***WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS. DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE YET! IN THE MEANTIME, IF YOU’D STILL LIKE TO KNOW MY THOUGHTS WITHOUT SPOILING THE MOVIE, HERE’S A SPOILER-FREE VERSION OF MY REVIEW.***
Well, it’s been 14 years since we last had a Jurassic Park movie. Pretty unbelievable. For a while, I thought they might never continue with the franchise. But lo and behold, here we are in 2015 with the fourth film in theaters.
It’s not just in theaters, though. It’s absolutely dominating them. On its opening weekend, it grossed over $500 million worldwide — the biggest global opening of any movie.
The filmmakers probably had a pretty good idea of what they were getting into when they officially decided to make a new film, but I’m not sure whether they anticipated quite that huge a success. So, money aside, the question is: did the film do its job revitalizing the thought-to-be-extinct franchise?
In this guy’s opinion, it certainly did.
No, that’s not an official poster. I just thought it was cool.
. . . Fine, here’s a real poster.
Geez, you just can’t please people. Anyway . . .
When publicity for this movie started going into full swing, I decided to avoid said publicity as much as possible. I would not watch any of the trailers, I unfollowed the Jurassic Park page on Facebook, all that kind of thing. I didn’t want to know what the dinosaurs looked like, I didn’t want to know the story. I wanted to be completely surprised by everything when I finally saw the movie.
Of course, my plan didn’t work out entirely. Sometimes accidentally, and sometimes because my self-control cracked, I did learn a few little things here and there. I learned there was a genetically modified hybrid dinosaur in the movie, I learned that Chris Pratt’s character was able to train the raptors, and a couple of other things. Not knowing these things would have been nice, but it didn’t spoil my movie experience at all, thankfully. All throughout the movie, I didn’t know what was going to happen. There was tension. There was excitement. There was even some great humor sprinkled throughout. And by the end, I couldn’t believe it was already over. I wanted more.
Oh, I was satisfied with the movie, don’t get me wrong! But I wanted more. As in I enjoyed the movie a lot, and I wanted more of it. Let’s dive in with more detail, shall we?
The film gets going pretty quickly — very quickly, actually. John Hammond’s dream of Jurassic Park has finally become a reality, two decades into the future, and Jurassic World is a fully functional theme park that regularly gets thousands of visitors per day. And we’re at the park within the first few minutes. On one hand, it’s great to jump right in and see the much more futuristic park in action almost at once, but on the other hand, it’s one of my only major gripes with the movie. We don’t get any setup. No background. No spiel about how the park actually got on its feet (and not to mention how Dr. Wu stayed involved, which would have been cool to know). We just start the story knowing that the park is now operational, and that’s about it. I personally would have liked more exposition leading into this, but it doesn’t detract from the film as a whole too much. Still, though, I do think it’s a problem.
Barring its non-introduction, though, the park itself is a marvel to look at. People kayak alongside peaceful herbivores. There’s a huge pool with a croc-like Mosasaurus that feeds on sharks. Oh, and the gyrospheres! Have I mentioned the gyrospheres? Because they’re super cool and stuff.
I mean, come on! Can you imagine using one of these things? Can you imagine using one of these things among dinosaurs?! Awesome concept. Kudos to whomever came up with this idea. Really, though, as cool as the original park was, with the cars that ran on the track (“It’s an interactive CD-ROM!”), Jurassic World is, I think, a perfectly realized vision of a dinosaur theme park.
Too bad everything goes wrong once again, right?
There’s a new dino in town this time: a genetically modified hybrid. Not technically a true dinosaur. It was created in order to reinvigorate waning interest in the park — apparently, after several years of being operational, dinosaurs just aren’t as amazing to people as they used to be. So the focus groups have called for something bigger. Louder. More teeth. And the park’s geneticists, led by Dr. Wu, graciously comply, creating an animal that “will give the parents nightmares,” according to one character.
They call it Indominus Rex.
It’s a pretty awesome part of the movie, bigger and even more menacing than the T-Rex. If you’re reading this, you’ve already seen the movie, so I don’t need to explain how it escapes or anything like that. Suffice it to say that I really liked the scene in which it appears to have vanished from its paddock — that tension, though! It was also cool to see its chameleon-like camouflage powers — although I couldn’t believe it when I heard the reason it had those powers. Seriously, Dr. Wu? You didn’t think that adding cuttlefish DNA would have any side effects like that?
I digress, though. Moving on — the characters in this film are not quite as memorable as the cast of the original film, but I definitely liked them quite a bit in general. Now, the Jurassic Park films have never been especially deep in terms of character development, and Jurassic World is no exception. Still, though, I liked these characters and wanted them to succeed. Our main players are Claire Dearing, the manager of the park; Owen Grady, park employee and raptor trainer; Gray Mitchell, nephew of Claire; and Zach Mitchell, Gray’s older brother.
Of these players, Claire is the one who receives the most development. Played charmingly by Bryce Dallas Howard, she’s a rather cold and mechanical woman at first. The park is all about the business, she doesn’t have proper respect for the animals, and she doesn’t seem to care enough about her two nephews she hasn’t seen in about seven years. Throughout the course of the film, though, she grows. She’s moved by the apatosaurs killed by the Indominus. When her nephews go missing, she’s terrified for them and embraces them lovingly when she is reunited with them. She even saves Owen’s life at one point, and plays an important role in taking down the Indominus in the end. And she does it all while wearing heels. Not too shabby.
Owen is a great character as well. He doesn’t really change, but he’s important to the story also. He trains raptors, a story element which I was initially skeptical about. But it works, which I’ll get to later. For now, suffice it to say that Owen is a solid, no-nonsense do-gooder played fantastically by Chris Pratt. He’s almost like a combination of Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm from the original film: the former because of his respect for dinosaurs and down-to-earth qualities, and the latter for knowing when to tell people that their ideas are bad and will inevitably lead to disaster. All things considered, I’d say Owen is easily my favorite character from the movie.
The two kids, Zach and Gray, are pretty decent. Gray is a nice preteen boy who’s fascinated with dinosaurs, and quite likeable as a character. Zach, unfortunately, is less likeable, taking the stereotypical role of a careless teenager who’s often mean to his brother and likes to stare at pretty girls — even though he already has a girlfriend (although he doesn’t seem very into her at this point in their relationship; in fact, it could easily be inferred from the brief scene we see them together that he is wanting to break up soon). Now, thankfully this all doesn’t last. As the story progresses, Zach reassures Gray that he’ll protect him, and the two brothers bond through their adventures. I do wish, though, that Zach’s staring problem had actually been addressed. It’s a loose end that never gets resolved, which irks me a little.
There are some supporting characters of note, too. The only cast member returning from the original film is B. D. Wong as Dr. Henry Wu. He plays a larger role here, which is pretty cool, but I do wish it had been elaborated on a bit more, as previously mentioned. He escapes the island, though, and I’m certain that we’ll see him again in the next film. There’s also a worker named Lowery, who I’ve heard described as a “reverse Dennis Nedry” (the guy from the first film who steals the embryos). He seems pretty geeky, and he’s criticized for having a messy workstation; he even wears similar-looking glasses. Unlike Nedry, though, he’s a good guy who wants to help in any way he can (and he’s got a lot of the funniest lines from the movie, too).
I think that’s enough for characters. What about the dinosaurs?
The dinosaurs are pretty great! I’ve already mentioned the Indominus and the Mosasaurus (which technically isn’t a dinosaur, but that’s another conversation), but there’s also pterosaurs (also not dinosaurs), apatosaurs, stegosaurs, and other “veggiesaurs.” Tyrannosaurus, of course, makes an appearance — well, more than just an appearance. It takes part in an awesome battle against the Indominus, which left me quite breathless. I would have liked more of T-Rex, but that’s a minor complaint. Well, it was a major complaint after I came out of the film for the first time, but after seeing it a second time and being more able to judge it on its own terms, I decided not having a lot of T-Rex was okay. The filmmakers wouldn’t have wanted it to steal the Indominus’s thunder, after all.
Oh, and of course we have everyone’s favorite clever girls: the Velociraptors.
In the previous three films, the raptors were feared above all else. They’re smart, they’re fast, and they can kill you faster than you can say “Please don’t eat me!” Basically, if you’re cornered by a raptor, you have just about zero chance of escaping.
What’s different in this film, though, is that while the raptors are definitely still dangerous, they can be trained with a firm enough hand. After the first time I saw the movie, I said that I both liked and disliked this story element. After seeing it the second time, though, I decided that I simply liked it. A lot, actually. Originally, I had argued that training the raptors was a cool idea for the story, but it took away from the sheer terror the raptors had delivered in the previous films. Now, though, I’ve decided that while that is true, it doesn’t matter that much. We’ve had three other movies with horrifying raptor suspense. With this new one, the filmmakers took a new route, and it worked! And hey, at least we still had that scene in which the raptors temporarily change their allegiance (and the reveal that the Indominus is part raptor was pretty awesome).
One other quick thing about the dinosaurs: I was hoping for a good mixture of CGI and animatronics in this film, but unfortunately, it’s mostly CGI that we get. Now, it looks pretty good for the most part — certainly better than in Jurassic Park III — but I was definitely hoping for even better. Oh well. It doesn’t really detract from the movie, I just wish that there was less reliance on CGI these days.
The film also contains many references and homages to the original film, which was a fantastic touch. Some of my favorites are the cameo by Mr. DNA, the reference to Mr. Hammond always saying “spare no expense,” and especially the scene where Zach and Gray find the old Visitor Center and use one of the old Jeeps. (By the way, I’d love to one day own a Jeep painted just like the ones in the first film — including the park logo!)
Oh! I must mention the music! Unfortunately, the music didn’t impress me as much as I thought it would. Sure, I loved the uses of the original themes, and there were some standouts here and there for the new music. But I didn’t get the “mind-blowingly awesome” score that I was hoping for. Now, I was only disappointed with the score while I was watching the film; but I’m actually listening to the soundtrack as I type this review, and I can now appreciate the music better now that I don’t have the movie to distract me. It’s a good score, really. It just doesn’t “wow” me quite as much as I’d hoped it would. Personally, my favorite musical moment is in the original Visitor Center with a slower, more nostalgic rendition of the ending music from the first movie (the piano solo as they’re riding away in the helicopter). (And shockingly, this part of the score isn’t on the soundtrack! Seriously?!)
*looks at word count* Wow, I’m just over 2,000 words. I think I should wrap this up, especially since I could probably go on for even longer about some things. I’m really just scratching the surface here and trying to cover all bases, however briefly.
Okay, okay! Calm down, Blue. Please don’t hurt me.
So. In conclusion.
All in all, Jurassic World is a solid and immensely entertaining entry in the franchise. Colin Trevorrow is clearly a capable director. The story is solid and fun, the cast is very enjoyable, the dinosaurs are still awesome and scary, the music is good, the homages to the first film are wonderful, the humor is great, and it’s really just so good to finally see a new Jurassic Park movie. It’s truly magical to see the park open in all its glory. While this film didn’t make my heart pound like I’d hoped (I fondly recall the “raptors in the kitchen” scene from the first movie), it did make me jump a few times, and there also were several moments that made me go “Oh . . . snap.” There’s thrilling action and some pretty great tension. So, while the original film is still the best to me, this is my favorite of the sequels. I look forward to watching it many more times. And bring on the next movie!
Jurassic World gets a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars!
I hope you enjoyed my review of the film. What did you think of the movie? Sound off in the comments!
See you in two weeks! You get another movie review then — this time for Pixar’s latest outing, Inside Out. See you then!