Jurassic World Review: A Welcome Return

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In a year of major franchise revivals, Jurassic World stands tall and roars right in your face. Here’s a sequel that could have been pathetically terrible but rises up like a pteranodon taking flight and does just about everything you want it to.

No, of course World isn’t as good as the 1993 classic from Steven Spielberg. But it tries a hell of a lot harder than Jurassic Park III. The evolution of this world where dinosaurs walk the earth among humans since the tragedy on Isla Nublar a few decades ago is actually fascinatingly real. Jurassic World starts with the park open and mostly thriving. We’re taken through this new park through the eyes of Gray (Ty Simpkins), a young boy that has never experienced the wonders of this theme park before. As a tone-setter, following Gray is integral in making the fourth film in the franchise feel awe-inspiring again, something both of the other sequels lack.

But as it turns out, the thought of a successful amusement park emerging from the rubble of the past films is pretty brilliant. Jurassic World is one of the few films in cinematic history where product placement actually works in its favor, developing the park as an almost overdone cultural staple (at one point, a character makes a joke about a future Pepsisaurus). Besides Gray, most attendees are on their cell phones, ignoring the fact that the people running the park brought animals back to life after 65 million years.

That’s where Gray’s aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) comes in. As the park’s operations manager, she has to come up with new attractions to get audiences excited. Through gene splicing, her scientists concoct the Indominus rex, a new beast as smart as a Velociraptor and bigger than a Tyrannosaurus rex. Once all hell breaks loose (in the words of Ian Malcolm “Oooh! Aaah! That’s how it always starts, but then there’s running…and screaming.”), Claire teams up with Owen (Chris Pratt) to save her nephews.

The Indominus rex is an allegory for blockbuster filmmaking itself, in that when studio’s try too hard, it’s impossible to tame. Jurassic World makes a villain out of this creature, choosing to rely on the basics for heroism. Owen is the all-American male archetype hero we’ve seen since storytelling began. Claire seems to have pieces of every part of female heroism, good and bad. It doesn’t all quite work as well as director Colin Trevorrow hopes it does, yet her still puts character first, which may be the most important thing in a successful monster movie.

But the film’s true heroes are its dinosaurs, even making characters out of the series’ more iconic creatures, going so far as to give them arcs. It’s a risky move to believe audiences will feel something for CGI creatures, but I promise, you’ll leave the theater begging the universe to drop a pet Velociraptor in your lap.

Still, the greatest achievement of Jurassic World is how it blends that feeling of “wow, I really want to go here” with sheer terror. Trevorrow may just be Spielberg’s apprentice in establishing the unique tone of this franchise. The dinosaurs are just as scary and just as beautiful as before. A sequence of pteranodons swooping down on a crowd is as important as Claire and Owen caring for a dying Apatosaurus.

So, where does the revival rank in the midst of the franchise. Well, it’s not Jurassic Park, but what is? It also blows Jurassic Park III out of the water. As for the underrated The Lost World: Jurassic Park, this new film and the first sequel are about even. Lost World benefits from Spielberg’s direction and tension building while Jurassic World benefits from ideas that feel genuinely new. This film could have been a disaster. The very fact that it’s not is an accomplishment, but that it even takes the word “disaster” and bites it in half is even more enticing. I fully endorse this park. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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