Mark Reviews Movies

Jurassic World

JURASSIC WORLD

3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, BD Wong, Judy Greer, Lauren Lapkus, Brian Tee, Katie McGrath, Andy Buckley

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril)

Running Time: 2:04

Release Date: 6/12/15


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Review by Mark Dujsik | June 11, 2015

Yes, Jurassic World is a silly thing indeed. Then again, Jurassic World, the tourist trap that has flourished in the 20 years since the disastrous first attempt to create a theme park where people could see real-life dinosaurs, is also a silly enterprise. One would think the lessons of the past would be heeded to avoid the creation of a new park. They're not, because, well, the appeal of seeing real-life dinosaurs slightly outweighs the fear that the dinosaurs are going to go on an eating-and-killing spree. It doesn't matter that the second thing is, for insurance purposes, an "eventuality."

We see the park loaded to capacity when we first arrive there—20,000 people paying who knows how much money to see the results of the genetic process of "de-extinction." One wonders about the lengthy legal disclaimer that must accompany the ticket ("The park is not liable for any injuries, including but not limited to claw-based cuts, horn-based impalements, or trips through the digestive tract of a large predator").

It's worth chuckling over the unspoken minutiae of running Jurassic World, and it's probably safe to say that the filmmakers had a few laughs over those ideas, too (The whole discussion about the "eventuality" of the dinosaurs getting free and eating at least a few guests almost proves it). This film knows it's silly, and that awareness also means the film is keenly aware of what we want to see happen in a theme park filled with real, living dinosaurs. It's not the petting zoo area.

There's something childish about that desire, of course, and that's particularly true for anyone who might have grown up watching those old monster movies, in which some prehistoric beast emerged from the depths of the ocean or a crevice in the ground and rampaged through this or that city. This series, in which the monsters arose out of our hubris in believing we could control the forces of nature, might have started down that path of channeling the old-fashioned monster movies before a Tyrannosaurus rex tore through the streets of San Diego in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. That moment kind of solidified matters, though. Jurassic Park III went whole hog on the concept, and this fourth film continues in that spirit. In other words, it appeals to that devilish side of a child who couldn't wait for the monsters to start wreaking havoc.

They do here, although there is a bit of a wait. First, we have to meet the characters, who can be divided into two categories: "heroes" and "eventual dinosaur dinner."

There's Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the all-work-and-no-play woman who has some important job at the park. Her nephews Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) have come to Jurassic World to stay for a week so that their parents (Judy Greer and Andy Buckley) can work on divorce proceedings. Owen (Chris Pratt), a former sailor in the Navy, is the park's Velociraptor trainer. Before we move any further, rest assured that you read that correctly. Owen is caught between his relationship with the dinosaurs and his boss' (Vincent D'Onofrio) desire to turn the creatures into weapons of war. One of these characters dies, and it shouldn't be too difficult to determine which one.

That is not a spoiler. That's simply an observation of kind of film this is—the kind in which the characters we like (or, often in this case, are meant to like) survive, while the rest are fodder for the dinosaurs. The film cheats a bit in one, lengthy sequence that follows a fairly likeable (or at least not unlikeable) character's terrifying travel from one near-death experience to the next, until, well, she arrives at what the park's insurance policy calls an eventuality. Still, the devilish side that wants to see such grisly things is sated.

The central point of the plot is that the park's newest attraction gets loose. It's a monstrous beast called the Indominus rex, a genetic hybrid of a T. rex and other classified species (The revelation of the major ancillary component in its DNA strand results in one of the film's most deviously funny turns, as a group of unlikely dinosaur allies starts plotting amongst themselves against the humans). It's larger than the T. rex and far more deadly. Its skin is camouflage. It can evade thermal detection by dropping its body temperature. It kills for sport. As Owen puts it, the dinosaur is trying to find its place in the food chain, and it has plenty of advantages to get to the top.

Once that dinosaur is on the hunt, the film simply goes from one setpiece to another, and while they're familiar (which is likely intentional in most cases, such as one scene in which two youngsters have to survive an attack in the unreliable shelter of a vehicle), these sequences are also effective. Director Colin Trevorrow (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Derek Connolly) stages them with a genuine sense of tension and more than a few wily winks (foreshadowing the inevitability of an anonymous character's demise, providing a frightening game of peek-a-boo, and the climactic battle royal).

The film is slight (Gone is any attempt to sincerely debate the ethics of any of this, which is fine at this point), and the visual effects oftentimes pale in comparison to even the original film. Neither of these things matter too much. Jurassic World is entertaining in a fundamental way. The film knows what we want to see and what we've come to expect from this series, and it delivers on those things.

Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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