This…this is something I’ve been looking forward to, you guys. Jurassic freaking World. As a child of the ‘90s, the Jurassic Park films mean a lot to me. I was too young to go see the first film in theaters, but I distinctly remember playing with toy dinosaurs for a large chunk of my childhood, and I am positive this had everything to do with Jurassic Park. Well, maybe The Land Before Time had some pull there, too, but those films certainly haven’t left the kind of lasting impression that a roaring CGI T-Rex, a John Williams score, and a catchphrase like “Hold on to your butts” leave.
I feel like I’ve been gearing up for this film forever. I texted about the first three films with my sister (see here, here, and here) and watched each one of them at least once more. I listened to the thrilling Jurassic Park score at work. I drank in every bit of visual awesomeness that the trailers teased. And you can bet your ass I made it to my theater to see Jurassic World opening weekend. Was it worth all the agonizing waiting and dedicated preparation? Overall, I’d definitely have to say “yes.” Even so, it isn’t perfect. But let’s discuss. Warning: a dino-sized review follows.
Synopsis: “A new theme park is built on the original site of Jurassic Park. Everything is going well until the park’s newest attraction—a genetically modified giant stealth killing machine—escapes containment and goes on a killing spree.” –Borrowed from my favorite movie site, IMDb
The Good: The dinos, obvi. They are back in all their CGI glory and looking better than ever. The pterodactyls are winged terrors that will make you think of Hitchcock’s The Birds as they tear through the sky en masse. The newly introduced mosasaurus is like the best Sea World attraction you’ve ever seen times 10. The T-Rex remains the undisputed queen of the Jurassic films, per usual. The terrifying new dino hybrid Indominus Rex is an interesting new monster and a force to be reckoned with. And then there’s the raptor pack. With distinct markings per animal and even individual names, the raptors quite possibly steal the show in Jurassic World. Well, with a little help from Chris Pratt, of course. Pratt plays Owen Grady, a former member of the U.S. Navy turned dinosaur handler. (Sidenote: Any time anyone called him “Mr. Grady,” was I the only one whose mind instantly turned to The Shining?) Owen is definitely one of the biggest personalities in the film, and Pratt exudes all of the charm and humor and handsomeness that you’d expect from everyone’s favorite Star-Lord (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, shame on you, and go watch Guardians of the Galaxy this instant). Best of all, Pratt somehow manages to make his character’s occupation, raptor “alpha,” seem totally awesome and not ridiculous at all, which I consider quite a feat. Another character I ending up liking quite a bit was the park’s eccentric new owner, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan). He shares John Hammond’s (R.I.P. Richard Attenborough) enthusiasm for the park, but he also has enough fun moments to set him apart and make him interesting. Jurassic World also takes the time reintroduce a minor character from the first film: Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong). He actually becomes a fairly important presence in this film, and I loved that he was there as a tie-in to the very beginning. In fact, there are a fair number of nods to previous films that I enjoyed, but I don’t want to spoil them for those who haven’t gotten around to seeing it yet. Much like the previous films, Jurassic World has the kind of story where dino dangers lurk around every corner. Every moment builds, striving to outdo the last, which makes it a lot of silly fun. Especially that last fight. But, again, no spoilers. 😉
Favorite Scene: Basically, any time Owen does anything with his raptor team. Because how can raptor-human bonding be anything but a massive win?
The Bad: Overall, I had a lot of fun with Jurassic World…but, yeah, there were a few things that bothered me. For instance, let’s talk about Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). The operations manager of the park, Claire has her moments of coolness. However, at the beginning of the film, she’s almost outrageously stiff and formal, and I hated this about her—especially since she’s the only female character we really get to connect to. In fact, I feel like the only female character the franchise has gotten 100% right is Laura Dern’s Dr. Ellie Sattler from Jurassic Park (and Jurassic Park III, briefly). I realize most of us go to these movies more for the dinos than the character development, but I still feel like we should be able to have our cake and eat it, too, you know? And this isn’t just the female characters I’m talking about anymore. To me, the two brothers, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins)—the Lex (Ariana Richards) and Tim (Joe Mazzello) of this film, if you will—didn’t seem like particularly great characters. It kind of felt like the writers said, “Well, the first film had kid siblings, so let’s throw some in there. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?” Problem is, I didn’t really care about these kids—especially the older brother, who’s kind of a tool. Also, remember how I mentioned nods to previous films? Well, those nods sometimes seem like a way for Jurassic World to say, “Look how much bigger and better we are than this!” I kind of hate that. All you have to do is see how the old park plays into this film to understand what I’m talking about. It pays homage, yet not necessarily in the most respectful way, I thought. Other than that…well, there’s a ridiculous use for the dinos suggested in this film by baddie Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), and it is my deepest fear that this is what any future films will cover.
Least Favorite Scene: Actually forget the scene. I’m gonna break protocol with this one. I went into this movie voicing concerns that it would fail to do one thing: explain how the heck anybody in their right mind would decide to start up a dino park again after all the death and destruction of the first three films. Well, guess what this film didn’t do? The casualties of the past aren’t addressed at all, and everybody seems totally cool with the whole thing. I mean…really? The saying “fool me once” comes to mind, except in this case it’s “fool me four times,” which makes me wonder what kind of direction they’ll go for the next one (because let’s face it: there WILL be a next one) and how the heck they’re going to make it believable. I mean, you know, as believable as a film about a dino theme park/zoo can be…
To Sum It Up: Really, Jurassic World is just a bundle of fun and ‘90s nostalgia wrapped in a beautiful, dino-print package. Is it perfect? No. But is it enjoyable? Good lord, yes. It’s a pure popcorn flick and great way to spend an afternoon. Maybe it doesn’t match the greatness of the first film, but I’d put it on the same level as the second—maybe even slightly higher. Going into it, the most important thing to me was that it significantly improve upon the train wreck that was Jurassic Park III. Thankfully, it does. So I’m a happy camper.
My Grade: B+