Into the Jowls of Jurassic World

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In 1993, director Steven Spielberg wowed filmgoers when he presented them with stunningly realistic dinosaurs in his adventure thriller, “Jurassic Park,” which was based on the novel by sci-fi author, Michael Crichton.  Afterwards, Spielberg tried to recreate the magic with “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” which was also based on a novel by Crichton, but couldn’t reestablish the full sense of wonder that makes us want to return to the original.  “Jurassic Park 3” continued the series on its decline, but that one isn’t worth getting into.

Now, after those two vastly inferior sequels, director Colin Trevorrow makes the move from his charming 2012 indie film, “Safety Not Guaranteed,” and tries his hand at this science-fiction franchise.  As a result, he manages to bring back some of its glory with “Jurassic World,” a film that doesn’t quite reach the height of the original, but is still considerably better than the previous two films.

Twenty-two years after the events of “Jurassic Park,” Jurassic World is now a functional park and resort on the island of Isla Nublar.  Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the operations manager whose two nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) are visiting.  She recruits the help of velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to inspect the safety of the park’s latest exhibit, an enclosure that houses the park’s genetically modified hybrid dinosaur, the Indominus rex.  Shortly after, it outsmarts the staff and escapes.  With the park’s staff and visitors in danger, including Claire’s nephews, she and Owen must do what they can to stop the Indominus rex from reaching the tourists.

Many of the characters aren’t particularly memorable, and as the film goes on, you begin to miss those from the original, especially Dr. Ian Malcolm and John Hammond; but, there are a few who stand out, particularly Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, whose chemistry is enough to get them through the sometimes-questionable dialogue.

Something that the film improves upon from the original is giving a little more depth to the sibling characters.  Yes, they aren’t necessarily deep, but because they have more screen time by themselves than Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello did in the original, this allows us to get a sense of their brotherly bond and gives their characters a little more substance.

The screenplay by Trevorrow, Derek Connolly, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver, thankfully, doesn’t acknowledge the previous two sequels, but is instead a direct continuation of the original.  After the major disappointment brought on by the second and third films, this is definitely the right move to make.

With the dialogue being lackluster at times and several characters being rather forgettable, I expected a better screenplay from Trevorrow and Connolly, the latter of whom wrote “Safety Not Guaranteed,” and Jaffa and Silver, who wrote “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”; there is certainly the capability among them to write an interesting narrative.  The film is obviously exciting when the dinosaurs are on screen, but it’s important for the characters to have a good amount of development so they are as interesting to watch as the dinosaurs, which is something I hope is fixed by the screenwriters for any possible sequels.  The writing team of “Jurassic World” does, however, make an interesting use of an unresolved plot thread to set up a continuation.  There are also some fun references to the original film placed throughout the movie, including Howard’s character having a cheer-worthy Ian-Malcolm moment near the film’s end.

As a director, this is Trevorrow’s first big-budget feature, and his second overall full-length feature after “Safety Not Guaranteed,” which itself had a touch of sci-fi in its narrative.  He delivers a film that comes a lot closer to the thrills of the original, whereas the previous two sequels were sorely lacking in that respect.  While there aren’t any scenes that match the original’s iconic T-rex attack and velociraptors-in-the-kitchen sequence, Trevorrow stages several dinosaur scenes that are still fairly distinctive in their own right, such as the pterosaur attack on the park and the climactic dinosaur showdown near the film’s conclusion.

While “Jurassic World” could have done a few things better, it’s safe to say that we finally have a passable sequel to Spielberg’s game-changing sci-fi film.  It makes for fun viewing, and is surely a step in the right direction if there are any sequels planned.  If the next installment can dedicate some more work to writing a better script, then we will truly get a sequel that matches the quality of the original even more.  For now, Trevorrow’s contribution to the series is an adequate continuation of the “Jurassic Park” story, giving me hope that this franchise will continue to improve.

Final grade: B

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