Jurassic World

Posted by Joel Copling on June 11, 2015

What John Hammond wrought in 1993's "Jurassic Park" had its proverbial dinosaur claws in the sequels to Steven Spielberg's blockbuster masterpiece, 1997's highly under-appreciated "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" and 2001's enjoyable roller-coaster "Jurassic Park III," and the same holds true--perhaps to an even greater degree--for "Jurassic World." This new sequel ignores the earlier ones to follow only threads from the monumental original, and the result is alarmingly close--only a few instances of over-egged exposition away, actually--to its diamantine perfection. On its own terms, though, this is the kind of rollicking adventure opus on which I was raised, upping one's blood pressure even when it isn't focused on all-important dino action, courtesy of a screenplay (written by director Colin Trevorrow with Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Derek Connolly) that deals with complex ideas of scientific progress in much the same light as before.

It has been twenty years since the incident on Isla Nublar chronicled in the first movie paved the way for Jurassic World, a tourist attraction that brings in 20,000 people daily. "De-extinction" of dinosaurs has long been the practice of Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong, the only actor here reprising his role from the original) and his fellow scientists, but as the director of the facility, Claire Dearing (a terrific Bryce Dallas Howard), points out, the place needs a new attraction every few years to rejuvenate interest. In the case of the newest attraction, it's the first genetically modified hybrid, a dinosaur designed by Dr. Wu from the cells of a Tyrannosaurus rex, a tree frog, a cuttle fish, and a surprise fourth donor that makes one wonder what in the world they were thinking.

For Claire, Dr. Wu, and head of asset training Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio, fun in the requisite-heavy role), it's an easy situation to hash out on a profitibility level. Creating this dinosaur, which the park has named the Indominus rex, will vault ticket sales into the stratosphere because it's fresh, new, and exciting on a visceral level. CEO Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan in a role that could have been thankless and which the actor plays as anything but) is less sure, and he's not exactly blameless, as we find out when Dr. Wu reveals his inspiration for creating the creature. This stuff is highly effective drama, made richer because of where its core lay.

Even less sure than Masrani is Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, outstanding in the kind of role tailor-made for the actor's charms), head trainer of the Velociraptor pack borne to Jurassic World. He is a sort of mix between Drs. Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm from the previous movies, especially in his overall outlook on a situation that calls for the aggressively stupid design of a whole new dinosaur. The Indominus rex, as it turns out, has been bred entirely in captivity, and as Owen puts it, a dinosaur quickly discovering its place on the food chain doesn't need many opportunities to find it. The sequence in which the dinosaur outsmarts everyone else to escape its prison is truly unsettling stuff.

There are, of course, others in danger of crossing the beast's path, not the least of which are the 20,000 people currently on the island; a pterodactyl attack after one of the paddocks is breached is the stuff of nightmares for any child who could potentially visit a theme park, and the expert implementation of stores, attractions, and product placement is put to the test in a darkly amusing final showdown between two genera of rex. More specifically in danger are Zach and Gray (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins in performances that should immediately make both of them movie stars of considerable clout), Claire's nephews, who are on one of the many tours when crap hits the fan and must escape or be rescued; the two are given their own emotional baggage with which to come to terms alongside this more immediate threat (specifically, the impending divorce of their parents, played by Andy Buckley and Judy Greer, and the ramifications of that on their close-knit bond).

And then the crap hits the fan with almost absurd abandon. "Jurassic World" is sometimes defiantly weird, even within its straightforward find-and-kill, monster-movie narrative. There is a sense of genuine tension here, but there's also a chaser of pitch-dark comedy, especially in the aforementioned climax (which also features an amusingly easy solution to the I-rex problem) but also in the canniest bit of ironic reversal in some time (hint: It involves an indestructible tour pod). There's a sense of joy here--in Trevorrow's spirited direction of the action sequences, in composer Michael Giacchino's use of and slight deviation from John Williams's original themes, in visual effects (both computer-generated and practical) that have weight and complexity, and in Ed Verreaux's art direction of the park. The film is a throwback to the type of awe instilled in youngsters by a certain wave of movies in the 1980s and '90s, and it gets just about all of it right.

Film Information

Chris Pratt (Owen), Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire), Ty Simpkins (Gray), Nick Robinson (Zach), Irrfan Khan (Simon Masrani), Vincent D'Onofrio (Hoskins), Jake Johnson (Lowery), Omar Sy (Barry), BD Wong (Dr. Henry Wu), Judy Greer (Karen), Lauren Lapkus (Vivian), Brian Tee (Hamada), Katie McGrath (Zara), Andy Buckley (Scott).

Directed by Colin Trevorrow and written by Trevorrow, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Derek Connolly.

Rated PG-13 (intense science-fiction violence/peril).

124 minutes.

Released on June 12, 2015.