ByBenjamin Marlatt, writer at

Twenty-two years after the events of the first film, Isla Nublar now features a fully-functioning dinosaur theme park called Jurassic World, an idea originally conceived by John Hammond and now owned by Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), CEO of the Masrani Corporation. In an effort to boost park attendance, park operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) has the park geneticists create a new hybrid dinosaur, Indominus Rex. And just in time for when her nephews, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) Mitchell visit the park.

As you’d expect, the hybrid breaks loose and begins terrorizing the park, leaving the fate of the park and all of its guests in the hands of Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt).

While they’re not as good as the first film, I still think Jurassic Park’s two sequels are enjoyable. However, there were still reasons to be concerned with Jurassic World, the long-awaited third sequel. One, it’s been 22, 18 and 14 years since Jurassic Park, The Lost World and Jurassic Park III, respectively. Two, Steven Spielberg’s had a story concept for a fourth film devised since late in the production of the Jurassic Park III, and an official confirmation of it came in 2002. The film was set for a 2005 release date with Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, and Richard Attenborough returning and Keira Knightley joining the franchise for the first time.

Then setback after setback in development hell held it back, and that’s when you start to get worried. Mad Max is one of the greatest trilogies of all-time, and even I was apprehensive about Fury Road knowing the myriad of development issues it went through, as well as it be three decades since the last Mad Max film. Thankfully, that movie proved the naysayers wrong in a big way.

This time, directors Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park, The Lost World) and Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park III) are gone – though Spielberg’s credited as executive producer here – and now indie filmmaker Colin Trevorrow has taken over the director’s chair, which was the third main worry for this film. Spielberg’s resume speaks for itself, and though Johnston isn’t at Spielberg’s level, he’s had experience as an effects artist (winning an Oscar for his work on Raiders of the Lost Ark) and would later go on to direct entertaining sci-fi and action flicks like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, The Rocketeer, October Sky and Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger. Trevorrow’s experience is the indie comedy Safety Not Guaranteed. A great film, mind you, but indie directors translating from small-scale settings to tent-pole blockbusters haven’t always been successful. We had two examples last year. James Gunn achieved immense success with Guardians of the Galaxy; Gareth Edwards had Godzilla which was… meh.

The blockbuster is undiscovered territory for Trevorrow, and a newbie trying to find his footing is evident for the first 10 minutes. The thrilling tragedy setup that each of the first three films delivered is gone, and it somehow took four writers (Trevorrow and Safety Not Guranteed writer Derek Connolly, and Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver from the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise) to throw in extraneous plot threads involving the divorce of the Mitchell boys’ parents and the obligatory romantic angle between the two leads. That said, Trevorrow, to his credit, eventually finds his footing once we enter the park, and when he does, that’s when this finally turns into the fun popcorn adventure this is meant to be.

Fun enough for you to even forgive the film when Bryce Dallas Howard’s character actually outruns a T-Rex in high heels.

Though, as just mentioned, there are mini subplots that really add nothing to the film, the central premise is intriguing: In today’s cellphone, social media obsessed culture, even dinosaurs, of all creatures, have become boring to park consumers, so how exactly do you up the wow factor?“

They’re dinosaurs. Wow enough.”, says Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady.

The essence of Trevorrow and Company’s idea is summed up one in one nice, rather telling shot. During a feeding at the T-Rex exhibit, Zach looks away like it’s nothing, so he can mess with his cell. Imagine that. Children can ride a baby triceratops and visit a herbivore petting zoo, you can roam the grounds inside a mobile gyro with packs of Brachiosauruses and Stegosauruses and the park features a bitchin’ splash zone attraction that puts even Shamu’s show to shame… and yet it’s all now become whatever.

For God’s sakes, when I was a kid, I’d get giddy over a 5-foot corn snake in a glass tank at Pet Supplies Plus.

Of course, it’s only a matter of time in the film when the big mean dinosaurs show that apathetic little prick and his brother just how awe-inspiring and utterly terrifying they can really be (there are a few good jolts to be had when they discover the Indominus Rex for the first time), and Trevorrow does a fine job handling the dino attack setpieces (and doesn’t disappoint with the bloodshed for a PG-13 flick), particularly one that manages to be both funny and scary involving a flock of Pteranodons flinging a female victim through the air like a Cirque du Soleil act, which leads to… well, you can find out for yourself.

The cast all do solid work. Honestly, the Jurassic Park films have never been about the performances, per se, so long as they service the film well. Chris Pratt dials down the charm and comic energy he brought to Guardians of the Galaxy as the square-jawed heroic trainer who’s done the impossible in turning his flock of Chris Boshes into a quartet of trained seals. Those expecting another Peter Quill may be bummed that he’s mostly playing it straight, but I believe that was the intention of his character, and Pratt holds the film together thanks to his presence that fits the mold of today’s charismatic, Indy-esque action hero.

Bryce Dallas Howard has a predictable “cold-career-obsessed-working-gal-to-learning-how-to-truly-care” arc, but does fine in spite of that (the writers could’ve toned down her coldness just a bit) and the needless romance between her and Pratt. Given an equally predictable arc, Vincent D’Onofrio earns a few points for hamming it up in a fun way as the gung-ho military strategist (slap that Donald Genarro dino target on his head for the Velociraptors), but the subplot he’s saddled with, wanting to use the dinosaurs as military weapons, really doesn’t serve a purpose in the film. Jake Johnson (who co-starred in Trevorrow’s Safety Not Guaranteed) fares a little better, producing some effective comic relief as the geeky park tech who wears a not-so-subtle nod to the original film: A Jurassic Park T-Shirt.

Jurassic World stumbles through a slow start and isn’t without its faults, but director Colin Trevorrow eventually gets the wheels spinning in time to turn the film into the summer blockbuster thrill ride it’s supposed to be. Though the central idea of appeasing tech-obsessed jaded customers is interesting and more than relevant, it’s not the film’s calling card. You go for the adventure, first-rate dino effects and Michael Giacchino’s sweeping score (which affectionately pays homage to John Williams’s iconic score from the original), and while not as inventive as the first film, it succeeds on those points, and “spares no expense” in doing so.

I give Jurassic World a B (★★★).

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