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Movie Review: Jurassic World
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Adam Frazier   |  @   |  
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Jurassic World Movie Review

Jurassic World
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Writers: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Omar Sy, B. D. Wong, Irrfan Khan
Universal Pictures
Rated PG-13 | 124 Minutes
Release Date: June 12, 2015

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

That line of dialogue, delivered by Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm, reveals one of the key themes of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Just because humans find the capability to do something – like build an atomic bomb or clone a prehistoric predator – doesn’t mean they should, especially if hubris and greed motivate that act of discovery.

The “lunch debate” scene between Malcolm – a scientist – and venture capitalist John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) defines the central conflict of the 1993 film. It’s also a great metaphor for what Universal Pictures has done with their Jurassic Park franchise. Just because you can make more sequels, doesn’t mean you should. Some things are better left in the past.

Enter Jurassic World, the fourth entry in Universal’s dino-driven franchise. Co-written and directed by Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed), Jurassic World picks up 22 years after the events of the original film. Situated on Isla Nublar, the island from the original film, Jurassic World is a fully operational, state-of-the-art theme park with astonishing biological attractions. Dinosaurs. We’re talking about freaking dinosaurs here, guys.

The luxury resort has been a tourist destination for years, with tens of thousands of guests traveling from all over the world to see these living, breathing prehistoric creatures up close. Kids ride baby Triceratops in a petting zoo while crowds cheer as the massive Mosasaurus leaps from a SeaWorld-style performance pool to devour a great white shark suspended in mid-air.

According to Jurassic World Operations Manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), however, regular old dinosaurs aren’t enough. Cynical audiences are no longer amazed by Stegosaurus and Brachiosaurus, they demand bigger, more menacing spectacles. To keep guests coming back, billionaire benefactor Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) and Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) are pushing the boundaries of ethical science to engineer bigger, “cooler” dinosaurs.

One of these abominations of science is the Indominus rex, a mysterious monstrosity whose genetic makeup has been classified. Raised in isolation after devouring its only sibling, the maturing Indominus rex is almost ready to make its Jurassic World debut. To assess the creature and the security of its paddock, Claire enlists Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), an ex-Navy expert in animal behavior who is training a pack of Velociraptors at a secluded research station on the island.

Before Owen can voice his concerns, the highly intelligent predator escapes and goes on a killing spree. The entire island is on lockdown, with Claire’s nephews, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), among the park’s 20,000 visitors. Now, Claire and Owen must team up to locate the missing kids and stop Indominus rex before it shuts down Jurassic World for good.

The Jurassic Park franchise has been one of diminishing returns. Both The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Jurassic Park III (2001) have impressive special effects and entertaining set pieces, but neither capture the majesty – the honest-to-goodness movie magic – of the original. In the case of Jurassic World, there isn’t one single moment of genuine awe to be found. Sure there are computer-generated dinosaurs and pixelated mayhem, but the heart of it is gone.

It’s such a cynical film – the basic premise of which is that dinosaurs aren’t worthy of awe. When you tell your audience that none of the stuff you’re showing them is interesting, why should we invest in it? Same goes for the characters, who are so thinly drawn and unlikable you’d think they stepped out of Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. People love Jurassic Park because it’s a great movie with great characters that tells a great story. Sure audiences love the lifelike dinosaurs and thrilling action sequences, but what good is putting a dinosaur up on a screen for two hours if it doesn’t do anything? If it doesn’t elicit an emotional response?

We don’t spend enough time with any of the characters in Jurassic World – human or otherwise – to care about them. The dinosaurs are cast aside quickly as analog models in a digital world, while the humans are incompetent, uninteresting caricatures. The only person who is remotely likable is Pratt’s Owen Grady, but that’s mostly thanks to the actor’s charm. On paper, his character is a flawless, one-dimensional hero who is always right – he’s the only person you actually care about, but you never feel like his life is in jeopardy because he’s a total bad-ass.

And then there’s Indominus rex, the villain of the film. Indominus has a handful of crazy abilities, including active camouflage and Predator-style thermal vision. It’s also super-smart, so smart that it knows what a tracking device is and how to remove one implanted in its skin. It uses these super powers inconsistently, however, conveniently misplacing them when our heroes are right under its nose.

As for the Velociraptors, they’re caught up in a ludicrous subplot that involves Vincent D’Onofrio and head-mounted night vision cameras. D’Onofrio plays Vic Hoskins, head of security for InGen, who wants the Raptors for military use. We’re talking Seal Team Six stuff here, with Raptors working as a unit to dispatch terrorists hiding in caves. Even in a movie about genetically engineered dinosaurs, this is far-fetched.

I’m bewildered by how Trevorrow – an indie filmmaker who made a wonderfully heartfelt story with great characters in Safety Not Guaranteed – made a film devoid of heart, emotion, or character. The only moment I felt something is when Chris Pratt holds an Apatosaurus’s head in his arms as it draws its final breath. He’s reacting to a real, tangible thing – a practical effect – and it’s the only bit of real magic Jurassic World can muster in its 124-minute runtime.

Jurassic World will thrill fans of the franchise more than The Lost World or Jurassic Park III because it’s shiny and new, but it’s still just another empty, slapdash sequel. I suspect nothing will come close to the original, no matter how many genetic knock-offs the engineers execs at Universal churn out.

Trailer

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