by: S. Scott Stanikmas
Theme parks are the epitome of summertime. The rides (and long lines to get on them), the (overpriced) food and the goofy mascots are as synonymous with summer as baseball and apple pie are to America. So it should come as no surprise that Jurassic World – the brainchild of Richard Attenborough’s character John Hammond – is now open for business. The fourth installment of the Jurassic Park series is a wonderful film, a blend of scary and fierce action coupled with an engaging story which kept me interested from start to finish.
The film opens up twenty two years after the events of the first film (seemingly retconning the second and third sequels) with the titular dinosaur theme park open for business and doing very well for itself. Chain restaurants and major hotel chains are prominently displayed in the guest areas while monorail trains and trams are more than willing to trek park-goers to just about anywhere on the island to view the various species of dinosaurs that have been brought back to life by the in house geneticists.
With park attendance strong but not strong enough, the order of the day is to create something new, something fresh – something that really knocks the public for a loop. Enter the Indominus Rex, a dinosaur that is unlike anything ever seen before…because it’s a genetic hybrid, melding DNA from a slew of predatory dinos, as well as modern-day animals like cuttlefish and tree frogs.
Velociraptor trainer and animal guru Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) is tasked with checking the D-Rex pen for safety before the exhibit is opened to the public. Meanwhile, park manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) has her hands full, juggling meetings with investors as well as trying to keep her visiting nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) happy with all access passes.
As can be expected, things go wrong and the highly dangerous Indominus Rex gets loose. Predictably the nephews get caught in the middle, needing saving from Aunt Claire and Owen. With a raging dinosaur that is smarter than the average beast making it’s way to the large guest population (20,000 plus warm bodied snacks!), the park’s security team (headed by Vincent D’Onofrio) must find a way to stop the carnage and end this threat for good.
Director Colin Trevorrow had quite the task in front of him. With a film that had been in development hell for the better part of a decade, this project came with a ton of expectations and a lot of pressure to deliver. For a filmmaker whose only big screen directing credit at the time was the much loved but small budgeted indie film Safety Not Guaranteed, Trevorrow brought the goods, proving that he belongs in the ranks of Hollywood’s big-time directors. Working from a script by he and frequent collaborating partner Derek Connolly, as well as Rise of the Planet of the Apes writing team Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, Jurassic World kept a good pace, combining the action and drama with a sprinkle of comedy added in to keep things lighthearted.
With this movie, Chris Pratt has pretty much solidified his spot as a leading man in Hollywood’s action world. His delivery is spot on, throwing the snark in at the right moments and knowing when to dial it back and amp up the drama. There was a scene in the trailer that had Pratt and Howard looking over a field of torn up dinosaurs, where they come to the conclusion that the Indominus Rex is killing for fun – in the trailer the scene came off as a scene right out of a horror movie. But in the context of the film itself, Pratt gives the scene such a level of sadness and heartache for these animals, you almost feel sorry for them.
Coming in over two decades after the original film, Jurassic World works great as a direct sequel to the first film but also stands by itself. It helps if you’ve seen the first Jurassic Park (you’ll get all the little inside jokes and Easter eggs), but this film (as the beginning of a new saga) is a fresh and exciting sprint. Colin Trevorrow shows you just what a commercially run dinosaur theme park might look like if it were actually created today.
With excellent special effects and an entertaining cast of characters, Jurassic World is the kind of summer movie you can sink your teeth into, wishing there was more after the final credits roll.