Jurassic World

Directed By: Colin Trevorrow

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Omar Sy, B. D. Wong, and Irrfan Khan

Twenty two years ago this week, the perfect storm came together at the box office.  Jurassic Park opened.  As I reflect nostalgically upon this monumental moment in movie history, I realize that the stars had to align for Jurassic Park to be truly one of the greatest science fiction films of all time.  The story had to be there.  Thanks to the source material from beloved sci-fi writer Michael Crichton, it was.  The main attractions needed to come to life in a believable way. Thanks to the cutting edge technology of the era, we went on a trip back in time 65 million years.  Lastly, we needed a storyteller to take Crichton's stories as well as the newly created dinosaurs and weave them into something more than popcorn fare.  We certainly had the man to do just that in one of America's great storytellers Mr. Steven Spielberg.  If one of these needs were not met, I guarantee you that Jurassic Park would not be the film we know and love today. 

I revisit the original Jurassic Park not just to reminisce but to also make a point about the latest installment in the franchise, this weekend’s Jurassic World.  Like the prior two sequels, Jurassic World can't live up to the legend of Jurassic Park.  We aren't delving into a tale from Michael Crichton that hasn't made its way to the big screen.  We aren't breaking ground with dinosaurs on screen.  We don't even have master filmmaker Steven Spielberg back in the director's chair.  What we do have in Jurassic World is an updated storyline befitting the times, a new generation of stars bringing the island back to life, and the transition of Safety Not Guaranteed director Colin Trevorrow into big budget filmmaking.  Though it's certainly not going to best the original in any way, shape, or form, Jurassic World is definitely an entertaining flick in its own right.

Some 22 years after the incident on Isla Nublar, life finds a way.  John Hammond sold InGen to Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) of the Masrani Corporation.  Returning to Isla Nublar, Masrani and his team rebuild the park and rebrand it as Jurassic World.  Teeming with an ecosystem of dinosaurs and 20,000 visitors a day, the park is a huge cash cow for Masrani and the corporation.  Chasing the almighty dollar and seeking to deliver something grander, Masrani authorizes the development of a new dinosaur using gene splicing to create something that's larger than the Tyrannosaurus Rex and will attract millions of consumers.  He authorizes the creation of the Indominus Rex, a genetically modified beast that easily stands atop the food chain on Isla Nublar.

Brothers Zach and Gray Mitchell (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) are being sent off to Jurassic World on their own for the week by their parents Karen and Scott (Judy Greer and Andy Buckley).  Technically, they're not on their own though in essence they are.  Their aunt Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) works for Masrani managing park operations at Jurassic World.  A cold fish focused on work and work alone, Claire hardly spares any time for her nephews whom she's not seen in seven years.  Instead, she spends her days focused on the mundane tasks of running Jurassic World.  She also manages to allocate some time to bickering with velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) with whom she's had previous romantic entanglements.  When the Indominus Rex breaks out and begins discovering her place on the food chain, however, all hell breaks loose on Isla Nublar.  Claire soon wishes she had kept a better eye on her nephews.

For his first time up at bat with a blockbuster of this scale, Colin Trevorrow doesn't quite knock it out of the park.  Still, he crafts one entertaining flick.  Diverging from the source material, Trevorrow clearly has a worthwhile story to tell that plays on the core themes of the Jurassic Park franchise.  In Jurassic World, corporations find a way.  The film is predicated on the theme that corporations recklessly set traps for themselves and their consumers in the name of corporate excess and greed.  In tackling this theme, Trevorrow seeks to establish the moral bounds of scientific breakthroughs and the consequences of innovating without a conscience.  The Indominus Rex is the embodiment of all of this, and it's a damn good one.  Covering this theme in an often suspenseful and humorous manner, Trevorrow's foray to Isla Nublar is certainly a good time at the movies.

We don't have Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum reprising their roles for Jurassic World as Trevorrow recognizes the insane narrative that would be required to get these three back to the park.  Instead, we have a new generation taking the reins.  For his part as Owen Grady, Chris Pratt gives us one tough trainer.  Working with velociraptors brings out a bit more seriousness than jamming to Awesome Mix, Vol. 1 in Guardians of the Galaxy.  As the rugged raptor expert, Pratt once again demonstrates that he's more than just a comedic actor.  He's both the hero and the moral compass of the film.  Bryce Dallas Howard, on the other hand, brings something different altogether as park operations manager Claire Dearing.  With an icy, aloof demeanor, Howard brings quite a bit of comic relief to the screen running about Isla Nublar in heels.  Her cold portrayal of Claire really is the perfect antithesis to Pratt's Grady in every way.

There's a colorful cast of supporting characters as well.  Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins give solid convincing performances as Claire's two nephews on Isla Nublar.  Irrfan Khan is a gutsy but naive CEO primed to take up the mantle of the late Richard Attenborough's John Hammond.  B.D. Wong offers a fresh yet familiar face by reprising his role from the original as Henry Wu.  Vincent D'Onofrio gives a deliciously villainous performance as Vic Hoskins, a very different kind of villain from that of Wilson Fisk, the crime boss he portrays on Netflix's Daredevil.  Finally, Omar Sy (The Intouchables) gives us an earnest guy with plenty of amusing commentary on the crisis at hand as velociraptor tamer Barry.
If you've noticed one thing about this review, I haven't raved about the visual effects.  Yes, the dinosaurs are laudable, and the CGI and motion capture work done here is quite impressive.  However, special effects artists cracked this nut 22 years ago.  Bringing dinosaurs back to life on the big screen now is just a repeat of some movie magic of old.  In a way, this is emblematic of everything I've said about Jurassic World. Despite a few missteps, the film has quite a bit going for it.  However, Jurassic Park is the gold standard.  Standing in the shadow of the original, it just doesn't match up.  Still, there's a good time to be had during Colin Trevorrow's entry into the franchise.  Jurassic World gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a few rounds of beer with this one.