If there ever was a franchise we could hope would stay dead, it’s Jurassic Park. Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic remains, to the this day, one of my (and many others’) all-time favorite films; a dinosaur-fueled blockbuster that remains an impressive piece of sci-fi entertainment with visuals and ideas that still hold up twenty-two years later. Now, after two sequels that failed to live up to the heights of the original, another director is ready to give the franchise a shot, and this time around, he’s close to the mark.
Yes, Colin Treverrow’s Jurassic World is big, loud, exciting, and loads of summer movie fun; a blockbuster that is mammoth in size and effective in exhilaration. I never assumed that I would ever type those words, nor did I assume that I would be applauding with the rest of my audience as the credits rolled. No, I was among those who was skeptical from the beginning, admiring Steven Spielberg’s Executive Producer credit but also reminding myself that he also served that role in the Transformers movies. But the skepticism has taken a backseat. No, actually, the skepticism has been thrown out the window, letting the tires run it over as I watch it wither in my rearview mirror. Is that analogy too vivid? Sorry. I just can’t help but get excited about surprisingly good Jurassic World is.
Taking place 22 years after the events of Jurassic Park, this third sequel finds Isla Nublar in its prime state; the fully realized version that John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) originally envisioned. But, like all public attractions, the audience has grown accustomed to seeing dinosaurs. So, a high-up executive named Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard, 50/50) and the rest of the leading members of the park decide that the next step to getting more tourists and visitors is to genetically engineer a new kind of dinosaur. And you don’t need me to tell you that things backfire and the dinosaur finds a way to wreak havoc on everyone on the island and you really don’t need me to tell you that it has a very strong been-there-done-that feel to it all. But here’s what I can tell you. In the case of Jurassic Park, been-there-done-that isn’t so bad.
In an attempt to get a better opinion of the mutated dinosaur/scientific monster, the owner of the island (a welcome Irrfan Khan, from Life of Pi) calls for Velociraptor trainer/researcher Owen (Chris Pratt). After realizing that “cooking up” a new breed (even though it isn’t technically “bred”) of dinosaur isn’t the best idea, Owen is too late to the party. This particular dinosaur may just be more intelligent than anyone could’ve guessed, and this has disastrous results.
So it is with every big monster movie, and so it is with every movie set on the island of Isla Nublar. Here, Colin Treverrow takes what could’ve been a large, expensive, cash-grab failure of a sequel and instead fills it with heart, respect, and giant battling beasts in enormous set pieces. Just what we needed.
Chris Pratt, being the lead hero of the film, is great, and he’s continuing to prove himself to be one of the most likable new movie stars in America. Owen is badass and heartfelt; a sincere character which has a deep and personal connection with his Velociraptors that eventually comes into the concluding act with fierce emotional impact. Bryce Dallas Howard is equally great as Claire, the creator of the dino that never fails to have an uh-oh-look-what-we’ve-done look on her face. She’s mostly focused on the fact that she has to find her nephews, who’ve come over to the island for bonding time but got lost in the crowd when she was too busy to watch them. Of course.
Not everything in the movie works, whether it be the clichéd revealing and development of the central villain (a still superb Vincent D’Onofrio of Law and Order: Criminal Intent and Netflix’s Daredevil) or the lack of character depth. Still, Jurassic World a red-hot fire of a blockbuster, offering constant thrills and sometimes even chills. Indominous Rex, the movie’s big bad dino, is intimidating; always a scary presence and one that is the predator in many chase sequences that actually match the intensity of the T-Rex chase in Jurassic Park. And finally, the score by Michael Giacchino is just terrific, perfectly balancing classic John Williams with modern oomf. I’m listening to it as I write this, and it’s already triggering an emotional response. The movie itself isn’t as good as Spielberg’s, but who cares? This isn’t only a great summer blockbuster and one of my absolute favorite movies of the year, but it’s also the most fun I’ve had in the theater in 2015. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.
2 hrs. 10 mins.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi terror, creature violence and mayhem throughout, and for brief language
Starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Vincent D’Onofrio
Written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly
Directed by Colin Treverrow