Cue the music, open the gates, light the torches… the park is open and the dinosaurs are back. It’s been more than twenty years since Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park roared into theaters in 1993, bringing a blend of practical and computer-generated special effects that changed the landscape of what was possible with visual storytelling. The prehistoric came to life, spawning two sequels and now Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World. The vision of Jurassic Park from the first film has come to operational life in a corporate-driven amusement park bent on bigger and badder dinosaurs. And the results are as expected, Jurassic World amps up the dinosaur action with exciting sequences, making it feel like a thrill ride while also paying homage to the original film with clever nods and telling humor. However, the action adventure aspect is just half the ride, albeit the half most fans will be coming for. The second half, where narrative and character development exist, is where Jurassic World barely meets the height requirement.
John Hammond (the late Richard Attenborough) envisioned Jurassic Park as an amusement park, though things didn’t end up so well. Fast forward twenty-two years and Jurassic World has been operational for a few years, shipping in visitors on boats and running a theme park with shows and interactive rides. Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) are on their way to visit their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is the uptight and organized manager of the park. With corporate sponsors wanting new attractions, the executives of the park decide to genetically build new dinosaurs; one specifically meant to be the mightiest attraction is called "Indominus rex." Things go terribly amiss, leading Claire and former Navy man Owen (Chris Pratt), who is training velociraptors, on the hunt for the new deadly dinosaur.
“No one is impressed by dinosaurs anymore.” This comment from Bryce Dallas Howard’s character is all too telling. While Stan Winston’s practical creations for “Jurassic Park” still hold strong, movies are creating all forms of goliath computer-generated monsters now, making the sights seen in 1993 commonplace. So it’s not surprising that Jurassic World feels more like a monster movie than any of the films before. Indominus rex is a monster built by man that stalks and hunts, killing anything that gets in the way and progressively moving towards a population of people. The CGI dinosaur designs are impressive—Indominus rex is intimidating, the velociraptors are still shrewd, and a new water creature steals an early scene by jumping out of the water and eating a great white shark. These are just a few of the many new species on display.
Colin Trevorrow, who last directed the amusing science fiction comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, understands what this film is meant to offer: a visual feast of dinosaur action. On that account he succeeds with flying colors. However, there is a narrative and human characters that need attention, too. It’s a shame that two great actors like Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt are saddled with weak dialogue in a relationship scenario that is easily expected. Chris Pratt plays the role of trainer fairly straightforward without the comedy usually attributed to his characters, and for much of the time it works. Bryce Dallas Howard is also good, her initially unfeeling and "all business" character changing once her nephews are placed in danger. The narrative starts out promising, structuring the past events into connection with the present while also displaying how the science of past has been innovated to create for the future. There are other elements that, regardless of how awesome they may seem, fall apart once implemented. The side story with velociraptors being trained for military operations feels like an idea doomed from the beginning, though it serves as easy exposition to move the film from one place to another. Still, velociraptors running alongside a motorcycle is pure summer movie excitement.
Jurassic World will be watched and re-watched all summer long. It’s the kind of film that will draw in new audiences and satisfy the prehistoric sensations of fans. While it may not live up to all the lofty expectations, it never disappoints in providing the viewer with dinosaur indulgence.
Movie Score: 3/5