Spielberg puts a real, live dinosaur on screen

“Jurassic World”

Universal Pictures

2 hours 10 min

 

I remember being home from college in the summer of 1993 when “Jurassic Park” came out. My girlfriend and I headed to the mall to see the adaptation of a best-selling dinosaur thriller by Michael Crichton, directed by Steven Spielberg. She may dispute my recollection, but I seem to remember that my girlfriend, who would later marry me, wasn’t nearly as excited to see the movie as I was. I had read the book and was pretty pumped to see what Spielberg had done with the story. Expectations, however, could not, for either of us, temper what would become a seminal moment for an entire generation. Fifteen or twenty minutes into the movie my girlfriend and I, and millions of other movie-goers around the world, were astonished to see something we’d only ever imagined. Steven Spielberg had somehow put a real, live dinosaur on the screen. The pure amazement that Laura Dern’s character feels as she watches the massive brachiosaurus is the exact same emotion being felt in thousands of movie theaters world-wide. It’s a feeling that can’t be replicated, and it’s a moment that changed movies forever. Never again will we be able to see a completely realistic special effect with the same kind of astonishment. That one twenty-five second scene makes “Jurassic Park” a classic of all time. That scene makes us forget that the movie has some silly parts, some clunky dialogue, uneven performances, and that there are actually only fifteen minutes of actual dinosaur footage in the entire movie. The first two sequels to “Jurassic Park” were poorly received, probably because they foolishly thought they could recreate and capitalize on that sense of amazement, but that cat was already out of the bag. This weekend, however, Universal finally produced a worthy sequel, a movie that manages to amaze, but is also keenly aware of the monumental task in following up such an iconic production. “Jurassic World” does just what the sequel to “Jurassic Park” should do. It doesn’t try to redo the first film with another deserted island adventure, as did “The Lost World” and “Jurassic Park III.” Instead it tries to redo the first film by taking the next logical step. It fulfills John Hammond’s dream marvelously, and terrifyingly. Don’t pay attention to the critical snobbery surrounding this movie. “Jurassic World” may have a few small problems, but it is a true blast – a non-stop thrill-ride that rivals the energy and excitement of the original.

The film opens with two boys, Zach and Grey, getting on a plane to go visit their aunt, a fairly removed relative, but who happens to have one of the world’s coolest jobs. Aunt Claire, played well by Bryce Dallas Howard, is the facility administrator for Jurassic World, the park John Hammond always wanted to build. Director Colin Trevorrow, who made a name for himself with the low-budget but entirely entertaining “Safety Not Guaranteed,” wisely takes his time with the reveal. When he finally does show us the park, it is through the boys’ eyes, sprawling and breathtaking, with five-star resort hotels and a monorail for touring the park. There are river rafting trips, safari tours, and even a petting zoo where the tots can actually ride a baby triceratops. But, as with any successful theme park, the attractions have to keep getting more exciting or the crowds my quit coming. With that in mind, the park’s top scientists attempt to up the a”Wow” factor by engaging in a remarkable bit of gene splicing to create an entirely new dino – Indominatus Rex. As Chris Pratt’s character Owen, a dino trainer, says, “they’re dinosaurs. Wow enough.” It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how things are going to go next. Throw in an opportunistic weasel of a military contractor, played by Vincent D’Onofrio, and this thing’s got disaster written all over it.

“Jurassic World” is smartly constructed to acknowledge the pitfalls of making a sequel like this, and finding fresh new ways to play up the amazement factor. Leaning heavily on the original “Park” score, Trevorrow has created a heavy sense of nostalgia. When we are shown Hammond’s original dream come true, we the audience, much like thousands of park visitors who fork down the money to come all the way to Costa Rica, completely forget the horror of the first film. Watching people raft down a river full of brachiosaurus, all I could think was, “this is awesome,” and I already know how it’s all going to turn out. The idea of making a new dinosaur, ridiculously more dangerous than it needs to be, is a great metaphor for action movie sequels in general, but again, the movie wisely anticipates and sidesteps this potential criticism by making the inherent issues in sequels one of the themes of the film.

Not everything about the movie is smart, I’ll admit. The love story between the ridiculously charismatic Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard is given almost no set-up and really doesn’t work. Then again, I wonder if this is intentional and a comment on action movie romances? The writing in this film is remarkably subtle at times, and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if this was the case. As far as the dialogue, there are a few clunkers here and there and some of the action is cliché, but this was the case for the original film, as well. I believe a lot of the criticism toward this movie is based not on the movie itself but at the idea that any sequel to a great classic could possibly be any good. Sequels are a money grab and can be nothing but a disaster, is their attitude. Too bad those critics can’t see that Trevorrow and the producers of “Jurassic World” completely agree with them, and then go and make a great movie anyway. Grade: A

“Jurassic World” is rated PG-13 for non-stop scares and thrills, lots of dinosaur violence, and mild language.

 

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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