REVIEW: ‘Jurassic World’ amps up dino fun

The Indominus rex readies her attack in Jurassic World. Steven Spielberg returns to executive produce the long-awaited next installment of his groundbreaking Jurassic Park series. Colin Trevorrow directs the epic action-adventure, and Frank Marshall and Patrick Crowley join the team as producers. — Photo courtesy of ILM/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment
The Indominus rex readies her attack in Jurassic World. Steven Spielberg returns to executive produce the long-awaited next installment of his groundbreaking Jurassic Park series. Colin Trevorrow directs the epic action-adventure, and Frank Marshall and Patrick Crowley join the team as producers. Photo courtesy of ILM/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Jurassic World, the fourth film in the successful Jurassic Park saga, is a slam-dunk summer blockbuster. Featuring a talented cast, headed by Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt, plus stunning visual effects, the dino-fest will attract the attention of both young and old. In fact, the spectacle is so smashing that it’s easy to forgive the plot its contrivances and coincidences. More on that later.

The story picks up several years after Jurassic Park, when the original dinosaur amusement park ended in tragedy. That seminal Steven Spielberg film featured a terrible T-Rex and vicious velociraptors, all munching after the human mortals played by Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum. In the end, shaving-cream can filled with dino DNA seemed to be the only lasting evidence of the park’s potential. For brevity (and common sense), let’s skip over Lost World: Jurassic Park (not bad) and Jurassic Park III (pretty bad).

In the present day, Jurassic World resurrects the original idea of a dinosaur amusement park and imagines what would happen if the park actually cleaned up its act and opened its doors. Located off the coast of Costa Rica, this worldwide attraction packs in tourists eager to experience the many beeps and whistles of the exotic locale. Featuring a monstrous aquarium and spherical modes of transportation that allow up-close encounters with the dinosaurs, Jurassic World is a place where the best (and worst) ideas are pulled together on one island.

Running the show is Howard’s character of Claire. She’s a PR professional who needs to ensure park attendance is high and international press is friendly; her boss is the owner of the Jurassic World, Simon (Irrfan Khan). Howard’s role is cliche, almost like a composite character who stands in for “corporate greed.” However, Howard, one of the finest actors in Hollywood, is able to bring a sense of believability to the cookie-cutter role. By the thriller’s end, the audience finds a pulse beneath her spouting of facts, figures and attendance trends.

Pratt plays Owen, a Jurassic World employee who trains the velociraptors in a misguided attempt to control their wild, vicious ways. His ultimate motive behind these experiments, where he raises a calming hand like a TV reality star trying to tame a beast, is left unexplored. How he ended up in Jurassic World and who is directing his action are largely forgotten about once. Again, the cookie-cutter role is given justice by Pratt, who is quickly becoming the top Hollywood draw for franchise films. He’s a good actor who always seems two seconds away from a smile and funny comment, even when the peril is off the charts.

Owen (Chris Pratt) leads the raptors on a mission in Jurassic World. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment
Owen (Chris Pratt) leads the raptors on a mission in Jurassic World. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Needlessly complicating the plot is the presence of Claire’s two nephews, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins). Zach is too bored to look at the dinosaurs and is more interested in making sure his hair is just right for the girls. Gray, who is younger, relishes the chance to enjoy the park and see the dinosaurs. He’s that inner-child in all of us, the young person who finds the possibility of science awe-inspiring. Simpkins is one of the best actors in the movie, and his character might be the best of the bunch. The main coincidence of the story is how they ended up on the island at the exact time when all goes to hell.

Vincent D’Onofrio is Hoskins, a man who pines for control of Jurassic World and takes a close liking to Owen’s training of the velociraptors. Lauren Lapkus, Jake Johnson, BD Wong (a holdover from the original movie) and Judy Greer play supporting roles.

A new genetically modified dinosaur, given the PR-friendly name of Indominus Rex, sets the plot in motion. He’s a crossbred monster hellbent on destruction. When his smart ways prove too difficult to contain, the hordes of tourists are at risk.

Whereas the original Jurassic Park was a smaller, more intimate movie, Jurassic World is content with pandemonium on a march larger scale. There are thousands of potential victims in the shadows of Indominus Rex and other dinosaurs that are let loose. This heightens the special effects but also takes away from the moral of the story: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. It’s tough to give a second thought during a movie this fast-paced.

The action sequences are intense, especially an elongated scene featuring pterodactyls that swoop down on the crowds. The actual Indominus Rex is large and in charge, but it’s hidden for most of the narrative, an ode to Spielberg’s Jaws. The dinosaur becomes scarier when it lurks just out of the camera’s edges.

Jurassic World, winningly directed by Colin Trevorrow, doesn’t break new boundaries in the summer-blockbuster genre. It’s popcorn entertainment without much thinking and plenty of spectacle. However, as big-budget sequels go, it’s a hoot and a half. One goes into these movies with a sense of adventure, looking for an adrenaline rush and hoping upon hope for the survival of the heroes and heroines. On these factors, the film excels. Indominus Rex may not dominate like the T-Rex in the original, but it’ll do.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Jurassic World
  • 2015
  • Directed by Colin Trevorrow
  • Written by Trevorrow, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Derek Connolly; based on a story by Jaffa and Silver
  • Starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Jake Johnson, Irrfan Khan, Judy Greer, BD Wong and Lauren Lapkus
  • Running time: 125 minutes
  • Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril
  • Rating: ★★★½

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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