Jurassic World is a Great Addition to the Jurassic Park Franchise

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Jurassic World movie review Critical Blast Meredith Tate

When I saw that there was going to be a fourth JURASSIC PARK movie, my 90’s heart fluttered with excitement. After all, I’d grown up with these movies. I was even more excited when I saw that Steven Spielberg would be directing it, after his hiatus from the series after directing LOST WORLD (JURASSIC PARK II).

The movie takes place twenty-two years after the events of the original JURASSIC PARK, when a bunch of scientists supposedly worked out the kinks (you know, all those dino related deaths) enough to open a Disney-esque theme park called Jurassic World to the public, on the original island off the coast of Costa Rica.

Characters

Chris Pratt plays Owen Grady, a retired member of the U.S. Navy who has dedicated his work in Jurassic World to training four velociraptors to respond to basic commands. Owen respects the creatures as being wild and dangerous animals, and therefore opposes outside efforts to weaponize the raptors for the military. I thought Pratt was perfect for this role!

Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire, a type-A scientist who has way more time for her career than her family (and her failed relationship with Owen). She has dedicated her research in Jurassic World toward developing a new breed of hybrid dinosaur. She uses the DNA from unidentified animals (one of the mysteries of the movie) provided by Dr. Henry Wu, a role reprised from the original Jurassic Park (BD Wong). The new dino is designed to be highly intelligent and extremely strong – kept in a roofless pen with not nearly enough security. I know, what could possibly go wrong?

Finally we have brothers Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), who are sent on a weeklong vacation to visit their Aunt Claire (see above). The brothers’ relationship is strained at best. On their vacation, teen Zach just wants to check out girls, while younger Gray is more interested in seeing all the sites and getting closer to his brother.

In terms of character arcs, I liked that all four main characters were flawed and well developed, and the minor characters too. I thought the acting was decent all around, aside from some cheesy lines.  I also like that Claire had agency as a female character, and that in one scene she actually rescues Owen from a pterodactyl attack (!!!).

The romance felt a little forced to me; in my opinion, that subplot and the “our parents are divorcing” plotline probably could have been omitted. I did however enjoy the fact that Zach and Gray weren’t close, and that their relationship developed realistically throughout the movie.

Plot

The plot is pretty self-explanatory. A super intelligent dinosaur hybrid is created in the lab (it seemed like a good idea at the time) in order to create a new attraction that will live up to tourists’ increasing expectations. It outsmarts its creators and manages to escape into the theme park full of tourists. Terror ensues. As if one monstrous dinosaur (who kills for sport, by the way) running a rampage wasn’t enough, the fight ends up breaking the glass on the pterodactyl dome, setting those flying reptilians free to pick off tourists as well.

Then we have the raptors Owen has been training, and the (Brilliant? Stupid?) idea of setting them loose in the park to take down the huge dinosaur as a pack. I won’t spoil what happens here, because it’s a pretty interesting twist in the movie, but I liked the direction this plotline took. I also really enjoyed Owen’s relationship with the raptors.

There were some scenes I found quite emotional, including a moment when Owen comforts a pack of harmless brontosauruses, dying due to injuries inflicted by the murderous dino.

Aside from a couple small plot holes (where’d all those escaped pterodactyls end up anyway? And do we just forget about that stray t-rex running free at the end?), and some suspension of disbelief (how can a woman in high heels outrun a t-rex? How does a guy fall 20 feet and land on his back, only to walk it right off?), I really loved this story. I was riveted the whole time, and many scenes had me on the edge of my seat. My husband mentioned that he thought the beginning moved a bit slow, however I found the pacing to be fine. They left it open for a sequel, so future movies are definitely possible.

Jurassic World Park

The Jurassic World Park itself was visually stunning and felt so realistic, I had no problem imagining it was real. In fact, if not for the carnivorous dinosaurs in less than secure locations (pterodactyls enclosed only by a glass terrarium? Really?), I would have wished it were real so I could visit it myself. The park has everything, including a children’s petting zoo (who doesn’t want to feed a baby brontosaurus and ride a baby triceratops?), a Shamu-type sea exhibit (watch a huge water dino eat a dead shark right before your eyes), an exhibit where you can watch a carnivore slaughter a live goat (I’d probably skip that one), an IMAX theater, restaurants, a museum, a monorail, and a safari – and a Jamba Juice, for good measure. I felt the subtle world building with the park was great – the workers debated whether or not adding corporate sponsors’ names to attractions would cheapen the exhibits, and mentioned charging $7 for a soda. A lot of these small details really added to the experience for me.

One of my biggest questions upon entering the theater was how they planned to address the events of the first three movies. After all, we spent a whole trilogy learning why a dinosaur theme park was a very bad idea – so I wanted to know why anyone in their right mind decided to go for it anyway? Why is this time different? Did they get any government pushback? What safety precautions were put into place to make this park actually usable? Unfortunately, the movie didn’t really address any of these points.

It’s mentioned that John Hammond (the old scientist from the original trilogy) had a dying wish that Masrani (played by Irrfan Khan) make the park happen, but that’s all the details we get. I was happy to see the old movies acknowledged, but I would have liked a little more information and backstory here.

There were several references to the old trilogy. At one point, someone comes to work wearing an old Jurassic Park t-shirt he bought off e-bay, and Claire tells him it’s distasteful, given the deaths that occurred in the park. Also, when Gray and Zach are on the run, they stumble upon an old Jurassic Park building and manage to hotwire and use an old car with a Jurassic Park label on the side.

Visual Effects / 3D

Okay, full disclosure, I usually hate 3D movies. I’ve found over the past few years it seems like everything is released in 3D for a cash grab, whether it should be or not, and then we’re forced to pay $5 extra to sit wearing uncomfortable glasses for two hours for about five seconds worth of actual 3D effects.

So I was happily surprised with the 3D graphics of JURASSIC WORLD. Unlike many movies where I feel like the 3D graphics can’t keep up with fast moving shots, the 3D worked really well for me here. Also, there were many scenes where I felt the 3D really added to it – dino attack scenes and picturesque backdrop scenes alike. I’d recommend shelling out the extra bucks for 3D this time.

As far as CG and visual effects in general, I thought these were very well done and visually appealing. There were some obvious CGI moments, but it wasn’t distracting. Go back and watch the original JURASSIC PARK, then go see JURASSIC WORLD, and you can see how far we’ve come in terms of graphics over the past couple decades (the dinosaur eyes in particular were amazing!).

Score

Unfortunately, John Williams did not return to compose the complete score for this movie. However, his beloved Jurassic Park theme song does come up multiple times during the film.

In lieu of this, I was quite happy to see that Michael Giacchino would be composing the score. I loved his work in UP, SUPER 8, LOST, and STAR TREK among others. He didn’t let me down in JURASSIC WORLD; the music was beautiful and at times chilling, and probably one of those scores I’ll end up buying on iTunes.

In Conclusion

I’ve read other reviews of JURASSIC WORLD, and they seem to be mixed. One of the biggest complaints I’m seeing is essentially the fact that this is not JURASSIC PARK. I feel like I see that complaint a lot with sequels and reboots; people are disappointed when the new movie isn’t exactly the same as the original. Folks, don’t go into this movie expecting JURASSIC PARK, because it’s a different movie. There will never be another movie exactly like JURASSIC PARK, short of showing the original in theaters again. JURASSIC WORLD needs to be allowed to be its own thing. Enjoy it for what it is; an action packed 2015 dinosaur theme park thriller.

In terms of family viewing, I think if your kids were okay with the original trilogy, they’ll be fine with JURASSIC WORLD. There was no nudity or heavy adult material. I think I remember hearing some minor language, but nothing too bad. Many of the action scenes were a little intense, so if the kids get scared easily, this might not be a good fit for them. In 3D movies, I usually advise the trick of having the kids take off their 3D glasses if they get scared, making the images blurry and less intense.

Oh, and also – JURASSIC WORLD passes the Bechdel Test!

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this one, and I think fans of the original trilogy will enjoy it as well! Check it out!

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0