There are moments in Jurassic World that strike that magic chord of action adventure films that makes us think of our childhood. Moments of complete disbelief, moments where we believe in the impossible, moments when the girl rescues the guy: these are the moments where Jurassic World soars, making it a truly enjoyable summer action flick. With composer Michael Giacchino leaning heavily on the original John Williams score (to favorable effect for the most part) the film feels tied into the Jurassic Park mythology and obviously holds a lot of affection for the original film while still managing to be its own film.
Set twenty years after the events of Jurassic Park, the park is now open and thriving, taking the dreams envisioned in the first film and making them a reality. However, with popularity comes a larger sense of looming apathy. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is all about preserving audience interest. Dinosaurs are no longer a clear-cut draw for the theme park, which means to her and her company’s consumers, they need to go bigger. In a lab run by Dr. Wu (B.D. Wong), they’ve created the Indominus Rex, a terrifying fifty-foot beast, cross bred with a T-Rex, and one where height and mass isn’t the scariest part of its creation. It’s cunning, it watches and learns, and it’s curious to see where it stands on the food chain after being kept in captivity for its entire life.
This is where Owen (Chris Pratt) comes in, a man who’s gone from the Navy to being a Raptor trainer, which excites Vicc Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), a military man who believes the animals can be weaponized. Owen and his partner, played by the always charming Omar Sy, are of the belief that animals can be trained to listen and respect them, but shouldn’t be used as tools for war.
The film is largely in ensemble form, with the main four being rounded out by Ty Simkins (Iron Man 3) and Nick Robinson (Kings of Summer) as brothers Gray and Zach Mitchell, who have been sent to the park while their parents are negotiating a divorce. Claire is their aunt, but she hasn’t seen them in seven years and is too busy initially to interact with them until all hell breaks loose and she becomes overwhelmingly protective of the boys, doing everything she can to get those two boys to safety.
What makes the film so exciting in the opening moments where the monster is let out of its cage is that director Colin Trevorrow shoots it like a monster film. The Indominus Rex isn’t just clever, it’s horrifying; and while the release happens early in the film, there’s still the required build-up to seeing the beast in its full magnitude that makes for a thrilling reveal. It’s a killing machine, and what makes it scarier is that it isn’t simply killing for food, but for sport. It’s never a question that this creature is a threat to our characters and the spectators at the theme park. Trevorrow utilizes small tricks to heighten the anticipation. Sound plays a big part, as we spend a decent amount of time watching characters react to what they’re hearing happening, and first person point of view footage and night vision is also used to great effect.
First and foremost, the film is a spectacle experience, and while the opening sequences where we first see the park (with that sparkly original Williams theme playing, robust and promising excitement) are suitably grand, there are moments where the CGI seems choppy and overly glossy. The raptors look great, but the bigger dinosaurs? Not so much.
Where the film also fails are the annoying, trailer-made one-liners that the film’s characters are forced to spit out with gusto, Pratt in particular being loaded with some ridiculously heavy-handed lines.
However, this doesn’t diminish from the natural charm that Pratt has delivered over the years, and it’s nice to see a film that isn’t asking him to play a version of Andy Dwyer or Star Lord, something that would have been a safe bet considering his recent overwhelming popularity. More stone-faced than is typical for him and a proving himself once again to possess formidable star power, Pratt plays the role with just the right level of silliness and gravitas. Howard has the more challenging role and I had expected to find her grating due to the trailers, but she was easily the surprise of the film. Neither character, Owen nor Claire, are breaking any major archetypes, but they play with the roles they’ve been given and make them something enjoyable to watch.
The entire extended cast is stellar, with the one weak link being Vincent D’Onofrio, mainly because his character has the most superfluous role, but actors such as Omar Sy, Jake Johnson and Judy Greer do the most with what they’ve been given.
I’m sure there will be some Jurassic Park die-hards that think ill of this film simply by its nature of being “remade”; maybe it’s because I just saw the original for the first time last year and don’t have my nostalgia goggles on, but nothing about Jurassic World diminishes the original. At moments it’s a careful homage, and most importantly, it is its own film, thrills and faults and all.
The overall feeling is simplistic but deeply affecting, as we all become those kids pressing their faces against the glass to see something bigger than ourselves. It’s a joyous ride, and once the action starts, it refuses to relent for a moment, sucking us in and delivering a summer blockbuster that’s just as action-packed as it is heartfelt.
Jurassic World hits theaters this Friday, June 12th.