They promised you big, scary dinosaurs in 3D and you can’t say they didn’t deliver. “Jurassic World,” the fourth entry in the dino dynasty, was shot in 3D, and delivers far better results than the recent after-the-fact post-conversion of the original “Jurassic Park.” The special effects are more than up-to-snuff, and this summer tentpole crashes into multiplexes with far more muscle, if less brains, than most.
They didn’t promise you much imagination, and there isn’t much on display. It would be a cheap shot to make cloning cracks about a sequel about cloning, but they’re begging for it. Back in the far-flung nineties, Michael Crichton’s bestseller “Jurassic Park” was a clever updating of “Frankenstein,” much as his breakout novel “The Andromeda Strain” was an updating of “The War of the Worlds.” Steven Spielberg and writer David Koepp were able to take the dark and violent novel and produce a palatable PG-13 summer blockbuster that was undoubtedly the best movie of its kind since the original “King Kong.” Two sequels followed, one of them directed by Spielberg, neither as good, both watchable. The fourquel is actually somewhat better than parts II and III, truth be told, but a formula is definitely in place.
Spielberg’s influence is all over “Jurassic World,” like impression fossils found in a rock. The obligatory juvenile characters, this time two boys (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) sent to visit their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who’s a manager at Jurassic World, are straight from Spielberg central casting. The fact that their parents are on the verge of divorce is a typically Spielbergian plot wrinkle. The script doesn’t really need this any more than it needs a lunkheaded subplot about the military, here represented by Vincent D’Onofrio as an Ingen corporate thug, wanting to use velociraptors as soldiers in the field. Do we not think before we press print?
The first two sequels are more or less ignored in “Jurassic World,” in which John Hammond’s vision of a theme park with live dinosaurs has been realized. It turns out though that people actually get used to dinosaurs, and a new hybrid creature has been created in the laboratory to boost attendance. The critter, called the Indominus Rex, has Tyrannosaurus DNA, but there’s a secret ingredient, whose revelation factors into a fairly predictable plot twist later. That’s right. Those pesky scientists have been meddling in realms better left to God with disastrous results. They never learn.
Chris Pratt, fresh off his major success last summer in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” plays Owen, a Navy vet now working as what can best be described as a raptor whisperer at the park. Owen is a slightly less ingratiating character than Peter Quill in “Guardians,” but it’s still a good, solid leading man role, the sort that has more to do with movies than real life, and it isn’t going to hurt Pratt’s rising stock any.
Bryce Dallas Howard resembles Jessica Chastain so strongly here that one wonders if Ms. Chastain was offered the part first. Ms. Howard, who’s been specializing in very thankless roles (2nd Victoria in “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s unfaithful girlfriend in “50/50,” an unrepentant racist in “The Help”), gets to play a break here. Claire is initially a caricature of a frosty corporate bitch, allowed to grow into a spunky, heroic love interest as the story progresses. Owen, needless to say, has a major thing for Aunt Claire, who initially plays hard to get. When she insists on accompanying Owen into the field to help find her missing nephews, he initially mocks her outfit as impractical. She ties her blouse tails around her waist and leaves her high heels on. For the entire movie. And yes, she outruns dinosaurs in them.
Four writers are credited on “Jurassic World,” and God only knows how many others may have tinkered on it uncredited. The movie is supposedly “based on characters created by Michael Crichton,” slightly ironic in view of the fact that none of the main characters from the original story appear here. BD Wong does reprise the role of Jurassic Park/World geneticist Dr. Henry Wu, a character from the original novel he also played in the first movie, and is the only original cast member to appear.
Newcomer director Colin Trevorrow was hired to keep the reins on the production and turn in a saleable product. Mission accomplished. He hasn’t distinguished himself with any individual style here, but he’s certainly guaranteed himself another bite at the apple, and the powers that be certainly wanted this to look something like the other entries in the series. Composer Michael Giacchino makes liberal use of the iconic “Jurassic Park” theme by John Williams, and if anything, should have used it more.
“Jurassic World” functions best as a cinematic rollercoaster. This is a high speed thrill ride, and the action set pieces are extremely well-executed. The dinosaurs, as with the first three movies, a combination of CGI and animatronics, look great in 3D. Parents might want to take note that younger children, who have seen the original movies only on TV, might not be prepared for the theatrical experience, in which the dinosaurs are bigger, louder, and in this case, in 3D to boot. But that’s the way this movie needs to be seen. A pterodactyl assault on the park’s visitors is particularly well-rendered and recalls similar scenes in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” For better or worse though, Trevorrow and his writers keep the carnage among the theme park guests to a minimum. Possibly, perhaps like the corporate bean counters alluded to in the movie, the studio powers that be were worried that if the body count got too high the gates to Jurassic World couldn’t reopen. Where would the franchise rights be then?
“Jurassic World” will have advance screenings Thursday, June 11, 2015 at theaters across the Capital District, including the Bow Tie Movieland 6 in Schenectady, the Rotterdam Square Cinema, the Regal Cinemas Clifton Park Stadium 10 & RPX, the Regal Cinemas Colonie Center Stadium 13 & RPX, the Regal Cinemas Crossgates Stadium 18 & IMAX and the Regal Cinemas East Greenbush 8. More venues and showtimes will be added when the movie officially opens on Friday, June 12th.