Monday, June 15, 2015


Jurassic World (2015)

Directed by Colin Trevorrow, Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D'Onofrio, BD Wong

Great sequels are really rare, and great sequels deep into a film franchise are practically non-existent. But I can't recall if there's ever been a case where an installment to a long-running movie series has surpassed all the sequels to almost be neck-and-neck with the original. Well, we have one now, and that is Jurassic World. While not as inventive as the first picture, this fourth film in the franchise chews up the previous sequels and spits them out, leaving it the fittest to survive alongside Jurassic Park.

Twenty-two years after the events of that film, Isla Nublar has since been transformed into Jurassic World, the theme park John Hammond had always envisioned. In order to keep people interested in dinosaurs and keep that cash coming in, the park's owner, Mr. Masrani (Irrfan Khan), and manager, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), had the scientists- headed by the only cast member from the original to make an appearance in this one, B.D. Wong- create, by way of gene-splicing, an all-new dinosaur to be their next big attraction. Instead, they created a monster in Indominous Rex, a beast with the size of a T-Rex and the intelligence and bloodlust of a Velociraptor. Needless to say, Indominous breaks free and goes on a rampage, killing every living thing in sight. It's up to JW's raptor handler, Owen Grady (a fantastic Chris Pratt) to stop Indominous before she starts to make dinner out of the park's guests, which include Claire's visiting nephews, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins).

Jurassic Park didn't become the classic it is just because of the fact that it revolutionized visual effects. It has endured, because, much like King Kong or Jaws, it is a wholly-satisfying and thrilling fun time at the movies. After two follow-ups that clearly had no idea how to recapture the magic of the original and stand on their own legs, director Colin Trevorrow pulls off a miracle and gives us a Jurassic sequel that builds on the premise of the first picture and actually succeeds in recapturing the spirit and enjoyment of that first picture.

Unlike the previous two films, making John Hammond's dream a reality is the most logical and interesting way to warrant a continuation of the original. We finally get to see the park open for business, and the film manages to instill awe and wonder of the place, before everything goes to hell. There are some spectacular prehistoric attractions, but the most memorable is the Sea World-like showcase of the ocean-beast, the Mosasaur. Universal went back to Hawaii to shoot Jurassic World, and director of photography, John Schwartzman makes you feel like you're on vacation watching the movie.

Speaking of which, something I personally dug about Jurassic World was its playful satirizing of theme park culture, specifically Universal Studios itself. Having visited the place numerous times, I got quite a few chuckles out how much the park in the movie resembled Universal Studios here in Los Angeles, from the escalators to its own version of City Walk. Jimmy Fallon, who appears in the video on Universal's backlot tour, even shows up on a tour video in this film.

To paraphrase a line from a lesser Jurassic picture, it all starts with ooh's and ahh's, but soon there's running and screaming. Jurassic World does deliver quite a bit of dino-action. What was surprising was how throwback it was in shooting the action sequences, as opposed to inducing sickness and utter confusion in audiences with that modern shaky-cam crap. Commendable, yes, but it does make those scenes feel all-too-familiar, especially when they nod to moments from the first. Also, the absolute absence of animatronic animals in this installment prevented the scares from reaching the same level of terror as something like the T-Rex breakout in the first movie. The sole use of CGI adds too much safety to all the chaos. I will say, though, that unlike more recent monster movies, like Cloverfield, Pacific Rim, and last year's Godzilla, it was refreshing to actually comprehend both what the monsters look like and the action on display.

Another aspect of Jurassic Park that keeps bringing people back is the collection of memorable, likable characters. While some, if not most, will describe the ones in this film as not being three dimensional, you have to admit that Jurassic World did something right in giving us characters that you want to see survive. Too often in movies like this these days, the humans tend to be either douchey or just plain dumb. Jurassic World breaks the mold by having everyone likable, even shady characters like the head of security played by Vincent D'Onofrio. Even the kids don't get on my nerves. Truly, though, this is definitely Chris Pratt's movie. He brings genuine charm to all the badassness, making Owen Grady the best human character introduced in any of the sequels. How awesome would it be to see this guy alongside the likes of Drs. Grant, Sattler, and Malcolm?

Despite a lack of freshness and on-set creatures, Jurassic World pulls off an impossible feat of being the worthy follow-up after more than one failed attempt at coming close to matching the first film. It's a dinosaur flick that thrills and leaves you feeling good after it is all over, which is what the original film did. That makes Jurassic World the sequel Jurassic Park deserved all along.

Jurassic World is now playing in theaters.

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