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Film Review: Jurassic World
Twenty-two years ago, Jurassic Park hit theaters. The film was a critical and commercial smash hit that broke technological grounds and box office records. Despite being old enough to buy alcohol, Jurassic Park still holds up. The same could not be said about the sequels. While not necessarily god-awful films, The Lost World and Jurassic Park III are pretty mediocre films. (In fact, The Lost World: Jurassic Park is my LEAST FAVORITE Spielberg film). No with a fourth film, has Jurassic Park gotten the sequel it deserves or is Jurassic Park destined to be a one-good-film franchise?
After the events of the first Jurassic Park film, the park has opened under the name Jurassic World. Two children are vacationing there and are being watched by their aunt Claire who manages the park. Although the park is fully functioning with new attractions, the park managers are genetically modifying new dinosaurs. The plan backfires when the new T-rex (It is supposed to multi-dinosaur hybrid, but it is clearly an uglier T-rex) escapes. Claire has called in Owen, an expert in dinosaurs to consult on the dinosaurs.
Jurassic World does not cross over into Home Alone 2 or Hangover 2 in terms of sequelitis, but the film definitely has moments where it seemed like Old Biff Tannen would bee saying "Something very familiar about this." Yeah, the kids are reminiscent of the kids in the first film, Claire's inability to connect with them is pretty similar to Dr. Grant's relationship with them in the same movie. Fortunately, even though Jurassic World has similar DNA to its big brother (or at this point, is Jurassic Park the pop?), it does have an identity of its own. Appropriately, the movie makes a fair amount of meta-references. When Claire describes how dinosaurs are becoming less interesting and how the park has to come up with new ways to grab people's attention, one could easily imagine this dialogue spoken by the filmmakers.
One of the other problems of the film is an overabundance of plot. As great of a film as Jurassic Park was and still is, it is not a perfect film. Having to condense a 400 page book into a two hour popcorn movie. There were certain plot threads that did not add up, but Spielberg had his priorities in order. He knew what the people buying tickets wanted to see and delivered. Jurassic World is a little more overbearing in its deplorable excess of plot. The synopsis earlier was just a summary of the main action. Other superfluous plots include the kids dealing with their parents' impending divorce, the older kid moping over being separated from his girlfriend, Claire dealing with not knowing her nephews so well while arguing with her sister about it, and Owen and Claire rekindling a possible romance. Giving credit where it is due, Jurassic World never ventures into Amazing Spider-man 2 or Batman Returns territory, but a lot of this film's excess baggage could have been cut, and it would have been a stronger film. (Also, most of these subplots feel underdeveloped and often unresolved.)
The best part of this film is the park itself. A little suspension of disbelief is required since the film acknowledges the events of the first Jurassic Park. However, the idea of opening the park does seem like the next best step. The first Jurassic Park took place in an unfinished park before moving to the jungle while the other sequels took place almost entirely in jungles. So after years of only imagining what this park looked like, fans will finally set their eyes on what a dinosaur theme park would look like. And this place looks like a real park: Attractions such as kids riding on smaller stegosauruses, water attractions similar to Sea World, rides where guests can view the dinosaurs up close. The filmmakers even added dozens of little touches such as corporate sponsorship and celebrity-hosted tour videos (which are actually pretty funny). Even the people who work at the park look like people who would work at a park like this.
Sadly, as impressive as the park is, very little of the action takes place there. One again, most of the movie takes place in the typical jungle scenes that have been seen in three other movies up to this point. Giving credit where it is do, most of the action is good - really good. But the only time the movie comes alive and feels unique are the few action scenes that take place at Jurassic World. There is a harrowing scene where pterodactyls storm and start picking up and/or eating park attendants and employees. This scene is not only unique, but it works because with innocent civilians being picked off, this is one of the few times a sense of true danger is felt. The other scene is the climax at the park. Without giving too much away, Jurassic World delivers the sort of multi-dinosaur rumble that has been due since film one. This is the kind of climax that deserves to be seen to be believed. Even out of the park, there are plenty of worthwhile scenes. After the T-Rex, there is a great scene where Owen and Claire survey the damage it has done to other dinosaurs. The film delivers on the thrills, but when certain cards are placed on the table, it is fair to expect them to be played.
Characters in this film are hit and miss. After Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt is no doubt going to be a big draw. Most of his performance is good. Any time he gets to be Chris Pratt and jokes around, he works. Also, he handles himself perfectly in scenes where his face does the storytelling - such as a harrowing sequence where Owen drenches himself in gasoline to mask his scent from the T-Rex. Pratt's performance does kind of fall flat when he has to recite typical action movie dialogue that sounds as if it were written for the trailers, but for the most part, he is entertaining. As Claire Bryce Dallas Howard is perfectly believable as someone who is too stuck up and obsessed with her work for her own good. We can also understand where she is coming from since she runs a tight ship and the film does show what can happen if something goes wrong.
Jake Johnson has a supporting role as a park technician. Jurassic World has some comic relief, and a lot of the truly funny moments come from Pratt and Johnson. Unfortunately, not all is well. The kids are a major detriment - and by kids, I mean kid because the younger of the two is more tolerable for his youthful innocence. The older of the two is a more obnoxious teen. Frankly, even if this is how many teens act, this is not someone I want to follow for a movie. And it hinders the movie - without feeling sympathy for the character, there is less suspense when he is in danger.
But let's talk about the real stars of this movie: The dinosaurs! Even though it came out 22 years ago, the special effects still surprisingly hold up because of a combination of CGI and animatronics. Sadly, this level of quality is not present in Jurassic World. Aside from the main villain dinosaur looking ugly, many of the other dinosaurs look as though they belong in the Jurassic World video game (Not quite Lego Jurassic Park, but these are not far off). Sometimes, they look good, but most of the time, they look cheap.
Overall, Jurassic World is a good action film - tremendously flawed but still exciting. In terms of recommending the film, put it this way: If you can shut your brain off and enjoy an exciting film in lieu of its flaws, this is definitely worth seeing ASAP. If the flaws discussed in this review sound like too much of a turn-off, maybe this one should be a rental. Jurassic World is a step down from Jurassic Park, however it is easily the best of the sequels.
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