Jurassic World (2015)

Twenty two years after the park gates opened for the first time, Hollywood recreates the “Jurassic Park” franchise with bigger, meaner and scarier dinosaurs, but were they so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they never stopped to think if they should?

Steven Speilberg’sJurassic Park” (1993) clearly captured the imaginations and scarred the psyches of a whole generation of kids born in the 1980’s in the same way that he did for the previous generation with “Jaws” twenty years earlier. When the Tyrannosaurus Rex first ripped down his de-electrified paddock fence and let loose his deafening roar, audiences everywhere were frozen to their theater seats in mortal terror.

We had never seen anything like this on the screen before. Sure, we had seen dinosaurs in the movies before, but they were usually either a guy in a rubber suit or a stop motion animated model composited into frame. Those old school dinosaur effects were cool, but we all knew they were fake. This T-Rex looked REAL!

Technically, it was real. While a lot of the publicity focused on the new computer generated effects used to bring these prehistoric creatures to life, the effects wizards at Stan Winston’s effects shop had actually built full size mechanical monstrosities to handle most of the scenes when the dinosaurs interacted directly with the cast. The computer generated footage made up only 6 minutes of the total 14 minutes of onscreen dinosaur footage in the film.

A lot has changed in the last 22 years in the development of digital special effects, and “Jurassic World” is a product, for the better and the worse, of all those technical advances. Jeff Goldblum’s Chaos theory spewing, rock star-scientist would not need to ask John Hammond if he “planned to eventually have dinosaurs on his dinosaur tour” today.

“Jurassic World” is full of dinosaurs, and this time they’re 99% digital. Just like audiences have grown accustomed to seeing amazing digital creatures on screen over the last 20 years, the owners of the now fully functional theme park must contend with the fact that visitors have now become jaded with seeing real dinosaurs and must play God again in an attempt to combine DNA and create bigger, scarier attractions to rejuvenate ticket sales.

Enter Indominus Rex, a new hybrid dinosaur with bigger teeth, more cunning and more killer instinct than any real dinosaur that ever walked the earth. In essence, Jurassic Park scientists have created the ultimate thirty foot serial killer. Let the bodies hit the floor.

“Jurassic World” ignores the events that happened in the first two sequels and just hits the ground running as if the park has been open successfully for the last 10 years. A big part of the fun in this film is exploring the fully realized and crowded theme park only hinted at in the first movie, including baby dinosaur petting zoos, Sea World-esque lagoon shows with Mosasaurs and Gyrosphere rides amid Brachiosaurs and Triceratops.

We follow two brothers who are sent on a trip to the park so their parents can deal with the legal issues of their impending divorce without stressing the youngest child, who is smart enough to have figured out what’s going on anyway. Initially they are to be the guest of their Aunt Claire, a bigwig executive of the park played by Bryce Dallas Howard, but she’s more concerned with the daily stresses of her career and dumps the kids with her completely uninterested assistant, a decision she will almost immediately regret when all Hell breaks loose and the kids are lost in the park with a killer dinosaur on the loose.

When the going gets tough she must seek the aid of Raptor trainer Chris Pratt to help save the kids from becoming Indominus Lunch. Pratt, channeling some of the same charismatic charm he brought to “Guardians of the Galaxy,” is the movie’s saving grace and the only central character worth rooting for. Dallas Howard is just too stiff and unappealing for most of the movie’s runtime, and I never bought her sudden transformation into Sigourney Weaver-esque badass in the film’s third act. The kids are bland ciphers at best and kind of annoying at worst. Vincent D’Ofofrio plays a military security officer that might as well be wearing a hat that says “BAD GUY.” He wants to exploit the raptors and other dinosaurs as military killing squads and you know where that is going from the start.

The movie is full of disaster movie clichés and the relationship depicted between Pratt’s charming rogue and Dallas Howard’s ice princess sets sex roles in movies back thirty years, but I think that might be part of the movie’s plan to serve as an “old fashioned,” rough and tumble adventure yarn. It’s kind of telling that at the end of the day, I remembered my favorite raptor’s name was Blue, but I couldn’t remember the names of any of the other characters.

In any case, the movie is never dull and delivers the thrills popcorn munching summer audiences expect. So many tense situations and big action set pieces had already been spoiled by the trailers and clips released long before the movie hit the big screens that I was pleasantly surprised and jubilantly entertained by the film’s rousing final 15 minute dinosaur battle royal, none of which has been leaked or spoiled yet at the time of this writing.

A friend online compared this climax to the climax of Garth Edwards’Godzilla,” and I have to agree. When Godzilla finally let loose with his atomic breath, everything that came before that I found questionable kind of washed away and I left the theater with an elated buzz and a smile on my face. The same magical thing happens at the end of “Jurassic World.”

It’s not going to change the world of effects or genre movies in the way the original “Jurassic Park” did in 1993, but it’s perfect B-movie escapism to watch under the stars at the Georgetown Drive-In on a warm summer night.

The Phantom of The Ville

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