Jurassic World

★★★

The scientists just never learn, do they?

The one-of-a-kind prehistoric park finally, officially opens for business in Jurassic World, the follow-up to the Steven Spielberg-directed hit that set a new standard for visual effects. Colin Trevorrow - a young director widely known for Safety Not Guaranteed  -   is the chosen successor for Spielberg's smash hit, which was a unique mix of an awe-inspiring adventure movie with a slasher flick; it merged the splendor of witnessing ancient beasts come to life with the terror behind the futility of  escaping the ones hankering to slice your guts open.

But since we’ve entered the age of the effects-heavy blockbuster, Jurassic Worlds amps up the action and terror with the Indominus Rex – the first genetically-modified dinosaur with an arsenal of different traits and abilities from across the animal kingdom, and the brainchild of park scientist Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). This was seemingly the only way to differentiate Jurassic World from its predecessors – and as if to be a commentary on audiences today, the park scientists attribute dwindling attendance on park guests desiring something “bigger, badder, and with more teeth.” They got it in the Indominus Rex.

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But Owen (Chris Pratt) a Navy vet who trains a pack of park raptors, doesn’t think that was a good idea. So when he’s called to the Indominus Rex’s cage to examine the beast, some clever ingenuity by the deadly dino permits its violent escape, leaving it free to ravage other areas of the park.

Amblin Entertainment / Legendary Pictures

Amblin Entertainment / Legendary Pictures

We witness just what the Indominus is capable of at the cost of two poor park rangers. Just then, terror strikes – this isn’t your daddy’s dinosaur movie. The deepest fear comes at the behest of two young’ns, Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson), the nephews of Claire who pay a visit to the park. They stray off course in their gyrosphere, leading them to encounter the Indominus – and attempt to escape a surely grisly death. And despite the horror the Indominus ravages upon the park – Owen observes that the animal “is killing for sport” – the animal was a multimillion-dollar investment. So lead geneticist Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong) – the only returning character from Jurassic Park – wants the deadly dino returned alive, and Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), an enterprising park employee and frequent head-butter with Owen, wants to use the Indominus and other dinos as weapons of war.

Amblin Entertainment / Legendary Pictures

Amblin Entertainment / Legendary Pictures

One bad dinosaur, and several conflicting goals. These varying storylines and motivations give Jurassic World its narrative power, as these many subplots are weaved into one another expertly and fluidly. And over it all, it’s the rugged Owen spearheading the plan to save the day. Through his machismo, confidence, and unwavering bravery, Chris Pratt further cements himself as one of Hollywood’s most powerful and sought-after leading men, and his coolness factor in Jurassic World would even make Steve McQueen jealous.

Amblin Entertainment / Legendary Pictures

Amblin Entertainment / Legendary Pictures

But what makes Jurassic World  especially compelling is that its villain is not fully understood. Claire and the geneticists claim the dino's full genetic makeup to be “classified information," and it even possesses the abilities of infrared vision and changing its body temperature at will. The Indominus Rex is enigmatic – and it’s frightening because  we don’t yet know its full destructive capability. We almost never see the Indominus in a complete frame either – he’s obscured by foliage or simply towers beyond the shot. Like the great white shark from Jaws, the Indominus almost never comes into full view, and the terror of the beast relies on the mystery behind it.

Even though this is a new type of horror for the franchise, Jurassic World pays homage to its prehistoric roots with constant callbacks to the original film. Characters reference the disaster that was Jurassic Park, and other symbolic props from the original film reappear in Jurassic World to foreshadow and excite the audience for what’s to come. They become handy plot devices while also cementing the movie’s place in the Jurassic  franchise.

Amblin Entertainment / Legendary Pictures

Amblin Entertainment / Legendary Pictures

To call Jurassic World the summer’s hottest blockbuster would do it little justice, as it’s also a wondrous example of narrative structure pioneered by  memorable characters. While Jurassic World doesn’t capture the sense of awe and wonder as Jurassic Park, that’s hardly the point; Jurassic World is purely a heart-stopping, cathartic thrill ride that does not disappoint. Jurassic World is an achievement in every possible way, and a welcome beginning to a new era of the franchise.

Rated PG-13.

Written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, and Derek Connolly. Directed by Colin Trevorrow.

Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Vincent D'Onofrio.

© 2015 Rex J. Lindeman.   All rights reserved.   |   (760) 274-5948   |   rexlindeman@gmail.com

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