“Jurassic World” (PG-13) 3 1/2 stars (out of four)
Since the debut of Steven Spielberg’s dinosaur epic “Jurassic Park” in 1993, the setting and central plotline options for its sequels have been limited, to say the least: A remote island houses prehistoric creatures; prehistoric creatures escape confines; and prehistoric creatures wreak major havoc on humans. Yet, for those limits, “Jurassic World” makes it feel like “Jurassic Park” has come full circle.
Set appropriately 22 years after the brilliant original, “Jurassic World” returns to Isla Nubar to fulfill John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) vision, and with the last of the original “Jurassic Park” trilogy 14 years in our memories, the franchise reboot/sequel feels fresh. Stacked with the benefits of advancements in special effects technology and an affable leading man with “Guardians of the Galaxy” star Chris Pratt and equally-talented Bryce Dallas Howard, “Jurassic World,” despite the familiar scenario, is one hell of a thrill ride.
“Jurassic World” basically examines the “What If?” of a Disney theme park attraction gone horribly awry – where a billionaire financial backer, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), is constantly looking for ways to reinvent his island’s offerings to attract new visitors and keep a healthy financial bottom line after years of dwindling returns. Worried by his tourists being bored with Velociraptors, a T-Rex, Triceratops and the like, Masrani pushes Jurassic World’s team of scientists to create the Indominus Rex – a stronger, faster and smarter behemoth hybrid genetically spliced from the T. Rex and another creature that its engineers keep under wraps.
While the likes of park manager Claire Dearing (Howard) undauntingly pushes ahead with the debut of the Indominus Rex, famed dino-whisperer Owen Grady (Pratt, more serious than “Guardians” but still playful) has deep concerns. He knows how dinosaurs think, and soon enough, Grady’s nightmare becomes a reality and the Indominus escapes, either chomping, stomping or simply killing for sport everything that gets in its way. That’s a big problem considering there are 20,000 potential tourist victims just miles away on the other side of the island, including the sons (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) of Claire’s estranged sister (Judy Greer).
Of course, the most impressive part of “Jurassic World” is its dinosaurs, which through computer-generated effects and practical effects creates an awe-inspiring visual feast throughout. Accompanied by thundering sound and a 3D presentation that works wonderfully for a change, “Jurassic World” is intense throughout, whether through its chase scenes, or burning anticipation of where the Indominus is lurking, getting ready to strike its prey with little or no warning.
Despite the film’s spectacular visual effects, the solid trio of Pratt (who is like a cross between Dr. Malcolm and Dr. Grant from the original), Howard and Vincent D’Onofrio more than capably reign in the madness so the special effects don’t drown out the story. While “Jurassic World” is for the most part a summer popcorn thriller with lots of action and excitement, it is also, like the original, in part a cautionary tale about messing with nature, pushing the boundaries of science and commercializing it for financial gain. There’s also a subplot where a slimy character, Hoskins (D’Onofrio), waits for Indominus project to go south so he can put into to play a military strategy that involves the island aggressive dinosaurs.
Like the original “Jurassic Park” films, “Jurassic World” is horribly mis-marketed to young children through toys, fruit snacks and other products – so parents should be forewarned that kids under 10, frightened by the intensity and graphic nature of the film, want to duck under their seats. Despite the film’s PG-13 rating, director Collin Treverrow leaves little to the imagination, as the Indominus chomps its human and dinosaur victims with reckless abandon. At times, “Jurassic World” feels more like a monster movie (“Godzilla Meets Predator meet Jurassic Park”?) than an action adventure.
Given the level of violence and blood in the film, it’s a miracle Treverrow – who expertly directs “Jurassic World” – didn’t have his movie slapped with an R rating. The movie asks Jurassic World to up the ante to please it customers, and please his customers Treverrow does. It’s may not be the best movie in the “Jurassic” franchise, but it’s easily a strong second.