‘Jurassic World’ is Both Unnecessary and Satisfying (FILM REVIEW)

[rating=7.00]

Like so many franchises, the universe of Jurassic Park went from groundbreaking work of cinematic genius to pale imitation in just a few short movies. As stunning as that initial, Spielberg-helmed film was, its two sequels were a quick descent into the tar pits of mediocrity. The act of creating a movie worthy of the Jurassic brand has been, to say the least, difficult to accomplish. For while the two sequels managed to rake in the box office dough ($600 million worldwide for Lost World; $360 million for Jurassic Park 3) both films suffered from a surprising lack of ingenuity and narrative creativity that the original had in spades. So steep was the drop off that the very announcement of Jurassic World’s existence was met with a collective eye roll from the masses as the entire world sighed, “What’s the point?”

Indeed, having seen Jurassic World, I can say with confidence that there’s not one, really. It occupies the same space in my mind as that fifth taco I ate last Taco Tuesday. Was it necessary? No, it absolutely was not. Did I enjoy it? Not as much as I did the first one, but it was still pretty delicious. Jurassic World is now the second best of the Jurassic films, easily overshadowing the pitiful efforts of the second and third entries to become the first movie since the original worthy of the name. It’s two hours of non-stop excitement that, while never amounting to much of anything new, manages (at the very least) to be engaging enough to keep your interest.

This outing returns us once more to the ill-fated island of Isla Nublar, the one that John Hammond first attempted to turn into a tourist attraction 23 years ago. Depending, I suppose, on your perspective, the park’s runners either learned their lessons from his attempts or ignored them altogether. The island is now a thriving tourist trap, with over 20,000 people in attendance on the days we see it. Safety is paramount, and the park prides itself on being able to protect their audience from the dangers we saw on our first trip out there. We experience the park through several angles.

As tourists, we experience the park through the eyes of brothers Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) who have been invited to the park as guests of their aunt, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). Claire offers us our in to the next level of experience, that of for profit corporation. She is cold and distant with her nephews, as she is a woman concerned most with bottom lines and increasing margins. As is wont to happen with the black and white view of corporate interests, this finds her butting heads with velociraptor trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) whose real world experience with these dangerous animals runs contrary to Claire’s capitalist intrigues, and offers us our third level of exploration, that of corporate expectations vs. the reality of life.

Things progress more or less as you’d expect them to. The oohs and awes of wonder give way to screams and terror as—of course—things go wrong. This time, the chaos is thanks to the Indominus Rex, the first artificially created dinosaur breed who escapes from her paddock to bring destruction once more to the island.

As a companion to the original Jurassic Park, Jurassic World works well. Whereas the original film can be viewed as a parable against the dangers of research unchecked by ethics, this movie serves as an exploration of corporate greed. The company can’t just be happy with the fact that they’ve successfully built a park where tourists can safely (well…until now, I guess) see living, breathing dinosaurs. No, they need to create new dinosaurs with new corporate sponsors (“the Indominus Rex, brought you by Verizon”) to ensure continued viability.

The dynamics at play here allow for some subtle nods to and digs at the franchise as a whole. Twenty years ago, they say, it was enough to just see dinosaurs. Now that this is a reality, they need to see bigger, badder dinosaurs to ensure interest. This casual exchange can be seen as a metaphor not only for the Jurassic series but for the evolution of cinema—summer movies, specifically—as a whole since the original debuted. T. Rex? Velociraptors? We’ve seen those, and we’re bored now. What good are mere dinosaurs when we’ve got Thanos and the Infinity Stones? The citizens of the world of Jurassic Park are just as numb to existence of dinosaurs as we are of seeing them in movies. All right, then. Here’s one you haven’t seen, you judgmental bastards.

This works surprisingly well for Jurassic World; there’s clear reverence for the original movie (or the original park, as they say in the movie) that manages to be self-aware enough to not take itself too seriously while still squeezing the blood of excitement from a franchise that had, until now, turned to stone. Where Lost World was tedious and where Jurassic Park 3 was, well, dumb, Jurassic World manages to be fun as all hell. This is mostly thanks to a solid script by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow (who also serves as director) and Derek Connolly. The writers understand why the first movie worked as well as why the second and third did not, and manage to pay homage to the original while looking at things in a new light. The strands of the Jurassic Park’s DNA are woven tightly into a Jurassic World to create a movie that’s all at once familiar and new, not unlike the Indominus Rex.

It’s not without some silliness, however. There’s a subplot involving a military contractor’s (Vincent D’Onofrio) attempts at militarizing the creatures of the park that was a little pointless and all too predictable, but I suppose this, too, serves to bolster the corporate greed themes at play in the movie. While it did offer an opportunity to see D’Onofrio ham it up for the camera (which is always a good time) it was a bit eye-rolling.

Still, even the silly parts never manage to outshine the fun, which Jurassic World has in excess. It’s never quite as mind-blowing as the original movie, but the filmmakers seem to recognize that it was never going to be. We have, after all, seen this before and nothing is ever as good as your first time. And that’s fine, you know? Just like that fifth taco I forced myself to eat, the wretched indulgence of it all didn’t sully my enjoyment, even if I didn’t really need it.

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