Review: Jurassic World

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Try as you might, replicating the novelty and awe of the original Jurassic Park is a fool’s errand. Audiences will no longer be as impressed with the mere sight of dinosaurs after seeing them in their full magnificence for the first time. Thus, the question becomes, what can you do with these prehistoric animals that has not been attempted before? Coming fourteen years after the last Jurassic film, the newest adventure takes a bold step ostensibly filled with opportunities for thrills and terror. While there are some sly ideas at play, Jurassic World comes up with meager results, failing to capitalize on surprises or interesting characters.

Taking place 22 years after the events of the first film, Jurassic World is a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, built mere miles away from the original on Isla Nublar. The park has enjoyed solid attendance over the past few years and minimal safety issues, but the corporation running the park has demanded that a new attraction be engineered to boost profits. The Indominus Rex is a genetic hybrid of multiple dinosaur species along with other animals, making it the most intelligent and deadly beast in the park. Its chief overseer is Claire, a geneticist (Bryce Dallas Howard) whose nephews (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) are coming to the park for holiday break. When the Rex begins exhibiting behavioral issues, Claire brings in ex-Navy and velociraptor trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) to examine it. Inevitably, this crazed animal escapes its enclosure and begins wreaking havoc on the island, placing all of the visitors in mortal danger.

If there is an overarching flaw to Jurassic World, it is that none of the human characters are engaging. That is not to say any of the performances are putrid, simply that two dimensionality keeps them from being relatable. Further, none of the characters are convincingly drawn as professionals in their fields, merely actors who must dutifully run away from the predators chasing them. The only one who comes close is Pratt, whose relationship with the raptors is akin to a lion trainer, one who understands the animals’ instincts. Even with flimsy characters, Jurassic World does have the occasional spark of legitimacy and weight, especially with regard to the overwhelming need for corporations to telegraph to consumers. The film actively acknowledges corporate sponsorship for everything in the park with disdain, a knowing self critique of modern consumer culture. However, there are expositional plot holes as to how the park was even allowed to be built after the shutdown of the original, but perhaps the shift of ownership speaks to the fact that corporate greed cannot be destroyed, only inherited. Another subplot involving using dinosaurs for military application has some intrigue, but ends up feeling tangential and undercooked.

When it comes to the Jurassic sequels, the fairest bar of measurement comes with the implementation of the major action beats. Jurassic World is certainly not lacking in that department, and though mostly CGI rather than practical, the dinosaurs look convincing. The initial idea of complicit velociraptors may sound unappealing, but the narrative works it out in a fairly clever and respectful manner. The new Indominus Rex is also a scary, unearthly sight, yet doesn’t carry the same iconic presence as the more familiar dinosaurs. There is much to revel in visually, and the best confrontations are dinosaur vs dinosaur, rather than the typical human chase fest audiences are by now tired of. Ultimately, director Colin Trevorrow, whose indie background would not suggest tackling a project of this scale, only collects a handful of memorable moments. There are unfortunately few genuine surprises in the narrative or patient moments of tension. Every key narrative development can be fairly easily predicted, providing superficial excitement, but relatively little drama. Despite its yearning for recapturing the genuine magic of what makes the series work best, the pedestrian results of Jurassic World are as marginally entertaining as a human impersonating a dinosaur.

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~ by romancinema on June 13, 2015.

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