It's been 22 years since Jurassic Park triumphantly hit the big screen. Its ingenious blend of scares, thrills and awe has inspired an entire generation to obsess over how blatantly awesome dinosaurs are. I can't even count how many kids in my elementary school had T. Rex shirts and dilophosaur toys. Unfortunately, Hollywood just couldn't seem to make a good dinosaur movie since then. The Jurassic Park sequels were underwhelming, and every other dinosaur movie felt like a slap in the face to dinosaur fans.
It's hard to deny that dinosaur movies have gone downhill since the Jurassic Park sequels. Dinosaur lovers who grew up with the lovable beasts had to put up with insultingly sanitized flicks. Instead of terrifying and awe-inspiring adventures, we got uninspired kids films...
And half-baked movies on Syfy...
If you ask me, the Dinosaur sub-genre is in serious need of a revival, and I'm happy to say that one has finally come. Jurassic World brings the dinosaur movie back with an almighty roar.
22 years after the events of the original Jurassic Park, Jurassic World takes place predominantly inside a huge dinosaur-themed amusement park. After many years of operation, business analysts and focus groups have decided that the public is tired of seeing the same dinosaurs. A plan is then hatched (literally) by the park's scientists to create genetic hybrid dinosaurs to re-ignite the public's interest. Unfortunately, nobody seems to have learned the obvious message from the previous films: DON'T MESS WITH NATURE.
Soon enough, the Indominus Rex becomes an unpredictable menace, and ends up escaping from its enclosure, putting everybody at the park in grave danger.
Meanwhile, a dinosaur-loving pre-teen named Gray and his older brother Zach (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson respectively) are in the middle of a leisurely trip to Jurassic World to visit their Aunt (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is the park operations manager. When the Indominus Rex goes on a blood-thirsty rampage, these characters have to fight for survival. Luckily, they also have the help of a smooth-talking, courageous ex-navy vet named Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who happens to be an expert raptor trainer.
Right off the bat, Jurassic World starts strong with a superb antagonist. Instead of the laughable human/dinosaur hybrids from the film's early development, the team behind Jurassic World has crafted an excellent antagonist for this story. To put it bluntly, the Indominus rex is a voraciously intimidating monster that stands up to Smaug's level of awesome terror. With a huge jaw, an always-bloody mouth, and an excellent combination of brute force and swift speed, the Indominus is the perfect foe for our heroes to go up against.
The Indominus rex even sports a poignant backstory. At the beginning of the film, the Indominus is born in a laboratory. This eerie sequence, as shown in a previous TV spot, really sums up the Indominus as a character. The camera gives the egg an extreme close up as it hatches, with the rest of the laboratory out of focus.
As the audience learns later in the film, this new species was created purely out of greed and ambition to please the general public. From Indominus’ perspective, it enters a world that is artificial, confusing, frightening, and completely unnatural to the new dinosaur. It’s fear and confusion of being an artificial species will eventually inspire it to violently lash out against anything in its path.
This also serves as a smart semi-meta commentary on how after so many years, there was pressure to make Jurassic World bigger and better for audiences. When you give the consumer something good, they automatically expect (and sometimes demand) the successor to be superior. On the contrary, much like the forced build-up to the SInister Six in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, this business-first method of thinking can easily backfire.
Going up against the genetically-modified villainous Indominus is one of the most likable protagonists in recent years. It's no wonder why practically every entertainment outlet is raving about Pratt; he is an outstanding lead actor.
Pratt plays Owen Grady, an ex-navy veteran who makes a living in Jurassic World training the raptors. He loves his job and takes it seriously. Instead of staying in a fancy island resort like the guests do, he lives in a rustic little trailer in the jungle. Instead of riding in a high-class helicopter like his superiors, he fixes and rides vintage motorcycles. He's a slick, no-nonsense kind of guy with a sense of humor; a hero truly worth rooting for.
Chris Pratt utilizes his real-life geniality to give the already strong character of Owen even stronger. Every minute he's on screen is a treasure to watch, and his interactions with the other characters are certainly worth the screentime. His chemistry with Bryce Dallas Howard is especially believable, and I actually wanted to see their two characters survive together.
However, the best chemistry by far is between Chris Pratt and the cg/animatronic raptors. Basically, Raptors are to Owen what lions are to Kevin Richardson. Owen respects and cares for them, but also understands the danger that they pose to him.
In one scene, Owen must save a co-worker who fell into the raptor enclosure. Though Owen manages to use his experience with the raptors to rescue the employee, he just barely escapes with his life. He does distract the raptors, but once his back his turned, they go right after him with their razor-sharp jaws. This perfectly reflects the reality of working with wild animals. Their actions are so unpredictable, that even the most experienced animal trainers can be killed in a flash.
Having a smart and agile character like Owen really helps the audience get invested in the many captivating setpieces and suspenseful moments in this movie. Whether he's fighting off or hiding from carnivorous dinosaurs, I always found myself on the edge of my seat. In fact, I was on the edge of my seat for most of the movie.
Director Colin Trevorrow and cinematographer John Schwartzman brilliantly structure the setpieces with excellent camera work that gives impact to the action. The scene where Gray and Zach were attacked by the Indominus in a gyrosphere really brought me into the moment. It blended POV shots from inside the vehicle with shots of the Indominus slamming it to the ground to create a truly scary scene you don't see in most blockbusters.
Trevorrow isn't afraid to make this film violent either. For a modern PG-13 movie, there is quite a bit of blood and carnage to be seen. It really took me back to the 80s and 90s when family-oriented adventures weren't afraid to have a little blood in them. Remember the severed arm from the original Jurassic Park? Trevorrow commitment to keep the film violent works as a huge advantage. Would we really fear for the characters if they couldn't be killed in ways that only vicious dinosaurs could kill people? Not likely. On the other hand, it isn't just the bloodshed that Trevorrow directs well.
Colin Trevorrow, known for his low-budget indie-comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, brings the same sense of wonder to Jurassic World that Steven Spielberg brought to Jurassic Park. The way he blends the effectiveness of CG and the realism of actual props helps out the film a great deal. If there is a more fast-paced moment, CG will be used. If the scene is more down-to-earth, there will be more of an emphasis on practical effects. It is the perfect blend of effects that elevates the look of the setting. While Jurassic Park will always be an unbeatable classic, Trevorrow stands on his own and transports audiences to a world we would love to visit (if not for the killer Indominus escaping).
Trevorrow clearly takes inspiration from Sea World, Busch Gardens, and Universal Studios when creating Jurassic World's titular theme park. From the many informative interactive exhibits for the kids to the eye-popping mosasaur show, Jurassic World is full of small details to really give the sense that this could be a real theme park if science allowed it.
As a whole, there is a lot to adore about Jurassic World, but that doesn't mean it is flawless. My main gripe with this film was that the amount of secondary and tertiary characters felt a bit overwhelming at times. As a result, some plotlines and backstories felt rushed.
An example of this is a dramatic scene where Gray and Zach reveal to the audience that their parents are getting a divorce. This plotline came out of nowhere, and instead of having a dramatic impact on me, I was just thinking: "where did that come from?" Sure, this plotline does add some depth to Gray and Zach's characters, but it sure seemed to fly by fast for such an important bit of information. It almost felt like something that would end up on the cutting room floor.
As much as I love Omar Sy as an actor, his character didn't feel necessary either. Sure, his character is Owen's best friend, but he doesn't really get to do much in the movie or have an important story arc. He was like Roxie in Kingman: The Secret Service; he wasn't an unlikable character, but he didn't have much of a purpose in the film.
In addition, there are several other characters in this movie that pretty much just take up screen time. Even B. D. Wong's returning character Henry Wu feels like kind of an after thought. If the movie cut back on its secondary characters, it could have spent more time fleshing out the main ones. Still though, these issues were overshadowed by how entertaining and well made the film is in general.
For the last decade, we've had to put up with some pretty bad dinosaur movies and a couple of less-than-impressive sequels to Jurassic Park. With Jurassic World, I am honestly hoping for a resurgence of the dinosaur movie. Kids and adults alike have fond memories of growing up with the prehistoric reptiles, and dinosaur lovers deserve more movies like this. It is a well made and sometimes epic popcorn film that is oozing with heart. I suggest getting your tickets now.