Action Adventure

'Jurassic World' Film Review: Back from the brink of extinction, Spielberg's blockbuster dino franchise proves it's still got some bite

June 12, 2015Ben MK

In 1993, director Steven Spielberg and author Michael Crichton gave moviegoers Jurassic Park, a Summer blockbuster 65 million years in the making. It was a groundbreaking film that helped to usher in a new era in cinematic visual effects, and it spawned two sequels, not to mention a parody song by Weird Al Yankovic. Fast forward 22 years, and Jurassic Park is still frightening in the dark. And yes, all the dinosaurs are still running wild. Only in director Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World, they have Hollywood's new favorite leading man, Chris Pratt, to contend with.

Pratt plays Owen Grady, a rugged Raptor wrangler brought in by Bryce Dallas Howard's character, Claire Dearing, to inspect the security measures put into place around Jurassic World's fearsome new carnivore, the Indominus Rex. But when the creature proves more cunning than anyone ever anticipated, escaping from its enclosure and running amok on the island, Owen soon finds himself saddled with tasks way beyond his job spec. Now he must not only protect the lives of Claire's two visiting nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins), but he must also track down and kill the Indominus, lest every one of the park's 20,000-something visitors becomes a snack for the island's newest alpha predator.

Which brings us to the titular park itself. You see, unlike the previous Jurassic Park films, Jurassic World's island setting isn't abandoned or remote, not even in the slightest. On the contrary, it's a fully-functioning theme park teeming with activity, which ups the movie's stakes significantly. Otherwise, the storyline will feel very familiar to fans of Spielberg's landmark film, as Trevorrow and co-writers Derek Connolly, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver borrow many of its narrative beats.

Two kids visiting the island for the first time who get swept up in the chaos? Check. A boss who puts the interests of the business ahead of human lives and doesn't realize the danger until it's too late? Double check. The park's parent company, InGen, generally acting like greedy corporate bastards and proving that they can't be trusted? Triple check. There are even specific visual callbacks to the first film — with brief appearances from everyone's favorite cartoon helix, Mr. DNA, the original red and grey Jurassic Park Jeep Wranglers, and Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm, whose out-of-focus photo can be glimpsed twice on the back of a book jacket — not to mention a reprise of John Williams' now-iconic theme.

That's not to say Jurassic World doesn't have a few interesting twists up its sleeve. For one, the Raptors are actually more good guys than not this time around, working in unison with Owen when the film's action kicks into overdrive. And the film's big, bad dinosaur antagonist — the genetically-modified Indominus Rex — turns out to be more than just your run-of-the-mill T-Rex on steroids, with its top-secret DNA composition gifting it with such uncanny abilities as camouflagic skin and thermal vision, leading to some of the movie's tensest and most thrilling sequences.

Still, what it all boils down to is expectations. The first three Jurassic Park films have conditioned audiences to expect certain things from the franchise; and Jurassic World plays happily within those well-established boundaries, finding that blockbuster balance between action and comedy, and ticking all the requisite boxes as it roars along its merry way. In short, this sequel isn't attempting to reinvent the proverbial wheel; it simply seeks to upgrade it, with bigger and better special effects, a refreshingly self-aware sense of humor, and shockingly visceral action set-pieces.

The net result should definitely satisfy fans looking to rinse the bitter aftertaste of 2001's Jurassic Park III from their mouths. Even with its missteps, which include an egregious overabundance of one-liners and an utterly implausible romantic subplot, Jurassic World still manages to captivate. And that's saying a lot, especially considering that we're already over two decades removed from the movie that started it all.

Jurassic World releases June 12th, 2015 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 4 Mins.

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