When it comes to film franchises, there are those that truly tell a riveting story and those that merely serve their cash cow purpose. Both kinds make money, but the former withstands the test of time in a superior manner over the latter because at the end of the day, nothing beats a really well-told story. For every Hunger Games there’s a Divergent series, and audiences keen on attention to detail can spot the differences, as time is the friend of nothing ephemeral.
In 1993, when director Steven Spielberg unleashed Jurassic Park into the world, it was a film unlike any other, a glimpse of a world many millennia before us colliding with our current age, and it remains to this day ever as thrilling, scary, and beautiful as when it was first revealed. The graphics are stunningly ahead of their time, the emotions still feel real, and the scares are shockingly resonant.
‘Twas inevitable that sequels would be made, and even further was the inevitability that their quality was to be ill equipped in the ability to match that of the original. Spielberg’s own The Lost World: Jurassic Park from 1997 was simply too dark, and it lacked thefun of its predecessor. Then, despite featuring returning cast members from the first film (who had skipped round two), Joe Johnston‘s 2001 film, Jurassic Park III, faltered with its near-goofy plots, lack of attention to detail, and psychedelic color schemes.
These lackluster qualities do not apply to the latest journey into a world of prehistoric beasts. Directed by Colin Trevorrow, 2015 brings us Jurassic World, which is a deservedly-praised box office smash (scoring the highest grossing weekend ever, domestically and globally), and thankfully it is due at least in large part to merit rather than merely hype.
Although it’s not a perfect film, Jurassic World brings its audience into the wonderful spirit that made the original so, well…fun! It has a combination of fast-paced action; heartfelt bonding, (both of the fraternal, familial variety and the lightly romantic between its leads); and breathtaking shots of truly spectacular creatures and landscapes, which really engage the viewer on a sensory trip on par with some of the grandest big-screen epics of our age.
Leaping from science into science fiction, the premise of the story surrounds the creation of (and eventual need to put an end to) a made-up dinosaur, created in a lab, called the Indominus rex. The beast is far bigger, more violent, and more fierce than the ever-popular Tyrannosaurus rex, which is exactly the type of kick the executives now running the currently opened and thriving dinosaur village theme park are seeking for their investors’ gain and visitors’ thrills.
Taking place twenty-two years after the events depicted in the first Jurassic Park film, by this point in the world, the pervading thought is that jaded people are less than thoroughly enticed merely by the already-known species in the park. As a testament to the reality of human beings’ ability to adjust to practically anything (and in turn, become “over it”), the park’s operations manager, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), has spear-headed the creation of the new, diabolical I. rex. Dr. Henry Wu (B. D. Wong, reprising his role from the first film), the park’s leading geneticist, keeps secret the DNA concoction that led to the I. rex’s creation.
Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) figures out there is a streak of DNA matching that of the velociraptors, contributing to the Indominus rex an intelligent streak that leads him, by way of cunning deception, to escape his cage during a feeding. He’s furious, on the hunt to kill for sport, and all but unstoppable by any means the humans—who reached too high in their pursuit of prestige and financial gain—can throw at him. Everyone has different ideas of what to do, such as security officer Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), who thinks the team should let loose the raptors to hunt down the beast, caring little for the risk involved unlike the far more knowledgeable Owen, who warns against such an idea. The park owner and CEO of the Masrani Corporation, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Kahn) realizes before the death count even begins to rise that they may have flown too close to the sun in giving into their pride and desire always for more, more, more.
Meanwhile, Claire’s nephews are out on their own in one of the park glass car-like machine rides for exploration of the park, then eventually on the run amidst the terrorized crowds. They had journeyed the many-mile flight to the island where the park is located to spend some time with their aunt, but she (at first) seems to care very little about spending said time with them. Leaving them in the care of a distracted babysitter, the brothers Mitchell—the elder being Zach (Nick Robinson) and the younger being Gray (Ty Simpkins)—ditch their caretaker and go out on their own, eventually leading them face-to-face with the on-the-loose Indominus rex.
Something of an explosive mess, the film manages to carefully give just enough detail about all the players involved so that a cohesive narrative can be followed, despite the story’s hectic dealings, at least enough to where the confusion the characters are experiencing in the traumatic events happening on screen doesn’t transplant itself into confusion for the audience. Most of these people are all new to the world of the franchise, and Trevorrow does quite a decent job in developing them enough to where viewers care about our heroes (plural) and heroine (singular—Claire is a major role, but the only female to be such. Make no mistake: it’s a story for boys). That’s not entirely a bad thing. Brothers Zach and Gray are entirely representative of a very fundamental fraternal bond to which so many people can relate, and their age differences and brotherly affection lends some well-needed heart to the big action movie that wouldn’t otherwise be there, were the two of them lacking from the story. Side bar: the reinforcement that Zach is clearly a hormonal teenager by having literally every girl he sees catch his fancy is a bit much. But thankfully that tones down after the first half hour or so, as the more important plot lines swing into full gear.
Chris Pratt as our fearless protagonist, Owen, makes for a not entirely natural leading man. He seems to be adjusting to such a role as the story moves along. Here he is, hot off the press from leading another huge movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, (which is set for a sequel), and ending his seven-season run as the goofy, affable, adorable, lovable oddball Andy Dwyer on the brilliant television series Parks and Recreation. No one in Hollywood has a faster-growing career than Pratt right now, and some of that (ever so slightly arrogant?) glow from his super-stardom seems to shine through (a titch unfavorably) in his performance here. That said, once he gets into the rhythm of his character, anyone would be crazy not to fall in love with him. His endearing charm and substantially beefy good looks distill the makings of a muscular action hero with a side of sass, and in the end, the film is better for having him cast in it.
In all, Jurassic World has its weaknesses. Bryce Dallas Howard is not at her letter perfect best, mainly because she was given less complexity than the men in the story, and the movie suffers for it. Her shrewd acting and ability to be entirely subtle (as hauntingly demonstrated to a perfect T in her finest role to date—Ivy Walker in The Village) go to waste a bit here, as more often than not, she’s simply “the uptight executive” type, rather than a dynamic human woman. But as aforementioned, it’s a movie made for boys, that much is very clear.
Overall, it’s an incredibly fun ride, and the kid inside anyone cannot help but get caught up in the adventure. That said, the “kid” of a certain age and up is who should watch this one; small children would be terrorized by some of the more extremely frightening moments that take place onscreen. That Indominus rex can really roar!
It’s a big, giant summer movie. Would the eccentricities of it have been slightly rounder and more complete had it been directed by the dinosaur king originator, Mr. Spielberg himself? Probably…but then again, his hand as producer is certainly all over this movie, and it shows, in the most delightful way.
4 out of 5 stars.
This article is reposted with the author’s permission from examiner.com.