Jurassic World is as solid a summer blockbuster as you could ask for – it’s smart (but not too smart), flashy (maybe a hair too flashy) and filled with great visual effects that never (quite) overwhelm its basically decent heart.
It has an old-fashioned hero, kids in peril, a heroine who goes from stick in the mud to tuchus-kicker, an amoral scientist, an incredibly mercenary would-be visionary and… DINOSAURS!
Jurassic World has been open for 22 years and things are slowing down, profit-wise. While grosses are up 2%, costs are increasing at a much higher rate. This is a problem for the park’s manager, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and affable owner, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) – though he, at least, still finds the idea of de-extincted dinosaurs to be a source of wonder.
Claire’s sister, Karen (Judy Greer), meanwhile is sending her sons – Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) off to visit, with the understanding that Claire will personally be taking care of them. Zach doesn’t think much of the idea but Gray is thrilled.
When they arrive, they find themselves foisted upon an assistant Zara (Katie McGrath) because Claire is having a busy day. They promptly leave Zara behind (kids will be kids!).
Meanwhile, we meet Owen (Chris Pratt), who is training four velociraptors to work as a team with him as their alpha – and Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), who wants to weaponize them.
The there’s Dr. Wu (BD Wong), the bio-wizard who has created the park’s many saurian attractions – and has a very special new one ready to make its grand entrance (every time the park presents a new attraction, attendance and profits skyrocket). The problem is that his latest creation is bigger, smarter and possessed of a number of unexpected qualities that make her a disaster just waiting to happen.
So, stage set, things begin to go horribly wrong. Cue the brothers in a gyroscopic vehicle ignoring authorities ordering all rides to shut down and finding themselves in mortal danger. Cue also, Claire discovering the boys are missing and freaking out. Cue some very intriguing capabilities for the new creation – one Indominus Rex (bigger than T-Rex, smarter than many of the park’s so-called security people (like, say, Hoskins) – and cue Owen stepping up.
Interesting sidebar: Owen and Claire have a history (well, one date that didn’t end well).
Interesting sidebar #2: Masrani (who also briefly provides a bit of comic relief) has been learning to fly a helicopter.
Interesting sidebar #3: Indominus Rex has removed her tracker implant (see also: smarter than the park’s security people).
Interesting sidebar #4: Jurassic World treats the second and third Jurassic Park movies as though they never existed, which is a Good Thing.
In some ways, Jurassic World is almost a remake of Jurassic Park. If you’ve seen the first film, you will get a little déja vu at seeing Gray discover the park’s cooler attractions, and seeing various dinosaurs moving freely about.
Fortunately, aside from some fairly obvious references to the first film (and a number of other classics – including King Kong and ET), Jurassic World has a little fun with theme parks – the dinosaur petting zoo and rides; the incredibly tacky vendors on the main concourse – and is more playful with the characters (Claire’s evolution from ramrod management to butt kicking heroine is a fun arc, for example – especially since she saves Owen’s life at least as many times as he saves hers).
Still, you can tell who’s going to be Rex Treats pretty much from their first moments onscreen, but director Colin Treverrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) – who also co-wrote the shooting script – finds ways to bring bits of the unexpected quirkiness that made his first film so good.
Aside from the dinosaurs, though, it’s the characters that keep us interested because the casting is so good that the actors bring considerably more to the screen than was on the page (another way in which Jurassic World resembles the original).
It’s a measure of Jurassic World’s strengths that it never feels like a two-hour movie – it fairly rockets by, even though it doesn’t seem that frantically paced while you’re watching it. So climb into a giant gyroscope and hang on – it’s quite the ride.
Final Grade: A-
Photos courtesy of Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment