I love Jurassic Park. It’s one of my all time favorite movies, and I can still remember the awe I felt in the theater in the summer of 1993, watching the first true use of CGI bringing beasts to life that before had only been practical puppet effects, or stop-motion animation. It’s a film that defines me as a person, and is partly responsible to all that I’ve ever done with my life, including writing film reviews. To put it simply, I hold the film in the highest regards, and even with two very lackluster sequels, the original still holds true to me in my heart and mind.
So you can imagine my trepidation when it was announced that Universal was taking another trip to the park for yet another sequel to a film that really never needed one. And to make matters worse, all of the initial trailers gave off a strange Jaws 3D vibe that worried me even more. But now that I’ve visited Jurassic World — as the park that John Hammond tried to create in the early 90s is now known — all those fears that I had have subsided. Jurassic World is a worthy sequel to one of my favorite films of all time, and one of the best times I’ve had in a theater this year.
Jurassic World opens with two brothers, Zach (Nick Anderson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), leaving their Wisconsin home to visit their aunt, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who happens to run the titular theme park. Jurassic World apparently ironed out the bugs (and what beautiful and terrifying bugs they turned out to be) of the earlier park and has become a raging success. Under the watchful eye of Hammond’s protege, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), Jurassic World is now the top destination for families to visit and experience real live dinosaurs.
Claire is a workaholic who barely has time for herself, and is only agreeing to take her nephews as there is trouble at home with the kids parents’ marriage. Her only attempt at a life outside of work came with Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) a park trainer and velociraptor expert. When the kids get to Isla Nublar (yes, this is back on the original island), Claire has to pawn them off on her assistant as Masrani is also visiting to learn of the park’s newest — and top secret — attraction, a genetically-constructed dinosaur created by geneticist Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong, reprising his role from the original film).
Of course, as we’ve all learned by this time, nature doesn’t like to be messed with and it will find a way to strike back. And the genetically-altered dinosaur, known as Indominus Rex — which is bigger, faster and more ferocious than Tyrannosaurus Rex — does just that, breaking out of its cage and causing all kinds of havoc throughout the very busy park.
Jurassic World continues the series’ penchant to beat audiences over the head with the science vs. nature theme, and this time, it even adds a military component in InGen’s head of security, Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), who thinks that Owen’s training of velociraptors is the newest form of warfare and is looking to sell the tech to the U.S. Military complex. This subplot almost derails the film completely, but luckily, director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) is able to save it by delivering a finale that equates to the best 20 minutes of the 2015 summer movie season.
Jurassic World is not without its mind-boggling flaws. A magic box of matches and Claire’s ability to sprint through muddy terrain in high heeled shoes serve to remind us all that this is a movie built on a silly premise that is solely for entertainment purposes and not a handbook on how to deal with carnivorous dinosaurs running rampant.
Chris Pratt’s (Guardians of the Galaxy) Owen is almost over-the-top as a real “man’s man,” who rides a motorcycle and can seemingly control a pack of velociraptors, but his entire performance serves almost as comic relief to Howard’s serious, career-driven Claire and the fate of the two boys — one of which who may be autistic. Nick Johnson (TVs New Girl, Let’s Be Cops) also adds laughs, even when the park devolves into chaos.
And no matter what nit-picking can be done on this film, nothing can take way that climax. I truly had goosebumps running up and down my arms, and even had tears of nostalgia welling in my eyes as the action drew to a battle of prehistoric proportions, and that climax alone is worth paying to see time and time again.
Jurassic World is a fun and thrilling addition to the Jurassic Park film series and easily marks the second best film of the franchise. The wonder and amazement felt by audiences in 1993 may be gone, but what replaced it is a film that amps the action all the way to 11, while still making fun of itself and of corporate dealings in our everyday lives, and setting up what could be a new trilogy of films.
It was a heady task handed to director Trevorrow, in only his second feature film release, and he pulled it off with aplomb. And even with Steven Spielberg’s name attached as executive producer, a title that means squat after those awful Transformers films, Jurassic World is good enough to stand on its own and will hopefully return the franchise to glory.
Jurassic World is rated PG-13 and is in theaters now.
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