Sunday, June 14, 2015

A New Jurassic World

     If you've turned on your cable or Direct TV the past few weeks, it's been nearly impossible to flip through the stations and not see Steven Spielberg's 1993 summer blockbuster Jurassic Park playing any given hour. The potential start of a franchise, the original Park was--at the time--a fun thrill ride that resembled an amusement park event, containing some of the best special effects of that age. The sequels, The Lost World  and Jurassic Park III, didn't fair as well: neither held the wonder or excitement of that first film. This weekend's Jurassic World, a reinvention of the franchise featuring Hollywood's It Boy Chris Pratt, is being hailed as the true sequel to that first film that let so many hearts and minds wanting more over 20 years ago. It mostly succeeds: after a slow start that sets up the human characters (which are mostly disposable), Jurassic World truly excels once the Dinosaurs are let loose, and it contains innovate actions scenes, solid special effects, and battles between our Dino friends that are far better than similar films, such as last year's disappointing Godzilla.
    The park of the first film is now a gigantic spectacle: throughout the whole island, railways bring thousands of visitors to different areas with different attractions. There are rides, refreshments and an undeniable excitement about the hundreds of dinosaurs. It's as big as Disneyworld, as parents and children buy toys and replicas and congregate in the gigantic common area at the front of the park. We first meet two brothers: they are at the park for the weekend visiting their aunt, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who operates the daily operations of the park. She's supposed to be taking care of the boys, but shes so into her work and revealing a new, genetically modified dinosaur, Indominus Rex, that she essentially ignores them until shit hits the fan.
     Chris Pratt portrays Owen, a former Military Man who has a way with Raptors and dinosaurs in general. He's funny and nice and loves animals, and the way that him and Claire sarcastically spar with each other completely telegraphs the fact that they are actually in love. When Owen realizes that the park has created a modified dinosaur that's been held in captivity to spike the attendance at the park (regular, docile dinos are just not cutting it anymore), he knows it's a terrible idea. And--you guessed it--the Rex eventually escapes, and the action and excitement of Jurassic World finally begins.
     Pratt and Howard have a decent chemistry, and the young brothers are serviceable, but we all know why you'd pay 10 bucks to watch a movie called Jurassic World: the action. And once the Indominus Rex begins terrorizing the island (sometimes in surprisingly violent fashion for a PG-13 film), the intensity doesn't let up until the credits roll. Sometimes one could complain about a non-stop barrage of CGI loud action (e.g. the Transformers "films"), but director Colin Trevorrow (who only previously directed the fun, low-budget film Safety Not Guaranteed) does a great job with keeping us interested in the plight of the attendees at the park. It's a fun summer blockbuster: giant Dinos running amok with great special effects with humorous banter and plenty of nods to the 1993 original that set the whole franchise in motion.
     There's no doubt that after it's opening weekend (Jurassic World hit the second biggest opening weekend in the history of movies at 204 Million Dollars), there will be plenty more Jurassic films in our future. But like this film, I will be skeptical: luckily, Jurassic World didn't seem like a simple cash grab by the studio and was legitimate big-budget fun at times, perfect for this time of the summer. You're not watching Jurassic World for narrative coherence or characters that are well-written: you're looking for Dinosaur-crunching action and tension that doesn't let up. Therefore, it's a success.     (B)

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