, the enormous curled claw of a murderous hybrid dinosaur inching its way toward slitting throats, when so many are already laying dead in the jungle, is compulsively watchable.
On the other hand, the cinematic ride that is Jurassic World is nearly derailed for several reasons. The lapses in storyline plausibility are hard to forgive, even in a film about a dinosaur theme park. Most egregious is villain Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) and his military directive, which, without spoiling the film, posits a preposterous theory relating to the dinosaurs. His character is so one-dimensional he might as well be twirling a mustache. There are also many of what can be seen, depending on your perspective as a filmgoer, as either odes or thievery. From Jaws to The Birds and Predator, there are strong mirrors of movies gone before.
Many may remember the much publicized tweet by Joss Whedon judging the first clip released as portraying the tired trope of a 1970s Pratt’s he-man against Howard’s frigid control freak. He later apologized for being so judgmental about a 3 minute scene. Their dialogue and character interplay is more reminiscent of 1980s action movies like Romancing the Stone, in which alpha male Michael Douglas protects Kathleen Turner, the decidedly plucky, high-heeled, untouchable careerist. Jurassic World may be more serious, but Grady is definitely in that character mold. “Stay in the truck!” says he. Does she listen? No, she does not. What she does do, however, is successfully run away from a T-Rex while wearing high heels. Hmmmmmm.
Lastly, as someone who can’t watch King Kong without feeling deeply for the ape, I was destined to root for the dinosaurs. After all, even the murderous Indominus Rex can’t help her instincts. The raptors are a fan favorite for a reason. I felt truly sad in one moment late in the film, and you animal lovers will know exactly where I mean.
For all that, though, there are still enough moments of excitement and wonder to inspire audiences to take the dino-bait and commit to seeing Jurassic World through to the end. Studiously ignore the product placements, the thin character development, and the leaps of believability, and you’re in for a treat.
3 out of 5 stars.