Jurassic World (2015)
A new trip to Isla Nublar fights to be worthy of the 1993 original.
Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio
Released by Universal Pictures
Written by Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver
Directed by Colin Trevorrow
There’s always an inherent problem with any attempt to follow up a film that is as universally loved as Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park: as much as we want to feel the same thrills, and as much as we want to fall in love all over again, the highs of that first movie are very difficult to replicate, even in subsequent installments within its own film series (as has been proven in both 1997′s and 2001′s efforts). Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World tries very hard to bring that experience back to modern audiences, but ultimately, it just can’t live up to the standard set by the original.
I can guarantee one thing, though: as long as you’re open to this experience, you probably couldn’t have any more fun at watching a film at least try to meet those goals than you will by watching Jurassic World.
The film picks up 22 years after the original incident chronicled in Jurassic Park, and the original site of the first park dreamed up by John Hammond has been transformed into Jurassic World: a state-of-the-art theme park facility on Isla Nublar with incredibly sweeping visuals and breathtaking displays, along with all of the amenities you’d expect from any major theme park (there’s a Hyatt on the island, for instance, and you’ll see the Starbucks logo more than once).
Siblings Zach and Gray Mitchell (played by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins, respectively) leave home and arrive in the park, as their aunt — Claire Dearing (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) — has invited them with a promise of unfettered access. Claire is too busy to pay her nephews much mind, however, as the park’s owner Simon Masrani (played by Irrfan Khan) wants to examine the cage of the fearsome Indominus rex: a new genetically created hybrid attraction designed to entice more visitors.
Masrani wants the expert opinion of U.S. Navy veteran Owen Grady (played by Chris Pratt), a Velociraptor expert who is working with a pack of those animals as a trainer in another part of the island. When it looks as though the Indominus has escaped, Owen spearheads an effort to try and contain the new animal before unexpected consequences of creating the genetically modified dinosaur stand to threaten all 20,000 people in the park — including Claire’s nephews.
Now, that’s likely the loosest summary I can give on the film without heading into spoiler territory. Where Jurassic World succeeds is in its moment-to-moment sense of suspense. Trevorrow faithfully recreates the same kind of tension as the original film in some spots, but it’s very clear that he amps the scale of these scenes up considerably by comparison. For the most part, the action beats in Jurassic World do exactly what they’re designed to do, and the moments of awe even before everything goes to hell manage to feel directly descended from the moment that Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm first laid eyes on the Brachiosaurus in the first film.
Similarly, many of the action scenes carry the same kind of tension felt when Lex and Tim Murphy are hiding from the pair of Velociraptors in the park’s kitchen, but again, Trevorrow goes for a much bigger scale. Surprisingly, this film’s Velociraptors themselves actually get to play a somewhat heroic role in some spots of the story, which is a departure from the normally villainous place they’ve held in all three previous films.
Where the film falters is in its writing. While the first half of the movie plays out in a fine — if expected — way, the second half doesn’t spend a lot of time concerning itself with rational occurrences, especially where Vincent D’Onofrio’s character is concerned. The addition of a nefarious plot over the chaos erupting in the park seems tacked on and distracting, and the rationale that the involved characters provide seems unnecessary. Still, it’s very difficult for me to argue with the way that Jurassic World brings it home in the final act, because there are a couple of things that happen that I’ve been waiting to see in a Jurassic Park sequel since The Lost World first opened in 1997. One of which I didn’t even realize I wanted to see until it was happening.
Overall, Jurassic World is well worth the trip to the theater, especially if you’re a fan of the original film. While the characters are interesting, the preview doesn’t really mention that the kids are the main focus of the film, with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard’s characters arriving into the story with only minor attention paid to who they are, as opposed to what they do. Still, Jurassic World will thrill you and will definitely put a few smiles on your face, and at the end of the day, what more could you want? As long as you’re not longing for a Crichton-esque cerebral quality to the proceedings, Jurassic World is well worth going to see.
This review originally appeared on a website I served as senior editor.