You might have heard the one about the scientists who tampered with nature, incubated some dinosaur eggs and paid a rather hefty price for it. It’s called “Jurassic Park”, Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking 1993 adaptation of the Michael Crichton novel, and the repercussions of it rippled through two sequels: 1997’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and 2001’s “Jurassic Park III”. In the new film, a character played by Omar Sy sums it up well when he says, “These people. They never learn”.
If we’ve garnered anything from this series thus far, it’s that each attempt to fix things leads to a catastrophic outcome. This one, as they say, takes the cake.
I understand that theme park regulations might be pretty loose in Central America, but should one slip-up so easily be able to turn the line for the petting zoo into a human buffet? (I can hear Ken Watanabe’s line from “Godzilla” resonating: “The arrogance of man is thinking that nature is within our control….”).
Directed by Colin Trevorrow (the wonderful “Safety Not Guaranteed”), “Jurassic World” arrives with the unbridled energy of a sugar-addled toddler during his first day at Disney World, with roughly the same level of logic one might expect in that kind of scenario.
But once you get past some hurdles, like how the film’s titular attraction, which is located on Isla Nublar where the first movie took place (with several Hawaiian locales doubling as the fictitious Central American island), would be in any way viable after the multiple catastrophes of the previous installments, and overlook the complete and inexplicable lack of judgement displayed by the geniuses running the place, you can rest assured that a beautifully-lensed, eye-popper of an adventure awaits you. I guess that’s a fancy way of telling you to check your brain at the door and enjoy the dinosaurs.
As raptor-wrangler Owen, Chris Pratt, playing less comical than his “Guardians of the Galaxy” hero, is a suitable anchor for the film. Not only does he have a way with the reptiles, but he seems to be the only focal character with any common sense.
On one side of him, you have the work-obsessed operations manager Claire (played by Bryce Dallas Howard), who’s only concerned about the bottom line as she lures in a group of investors by wowing them with a new, genetically modified species of carnivore devised by Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong, reprising his role from the first film) that purportedly dwarfs the T. Rex, while pawning her two visiting nephews Gray and Zach (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson, respectively) off on her rigid assistant (Katie McGrath).
Owen and Claire had a fling once, a cliché revealed within a cliché that leads to a lot of other clichés. Or perhaps it’s just refreshingly old-fashioned.
Claire is surrounded by a control room of techie-types and analysts, who don’t seem to have any real control over anything. Most verbal of them is the awkward Lowery (Jake Johnson), who eventually presses a button that makes the film’s climax possible. Irrfan Khan is amusing as the good-hearted but oblivious gazillionaire who owns the park.
Of course, who would be the dinosaur bait if we didn’t have self-serving geneticists and overly-cocky paramilitary types to hate?
On the other side of Owen, there is Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), a poorly conceived caricature of a bad guy with big plans to militarize Owen’s velociraptors to “save lives”. Hoskins waits in the wings for something to go terribly wrong, as it eventually does when the gargantuan lab experiment fakes everyone out and escapes, so that he can run a field test with the (semi) trained, pack-hunting dinos in order to achieve some vague war-mongering master plan. He giggles and smirks and licks his chops like a parody of some demented warlord, ensuring that we know that he’s really, really evil. I’ve been a huge fan of D’Onofrio ever since “Full Metal Jacket”, but he’s been handed a thin character here by the writing team (a collaboration of director Trevorrow, his “Safety Not Guaranteed” writer Derek Connolly, and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” scribes Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa).
Your earliest inkling as to where the plot goes will probably be accurate, as everything unfolds in such an incredibly convenient and predictable order, but “Jurassic World” ultimately captures us with visuals that exceed expectations and a fun, very well-designed finale. We know by now that Pratt can carry a film, and Howard eventually comes around once her character discovers that her nephews are in peril (the gyrosphere ride apparently isn’t very well monitored). But the real star here is the Indominus rex, which is the only participant that seems to have any real surprises up its sleeve. They’ll find out the hard way that it’s going to take more than a shock collar and a few retired marines to coral the new beast on the block.
And just when it feels like they’ve gotten that pterodactyl problem under control.