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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Jurassic World Movie Review: It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Jurassic World
Directed By: Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, & Vincent D'Onofrio
STARS: 3 out of 4

If you were pumped to see Jurassic World based upon the trailers, then you are going to love this movie. It delivers on everything it promises and then some. You have Chris Pratt doing an incredible Harrison Ford impression and being the bona fide action star / movie star that he is, you get to see Pratt riding around on a motorcycle with velociraptors, and you have the newly created Indominus Rex wrecking havoc among the Jurassic World theme park. It's the quintessential summer blockbuster. You get explosions, chase scenes, and CGI dinosaurs.

I can also see little kids growing up loving this movie the way I loved Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park as a kid. Like most little boys my age, I wanted to be a paleontologist when I grew up. I had dinosaur toys, dinosaur books, dinosaur clothes, and I even tried to read the Michael Crichton books the Spielberg movies were based upon. If you have a young kid seeing Jurassic World today, I can imagine that kid having the same sense of wonder, imagination, and amazement seeing Jurassic World as I had seeing Jurassic Park.


Jurassic World stars Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) as the curator of the Disney/Universal-esque theme park of the same name. In an attempt to increase profits and attract new visitors to the theme park, she and the parks fellow scientists genetically modify a dinosaur to create an entirely new species- the Indominus Rex. It's meant to be bigger, faster, scarier, and more exciting than anything the park has done in the past. The park's owner (played by Life of Pi's Irrfan Khan) has some mild doubts about this new creation, so he asks Claire to have Owen (Chris Pratt) stop by to have a look at the creature, possibly to find some potential weakness. (Owen works in the park training velociraptors and the reason Khan wants him to stop by to check out the I-Rex is explained so quickly that I missed it, but who cares because it's not that important and it sets the plot in motion).

In the CRAZIEST of coincidences, Claire's two nephews (I had to IMDB their names) Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) come to the park to visit her at the very same time the I-Rex manages to escape and we follow Claire, Owen, Gray, and Zach as they flee for their lives and fight uncontrollable and terrifying dinosaurs. As mentioned before, this plot and story telling device is exactly what the film advertises and it's exactly what you're going to get.


What made Jurassic Park so great was its simplicity. The story itself is extremely straight-forward; Dinosaurs exist, dinosaurs escape, dinosaurs attack everybody, good guys win and survive. The end. This simplicity is one of the main reasons a 22-year old blockbuster still holds up today and remains a classic. The other main reason the 1993 film holds up is its heavy use of animatronics while using as little CGI as possible (Sure it wasn't as readily available back then as it was now, but if 1991's Terminator 2: Judgement Day is any indication, Spielberg had plenty of CGI at his disposal if he wanted to use it). It was these reasons that had me initially worried about Jurassic World. While the story this time around seems simple enough, it definitely does get bogged down in exposition and too many subplots. Further, the film goes all out in its CGI, and I'd be surprised if there was a single animatronic dinosaur in the entire film.

Yet surprisingly, these factors didn't bother me in the least. The CGI dinosaurs looked incredible, and while I can't attest for how they will hold up 22 years from now, in today's day and age they looked pretty darn good to me. Plus, considering all of the things these dinosaurs do, I wouldn't want them to be robots, because that would look far more fake than a computer drawing.

Also, the film is pretty tightly knit and Colin Trevorrow does his best to keep in line with the plot and ideas of Jurassic Park while telling his own story. Certainly the many debates these characters have arguing the morality of what they're doing and the "power of nature" talk got a little heavy-handed, but I appreciated the love and respect the writers of this film had for Jurassic Park.  I guess this shouldn't be that much of a surprise considering how good and simple Trevorrow's first and only film, Safety Not Guaranteed, is. Safety Not Guaranteed is the story of how a man places an advertisement in a local newspaper looking for a travel companion to go back in time with him, and how two magazine journalists answer the ad in an (initial) attempt to write a joke piece. Trevorrow lays out the story in SNG and has his characters and plot come to its natural resolution, and he uses many of those same attributes on Jurassic World. Trevorrow doesn't come close to what Spielberg did on Jurassic Park, but he does a darn good impression.


The main problem I had with Jurassic World is that I inevitably kept comparing it to Jurassic Park. I know it's unfair, but frankly the film invites itself to that criticism. So in that sense, I was pretty disappointed, especially as the film unravels as it goes. Jurassic World ends on a climatic scene that I know most, if not all, would enjoy; however, it's something Spielberg never would have considered putting into his film. In fact, Jurassic World makes you appreciate Jurassic Park and Steven Spielberg as a director that much more, when you think about what an impressive feat he was able to accomplish and how no one will probably able to do what he did.

Jurassic Park also was able to tell its larger themes, especially about nature, in a much more eloquent way. As I alluded to earlier, we see characters discuss in Jurassic World's First Act these themes, but once we get into Act Two and beyond, the film drops the ball. Plus, Jurassic World doesn't have anything as smart as Sam Neill's seat belt moment and Jurassic World most certainly doesn't have any characters as cool or interesting as say Jeff Goldbum ("nature, uh, finds a way") was in Jurassic Park. This film has New Girl's Jake Johnson (who also appeared in Trevorrow's Safety Not Guaranteed) who provides some entertaining comic relief and meta-humor, but that's about it.

Chris Pratt plays a pretty stereotypical movie hero (albeit superbly), Vincent D'Onofrio plays a pretty stereotypical bad guy, and the two kids and Bryce Dallas Howard play a pretty stereotypical Damsel In Distress. Jurassic World also overtly follows almost every single action movie trope to a tee that it seems predestined to end up on a Cinema Sins or Honest Trailer video. Everything is so stereotypical that it deserves all the Joss Whedon-esque criticism I assume it will eventually get. However, the irony is that everything that is so stereotypical about Jurassic World is the reason that people will love this film.


I know I've been pretty nit-picky throughout many parts of this review, and that most people will enjoy this action movie for what it is and ignore many of the small complaints I've had about this film. However, to steal a line from the aforementioned Cinema Sins, "no movie is without sin." That being said, the good films make you overlook those sins and plot holes. The Dark Knight has sins galore, but it takes about 20 viewing and a litany of articles to finally realize them. Jurassic World falls into more into The Dark Knight Rises territory- a good film that's bogged down by the plot holes starring you in the face, but still well worth seeing.

I ended up seeing Jurassic World in a 3-D IMAX theater, and I don't know that I enjoyed myself more had I just been in a regular sized theater- or even in the comfort of my own home. But I did enjoy myself despite the fact that I went into the movie with low and disappointing expectations- which I think is a pretty good feat for the film that I managed to come out of it giving it a three star review and recommending others to see it. However, if you were pumped to see the film before buying a ticket, you're gonna love Jurassic World.


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