This time of year, the overwhelming sequel machine that is otherwise known as Hollywood can often be the bane of our existence as film critics…but I said sometimes. While I’ll admit that the build up to Jurassic World didn’t inspire a great deal of hope in fans across the globe it actually works quite well as a solid piece of escapist cinema.
It’s twenty-two years after the events of the original film and Isla Nublar has now been shaped into a fully functional and successful theme park filled with dinosaurs just as John Hammond had initially envisioned. However after 10 years, attendance is starting to dip and corporate needs a new attraction to bring fresh blood to the park. Enter Indominus Rex, but as we learned in the first film, “Nature Always Finds A Way” and this new attraction goes horribly wrong putting everyone on the island at risk. With interests from InGen looming, velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) finds himself at the center of crisis where it seems like the only solutions available to bring down this devil of a beast are the ones that they already have at hand.
While it will always be darn near impossible to recapture the magic, the first time the movies shock and excite us it doesn’t mean that they will ever stop trying. Jurassic World plays in all the right ways despite trying to recapture a little too much of the vibe of the first film and not reaching out into newer territory.
Writer/Director Colin Trevorrow comes off his indie hit Safety Not Guaranteed and manages to handle large scale action with a solid and steady hand, never letting the scale of the story that he is trying to tell get away from him. The CGI is solid although it relies on it just a little too much on the computer driven effects as there is somewhat of a lack of peril as the action moves a little too fast and never allows the tension to build. That along with some logic problems do take you out of the narrative a little bit, but when you are diving into spectacle of this size, you just need to go with it. Ultimately a fun ride, even though it tries a little too hard to create a variety of interesting dynamics that will recapture the essence of Spielberg’s original, thanks to a very charismatic leading performance.
With his natural charisma and charm, Chris Pratt has made the full transition from goofball on Parks & Recreation to full blown action hero. One of the character’s in the film describes him as “Kind of a Bad Ass” and that is a perfect description. Where as in Guardians of the Galaxy he leaned heavy on his comedic chops, here he manages to play it straight but still maintain a sardonic sense of wit. It makes him a wise cracking action hero, rather than a smart ass who takes on the role of action hero…in the long run it makes a big difference and it makes it his own in a performance that just might get him the lead in a potential Indiana Jones reboot. Bryce Dallas Howard is fine opposite him but it almost seems like she is playing the “I’m not Jessica Chastain” card a little too hard, however she works well with Pratt even though her story arc in the narrative was a little forced. Jake Johnson has some fun moments in support, while Vincent D’Onofrio as the corporate bad guy was fun but ultimately unnecessary while the likes of Omar Sy, Judy Greer, Irrfan Khan, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson & BD Wong (in the only link back to the original film) all did fine work with what they were given in support. Nobody was forced to stretch any acting muscles on this one but at least you could tell that everyone was having fun.
Is Jurassic World a worthwhile entry into the franchise? Ultimately yes, because it gets enough right from the original film for audiences to have fun with, while falling short of the goal to make us love it more than the first. A fine bit of popcorn filmmaking that you’ll have fun with (even though the 3D is pointless), but it won’t be remembered in the annals of summer blockbusters then anything more than it is, a pleasant diversion that will undoubtedly spawn yet another sequel we weren’t necessarily clamoring for in the first place.