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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
I’ve been putting off writing this review for a few weeks, not totally out of procrastination either. 1993’s Jurassic Park is legitimately one of my favorite movies ever, and probably my favorite summer blockbuster ever (it often trades places with Jaws, another Spielberg joint). I can’t lie; I was not looking forward to Jurassic World. I was expecting it to be a piece of crap, much like the sequels to that excellent 1993 feature film. I’m happy to report that my fears and worries were misplaced. Despite a mind-boggling marketing effort, Jurassic World is a pretty good and really fun summer movie. And while I am a bit surprised it has done as well as it has, I’m not surprised it’s a big hit.
I can’t stress enough how bad the marketing was for this film. Universal, who has done a decent job marketing their Despicable Me and Fast and Furious franchises, botched Jurassic World almost from the start. The teaser trailer felt disjointed and cliché, and now mega-star Chris Pratt seemed out of place and miscast. Bryce Dallas Howard seemed no match for the material either. The second trailer wasn’t much better. I’d argue it was actually worse, as it almost completely turned me off to the project. The addition of two adorable teenage moppets seemed disastrous, in the vein of Jeff Goldblum’s daughter from the second film and that obnoxious little twerp from the third film. I was hoping they wouldn’t dumb Jurassic World down for kids, but it seemed like that’s exactly what Universal was doing.
When I actually saw the film, however, I was blown away but just how good and suspenseful the end product is. Essentially a retread but on a bigger and grander scale than Jurassic Park, World opens with two brothers getting ready to jet off to the theme park to visit their overworked and stressed out aunt, who runs Jurassic World on the operations end. Meanwhile, Ingen geneticist Henry Wu (BD Wong, the only actor to return from the first film) and Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan, who is excellent) plan to show off their newest creation, Indominus Rex, to the general public for the first time. Complicating matters are Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt playing Chris Pratt essentially), who voices objections and concerns over Indominus’ paddock, and Vic Hoskins (a scenery-chewing Vincent D’Onofrio), who wants to use the genetically engineered dinosaurs for military purposes.
Of course all hell breaks loose, and when it does, the film gets really, really fun. The special effects, while not as ground breaking as the 1993 original, are well done and never overly egregious. Characters don’t act inconsistent or irrational for purposes of moving the plot along. When it’s suggesting that Owen use his trained raptors to hunt down Indominus, for example, he is openly hostile of the plan and thinks it is a bad idea (it is). Direction is fairly taut and honestly much better than I had expected going in. Working for the first time with a massive budget (at 150 million, Jurassic World was expensive but not nearly as expensive as The Avengers or the upcoming Batman vs. Superman), directing Colin Trevorrow acquits himself nicely, backing up the faith Spielberg had in him when he personally selected him for the project. I think Trevorrow does about as well as could possibly have been expected out of him.
There are, however, tons of problems with the script. Bryce Dallas Howard’s character, for example, is largely defined by her lack of a personal life, meaning she is sad because she doesn’t have a husband and children. This was the most egregiously offensive thing about the screenplay. The notion that people must procreate and have children to achieve maximum happiness in life is laughable and idiotic, particularly in a movie released in 2015. Of course there is a love story between her and Chris Pratt’s character shoehorned in (though the two honestly make a good couple). Additionally, some of the stuff with the teenagers is downright laughable and/or badly acted, particularly by the younger brother. I was never able to buy into the chemistry between these actors, and they don’t reach the heights of the bond that Tim and Lex shared in the first film.
Outside of more than a few scripting issues, Jurassic World is a very strong example of how to do a modern summer blockbuster right. At 124 minutes, it has an almost perfect running time for a summer escape. The special effects work well, the direction is taut and creates tension, and the actors are entertaining. Chris Pratt has now become a marquee movie star, Irrfan Khan is fantastic as the would-be John Hammond character, and D’Onofrio chews scenery like no one’s business. Despite the script short-changing her, Bryce Dallas Howard is also fine as well. She’s got good comic timing and decent chemistry with Pratt. In case you’re one of the 5 people left on earth who haven’t seen Jurassic World yet, I can recommend it as a nice summer blockbuster and an entertaining thrill ride.