I was a bit hesitant to go spend theater prices on Jurassic World after the first flood of reviews hit the internet. So many of them were extremely critical of the film for numerous reasons, not least of which is the inevitable comparison to the original Jurassic Park from 1993.
In the end I capitulated to my wife’s request to see the movie opening weekend. A decision I knew was inevitable for two reasons. My wife is the boss, and I’ve always been a fan of the dinosaur franchise first released when I was sixteen years old.
Turns out, I’m extremely glad we went to see Jurassic World. The movie is every bit what you’d expect from a summer tentpole film about the accident heavy industry of dinosaur DNA recombination. Not to say it’s a perfect movie. It isnt. There are some specific problems with the movie, but none of them are enough to undermine the action intense premise that so many people have come to love. The movie delivers on it’s promise to recreate the epic survival action adventure of the original film, while upping the ante considerably for a new generation of moviegoers.
The movie is set in the same universe as the first three films, but now the company is run by billionaire Simon Masrani, played deftly by Irrfan Khan. Handed off by John Hammond (the late, great Richard Attenborough), Masrani has finally achieved the vision of a fully functioning theme park. It has everything you can think of, a water monster show, a dino petting zoo, mini-dino rides for kids, safari rides through the wide open park, etc. The attention to detail on the park’s exhibits and attractions is fantastic and helps add to the environment and immersion into the Jurassic world.
This time around the catalyst for disaster sits squarely with the company’s genetics team. BD Wong reprises his role as Dr. Henry Wu, the mastermind behind genetic splicing a new and never before seen super predator dinosaur. A portion of the populace will assuredly be annoyed that big business corporate eggheads are once again the irresponsible villains of a Hollywood movie but if the shoe fits. The motivations behind the development of bigger and more theatrical exhibits are well established in the beginning act and, let’s face it, entirely believable.
Concern over the screenplay has been considerable since writing duo Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Planet of the Apes writers) original script was reworked by Director Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, who conspired on the wonderful indie sci-fi Safety Not Guaranteed. The final result however works pretty well and the seams between the two versions of the screenplay are smoothed out well enough they don’t result in a mess of a story.
Chris Pratt is an excellent choice for the role of Owen, an ex-navy specialist who is working on a behavioral side program with velociraptors. He does a great job with the part given taking advantage of every opportunity to lighten up the screen. Bryce Dallas Howard also does a fine job as the chief officer in charge of park operations. A pure businesswoman she is focused on doing the best job possible, to the exclusion of just about everything else. A lot of the criticism of the film has come on the idea that Howard’s character is an out-dated female stereotype. A depiction of women as one dimensional, utterly uncomplex and emotionally undeveloped. Can the argument be made? Sure. Does it ruin the movie? Only if you let it.
In truth, most of the characters in Jurassic World are utterly uncomplex. All of them have very one dimensional development as characters. Vincent D’Onofrio is entirely focused on development of a military weapon using dinosaurs. Jake Johnson, one of control room tech geeks, is a fanboy who is there purely for laughs. Even Chris Pratt is woefully one dimensional as the Badass. The most interesting character in the entire movie, and probably the only one whose depth is layered and intriguing Masrani, the billionaire park owner. What might easily become yet another carbon copy money man who is willing to do anything to make a buck abruptly heads in the other direction. Conscience of Hammond’s dream to ‘spare no expense’ in creating attractions that will dazzle the world, Masrani deals with the results of Jurassic World’s inevitable blunder as a true human might, with concern, introspection and some actual honest-to-goodness humility.
The special effects of the dinos are amazing. Twenty two years has made a huge difference in CGI and puppet technology. If you were amazed by Jurassic Park’s ability to place actors alongside imaginary monsters back in the day then you should be thrilled with the results in Jurassic World.
The primary criticism I have of the movie is directed squarely at the storytelling decisions in the second act. At times, decisions are made specifically to setup further plot points that are sloppy. Some of the scenes are telegraphed so overtly as setup to future development I found myself mumbling to the screen in disappointment. Not to mention they throw away a perfectly good character at the midway point in what is a completely unnecessary decision.
In the end Jurassic World is a decent picture. It does a good job of revitalizing the franchise after the disappointing second and third installments. It’s not a perfect movie but as far as summer tent-pole films go, it’s a decent action adventure story that takes care enough to pick up twenty two years after Jurassic Park left off.