Film Review: Jurassic World

Dinosaurs run amok in a crowd-friendly reboot of the popular franchise.
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This big-budget updating of the 1993 Steven Spielberg blockbuster Jurassic Park hits all the expected buttons without taking off like the original did. Still, it will perform well enough in theatres and have a long ancillary afterlife.

Jurassic World begins well after the previous trilogy took place. The amusement park on Isla Nublar has become a fully functioning resort, with a water park, exhibits and safari-like rides. Owned by Masrani (Irrfan Khan), a fun-loving billionaire, the park is starting to show its age.

While Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), a workaholic career woman, fights for additional revenue streams, geneticist Wu (BD Wong, the only holdover from the original series) is in the lab cooking up enhanced dinosaurs to boost attendance. His latest creation, the Indominus Rex, is being closely monitored in a guarded paddock.

Former Navy vet Owen (Chris Pratt) has his own project: training velociraptors to follow his commands. Shady contractor Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio) lurks on the sidelines, waiting to take over Owen's research and turn the velociraptors—"the ultimate killing machines"—into military weapons.

Anchoring the plot are brothers Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) Mitchell, Claire's nephews. Given all-access passes to the park, it isn't long before they've ditched their handler and set out into restricted areas.

Credited to four writers, the screenplay takes its time to get rolling. All the major players get an introductory showcase with ominous (and thunderous) musical backing. Plots and subplots are tossed about with abandon. There are sibling issues, romance issues, military-industrial-complex issues, a possible divorce, and a battle of the sexes derived from screwball comedies.

On top of that, Jurassic World may be the most self-referential blockbuster to date. Characters discuss their audience in clinical terms, deciding what and how many shocks will achieve the best results. "This will give their parents nightmares," one comments about kid customers, adding a "fantastic" for good measure.

Owen, a sort of dinosaur whisperer, is appalled by Claire's mercenary tendencies. Sent to test the paddock built for the Indominus Rex, he remarks, "These people never learn." If the military can't be trusted, scientists are no better.

About the halfway point, the filmmakers drop almost everything to concentrate on chases. Early on the brothers' mother Karen (Judy Greer) jokes, "If anything chases you, run," and that becomes Jurassic World's dominant theme. It's not giving much away to say that the Indominus escapes, foolproof plans to protect customers fail, and most of the other dinosaurs turn on the humans as well.

The film bears the Spielberg stamp (he's an executive producer this time around), especially in its relentless attempts to keep viewers engaged. But director Colin Trevorrow, whose previous feature was made on a fraction of the budget here, holds his own in heavyweight territory. The big set-pieces are exciting, the computer and live-action effects blend together well, and the writers succeed in adding new levels of catastrophe to the story.

Still, Jurassic World can't help but feel recycled. Pratt and Howard are both engaging performers, but they are playing worn-out characters. The kids are bland, the villains too obvious, and even the dinosaurs look a little threadbare. By the time the climax arrives, viewers may find themselves thinking fondly of Godzilla and even Pacific Rim.

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