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Jurassic World (2015)

June 13, 2015

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Vincent D’Onofrio
Director: Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed)

Bottom Line: I remember when rumblings of a Jurassic Park 4 first started and there were rumors of dinos with guns in the plot and I can’t say I was excited about the prospects for that film. I am happy to report that while some aspects of that concept made it into Jurassic World – in the form of trained raptors and Vincent D’Onofrio’s character wanting to use dinosaurs for military purposes – this movie is much more in the spirit of the first JP film.

From the moment I heard that Jurassic World would feature a functioning park, I couldn’t wait to see it on the big screen. As a huge fan of amusement parks, an operational version of John Hammond’s vision from the first film really intrigued me and the creators of this film bring Jurassic World to life in stunning detail – it looks and feels like a combination of Universal Studios, a high quality zoo, with a splash of SeaWorld. Indeed, the scene-stealing Mosasaur is set up very much like Shamu. The set designers do an incredible job and the park is set up exactly as it looks on the impressive Jurassic World website. We have a petting zoo with young dinosaurs, kayaking down a prehistoric river, and venturing into the fields with live dinos in the (not so) indestructible Gyrosphere. The dinosaurs also look great, but it’s an interesting testament to Steven Spielberg’s original visual effects team how little improvement there has been in that department since the 1993 film.

The plot is similar to past films – a couple of kids make the trip to the island to visit their aunt and tour the park before all hell breaks loose when the Indominus Rex escapes its paddock. The what? Ah yes. In this movie, the park has been open for ten years or so and attendance has dropped while watching a T-Rex feed has become as ho-hum as checking out a tiger at the local zoo. So much like our real world would, the powers-that-be ponder how to turn things around and come up with the idea of creating their own dinosaur: the Indominus Rex, a combination of the tyrannosaur and something else everyone will be able to guess before they even realize it’s supposed to be a surprise. Watching the I-Rex cause carnage is great summer blockbuster fun and seeing velociraptors respond to human training was far less lame than I was expecting.

Like all the Jurassic Park sequels and quite unlike the original, the cast plays second fiddle to the dinosaurs. Chris Pratt is always enjoyable, but as Owen Grady, the raptor whisperer, his usual welcome charm and sense of humor is far less prominent than it has been in most of his other roles. Bryce Dallas Howard is okay as the kids’ aunt and park operations manager; I can’t think of any role of hers that I’ve ever thought she’s been particularly good in and this one is no different. The best addition to the cast has to be Jake Johnson (of “New Girl”), who plays a control operator rocking a vintage Jurassic Park t-shirt he found on eBay and gets most of the films laughs.

Jurassic World was about as satisfying as I could have hoped for. It’s visually stunning, action packed, and plenty of fun. Michael Crichton and John Hammond would be proud.

Replay Value: I already want to see it again and I think it’s a minor travesty that I didn’t watch it in Imax 3D.
Sequel Potential: This franchise probably won’t die before I do.
Oscar Potential: Set design, visual effects, and sound all have strong chances through the first half of 2015.

Grade: 7/10 (Must See)

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