Some movies can be deemed “critic proof.” These are films that, regardless of the actual quality of the film, many people are still going to see. Most Marvel superhero movies, for instance, could be considered critic proof. The general public will see Avengers 5: Iron Man Gets a Hernia despite many reviews arguing against said film. Most critics, Joe Public may say, are only good at recommending three-hour French films.
Jurassic World can be described as a “critic proof” film. Audiences are flocking to the film like a fleet of Pteranodons and it is smashing box-office records like an Indominous Rex in a china shop. Like the original Jurassic Park, the fourth entry in the franchise is, at heart, a good, old-fashioned monster movie. Once again, those wacky Jurassic Park, oops, Jurassic World scientists have meddled with nature, and as the old commercial goes, it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!
One of the best things about Jurassic World is the way it captures not just the terror, but also the wonder that the original was able to show so well. In that film, the way Steven Spielberg showed us the joy of discovery when Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ellie Sattler first see the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park was unique. The sequels were not able to convey that cinematic magic. Jurassic World does. There’s a moment where one of the film’s protagonists, the precocious boy Gray (Ty Simpkins), is in his hotel room and is antsy and agitated because he hasn’t seen any dinosaurs yet. He runs to the curtains and yells “I don’t wanna wait anymore,” pulls back the curtains and the camera pans across the park as the familiar theme by John Williams overpowers the speakers. It’s a beautiful moment.
Maybe the fact that director Colin Trevorrow is obviously a fan of the series and the genre has something to do with how he’s able to capture that sense of wonder that evaded Spielberg in the first sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Joe Johnston in the second sequel, Jurassic Park III. Jurassic World reminded me in many ways of Joe Dante’s The Howling. Dante was a fan of the genre first, and he brought, to quote the Entertainment Weekly review, “a fan’s perspective” to the film. Trevorrow brings a similar love and enthusiasm to Jurassic World. This film was obviously made by a sci-fi nerd.
The film contains excellent homages to not only Jurassic Park, but also to Predator, Deep Blue Sea and Jaws (not to mention a throw-away line from star Chris Pratt that is a tribute to the comedy Old School). Trevorrow also brings back one key supporting character from the original Park back (there’s also a blink-and-you’ll miss it cameo appearance on the back of a book jacket from a familiar Jurassic Park character).
This film takes place twenty-two years after the disastrous preview screening of the original park. Since then, dinosaur cloning has evolved drastically and is so commonplace, that the public is no longer satisfied with just regular, ho-hum dinosaurs. So, the Jurassic World geneticists now create monstrous dino-mashups in the lab.
Jurassic World, of course, is one of the most popular attractions in the entire world. As the story begins, the two brothers, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) have arrived at Jurassic World to spend Christmas vacation with their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is a Jurassic World executive big shot. Of course, Aunt Claire is too busy to spend time with her nephews (all adults in Spielberg directed or produced movies are always too busy for their children/charges).
I could go on with the plot, but I’m not going to. Let’s just say that it involves the benevolent owner of the park (played by Irrfan Khan), a raptor trainer and ex-military man (star Chris Pratt), an InGen executive with dubious intentions (a suitably scuzzy Vincent D’Onofrio) and another raptor trainer played by Omar Sy who has very little to do. Oh, I almost forgot the Dennis Nedry-like computer nerd played by Jake Johnson.
Like in all good monster movies, the plot is just silly nonsense to string along the set pieces. Several of them involve the Indominous Rex, a behemoth of fangs who has several tricks up its very short sleeves. There’s also a brilliant action sequence that involves flocks of very angry Pteranodons terrorizing the guests (some of the imagery and sound effects evoke WWII fighter planes). The film also features a gigantic aquatic bruiser called the Mosasaurus, who makes Jaws look like a goldfish (there’s a Jaws sight gag that gets a laugh). The climax features a dino-brawl that is truly a sight to behold.
I also liked Pratt’s work here, he continues to evolve as a leading man who has both the convincing action hero physicality and prowess, but with the sidekick’s sense of wise-cracks and comic timing (kind of like a less asshole-y Bruce Willis in the Die Hard movies). He has some great scenes with his pack of raptors; it takes quite an actor to convincingly act opposite computer-generated dinosaurs.
Jurassic World is a rousing entertainment, and a worthy entry in a slogging franchise that just got a huge shot in the arm, so to speak.
Jurassic World. 2015. Dir. Colin Trevorrow. With Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, Irrfan Kahn, Omar Sy, Jake Johnson. Written by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Colin Trevorrow & Derek Connolly; story by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver; based on characters created by Michael Crichton. Cinematography by John Schwartzman. United States/ China.