Thursday, September 3, 2015

"Jurassic World": Sorry I Showed Up Late To The Party

Now In Theaters, Available on DVD and Blu-ray on October 20, 2015

Alright, let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: Yes, I am probably the last person on Planet Earth to have seen Jurassic World.  I was planning on reviewing it next month when the home video release is set to drop, but I saw its brief theatrical re-release had made its way to my local theater, so I decided to make the excursion and find out what all the fuss was about.  And yes, it’s a really fun movie.  Not a great movie, but pretty much exactly what you can expect and ask for in a summer blockbuster.

Reviving the spirit of the original Jurassic Park, World sees the original conception of John Hammond’s dinosaur theme park brought to life, with seemingly stable dinosaur habitats and tens of thousands of visitors daily.  Park executives see a steady decline in profits, though, and seek to remedy this by introducing a new, genetically manufactured dinosaur, Indominus Rex.  However, the dinosaur proves to be much smarter than originally thought, as it escapes and begins to wreak havoc across the park, killing dinosaurs and humans alike.  It is up to park operator Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), her two nephews, and velociraptor wrangler Owen (Chris Pratt) to stop the monster before it can completely lay waste to park and its inhabitants.

This is most assuredly the second-best Jurassic Park film for two major reasons.  First, it is such a clear homage to the original that it is hard to take it too seriously.  This is a campy B-movie first and foremost, and World capitalizes on our love for the original film with swooning orchestral renditions of that classic Park score and cute fourth wall nods to the place the two-decade old film holds in history and in our hearts.  The second reason, though, is that the film is self-aware of how utterly ridiculous it is, with over-the-top action setpieces that aren’t rehashes of its inspiration, despite how easily it could have been done with the recycled archetypes that populate the cast.  This is a film that features Chris Pratt leading a team of velociraptors on a military-style tactical assault on what is essentially a steroid-powered T-rex from hell.  And when that’s only the tip of the iceberg used to get asses in theater seats, you know you have one hell of a thrill ride coming your way.

Yet, despite the praise I have for this film, it isn’t perfect.  The child duo of Gray and Zach are pretty bland and one-dimensional characters, the former seemingly defined only by his apparent autism and the latter just a too-cool teenage archetype.  Furthermore, a budding romance between Claire and Owen feels shoehorned into the plot as a part of some producer-mandated checklist and actually seems to emerge in spite of rather than because of their interactions.  Finally, though I found the way the Indominus Rex was used in the film’s many exciting action setpieces to be quite effective, I found the monster’s actual design to be somewhat underwhelming.  For what is supposed to be the ultimate badass of dinosaurs, it mostly just looks like a T-rex with longer grabbing arms, which feels like some lame wasted potential.

But really, those are just minor details that niggle away at my mind for what is ultimately supposed to a pretty mindless popcorn flick.  And it succeeds at being just that through nostaligic reinforcement and some really original and silly action scenes.  It doesn’t live up to the special effects genius of Jurassic Park, overpopulating its frame with CGI monsters rather than the practical models and sparingly-used CGI of the original, but it also isn’t trying to surpass its predecessor either.  This is ultimately a well-funded fan film that remains true to the spirit of what made us all fall in love with a movie about a dinosaur theme park gone wrong.  Let’s hope that the recently announced sequel won’t shatter that good will.

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