Saturday, June 13, 2015

'Jurassic World' review

Dinosaurs attacking people.
Dinosaurs fighting each other.
Things blowing up.

Need I say more?

If you're even considering going to Jurassic World, you already should have a general idea of what you'll be getting into. Jurassic World is big, bombastic and set at a breathless pace that never lets up for the entirety of the film's 124 minute runtime. It's also one of the most entertaining movies of the summer so far, a massive thrill ride that delivers everything you could possibly want and more. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are great, but the real stars of the show are the dinosaurs- and boy, they are impressive. Director Colin Trevorrow has the occasional misstep, yet for the most part, this is an exciting spectacle with a Spielberg touch. Jurassic World is worthy of its iconic predecessor.

Set 22 years after the horrific events of Jurassic Park, Jurassic World follows a new set of characters as they embark on a journey in the dino theme park. On Isla Nublar, Jurassic World is a fully functioning theme park with corporate sponsors and thousands of visitors a day. The late John Hammond passed control of his park down to Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), with Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) as his second-in-command. As Jurassic World opens, it's Christmas break and Claire's nephews, Zach and Gray (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) are visiting for the holiday season. Gray is in love with everything at the park and Zach is your typical emotional teenage dude. Claire gives them free VIP passes and they run around the park, having a pretty good time.

Meanwhile, Claire and Masrani are finishing development on a new genetically modified attraction that is set to be the most terrifying dinosaur yet. The Indominus Rex, created by mad scientist Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong), is a hodgepodge of T-Rex and whatever else Wu decided to mix in. The Indominus is a violent creature, and Masrani wants to make sure that the attraction is completely safe before they open it to the public. He brings in raptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to examine the security of the exhibit, reigniting a tricky relationship between Owen and Claire. But after a series of missteps and accidents, let's just say that things don't go as planned. Dinosaurs escape. People get eaten. All hell breaks loose.

Jurassic World is on its way to being one of 2015's biggest hits, after grossing a stunning $82.8 million yesterday, on its way to a weekend that could break all sorts of box office records. And there's a reason for that. Jurassic World is an event film in every sense of the word. It's big, it's filled with awesome moments, and it feels like the kind of movie you want to see in the summer. No goofy cynicism or ridiculously over-the-top humor- just a good, old-fashioned thrill ride that works on so many levels. Sure, there are some cheesy moments and the dialogue gets a little hammy. And the pacing isn't always perfect. But I dare anyone who loves monsters movies to go see this film and not walk out with a big goofy smile on your face. It's just a pure blast from start to finish and I'm so glad that this franchise has come roaring back to life.

The cast is filled with veteran actors and newcomers, who all are pretty solid. Some get to have decently written roles, most are dinosaur chow, and only a few stand out. Chris Pratt, hot off of his success with Guardians of the Galaxy and The LEGO Movie, is the unquestioned star of the film, and he has a gruff charm that is infinitely likable. Pratt can carry a movie, and Jurassic World is more proof of this. Jessica Chastain lookalike Bryce Dallas Howard is the other principle member of the cast, doing a solid job of conveying Claire's strengths and weaknesses. The romance between the two is forced, but Pratt and Howard did a solid job on their own.

Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson are the token child actors of the cast, and they do a serviceable job of acting scared during dangerous situations. Their family drama is a little forced as well, but it's tolerable. Vincent D'Onofrio has a pretty interesting part as the militant leader who really wants to turn raptors into weapons. This little subplot with D'Onofrio and BD Wong is going to be the basis of the inevitable sequel, so it was interesting to watch that develop throughout the film. Irrfan Khan always brings his A-game and he's very good as Masrani. Finally, Jake Johnson stands out as Lowry, the film's only bit of true comedic relief. Johnson has been in some bad movies before, but he's consistently funny and I was really glad that he got his chance to shine in Jurassic World.

None of the characters are particularly well-developed or interesting. But I'm sorry, when a film is as fun as Jurassic World is, you don't need a bunch of depth. This movie isn't a slow burn thriller or a complex horror film about the dangers of creation. No, this is an action thriller in the purest sense of the word, an exciting, fun film that feels like a theme park ride from start to finish. Jurassic World begins its rampage in the first thirty minutes and it never lets up. You might not get complex human emotions, but you're gonna get to see a series of raptors chase down a terrifying, genetically modified dinosaur while Chris Pratt rides on a motorcycle. And that was good enough for me.

Jurassic World may go astray in the script and pacing (occasionally) department, but it makes up for that tenfold with a terrific sense of scale, tone and story. In some ways, this is a rehash of the original film, but there are enough little kinks and twists that Jurassic World becomes interesting. Plus, the scale of this film is enormous. I've seen World twice now- once in IMAX 3D, and a second time on the biggest screen in my theater. Watching it the second time, the screen wasn't nearly big enough. It's a film that demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible, with the loudest sound possible and the most dazzling 3D projection available. We're not awed by much anymore in the special effects, but the third act of this film really amazed me. That's saying something.

The pacing of Jurassic World can get a little rough- the Indominus gets out early in the film, but it takes a little while before total destruction is unleashed on the park. Yet when director Colin Trevorrow catches his groove, the pacing of this film is as smooth and effortless as you'll see in an action film. He also happens to have a firecracker of a third act that works on so many levels. Let me say this- the final battle of this film is as extraordinary as we'll see in 2015. I won't exactly say who is fighting or what happens, but I was slapping my knee in giddy joy throughout the final act.

Jurassic World works because it has that sense of grandeur and awe that is missing from many blockbusters these days. Surprisingly, most of the great films this summer have found a way to bring back that charm, but Jurassic World does it particularly well. Maybe it was the fact that I've gone to so many theme parks in my life, or maybe I just like watching dinosaurs eat people, but I had a terrific time with this movie despite its flaws. This is a summer blockbuster on the grandest scale possible and director Colin Trevorrow did a great job of bringing this film franchise roaring back to life.

Chris Pratt certifies his movie star status again, composer Michael Giacchino provides the argument that he's the next John Williams, and Trevorrow comes close to creating a sequel that matches its iconic predecessor. Jurassic World works as one of the best pieces of pure blockbuster entertainment I've seen in recent years and I can't wait to see where this franchise goes from here. Sure, it's cheesy at times, but nobody should be looking for Shakespearean drama here. Jurassic World is the best monster movie of recent years and another terrific flick in what has been a great summer for movies thus far.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A                                              (8.9/10)

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