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Monday, June 15, 2015

Jurassic World

Buuuuuuum... Bum bum buuuuuum

After untold years in development hell, we finally have a new Jurassic Park movie. It's a fun, occasionally thrilling and unquestionably enjoyable trip back to the 1993 original and it is, most probably, the best of the sequels (it's been a while since I've seen the Lost World). Does it add anything new to the franchise, though? Of that, at least, I'm resolutely unconvinced.

The basic structure of the film is basically identical to Jurassic Park and the theme of "you were so busy wondering if you could, you never stopped to consider if you should" (to paraphrase the much missed Dr Ian Malcolm) is as central as ever. And frankly, the latter question can just as easily be applied to the film in general. Jurassic World wisely ignores the original's unquestionably inferior sequels, but at least those sequels felt like actual followups. Or, at least the second one did. The biggest problem with Jurassic World is that it carves a trail so close to the original that you have to wonder what its point was in the first place.

The action once again takes place on a the original Jurassic Park island of Isla Nublar (parts II and III take place at a secondary site) but this time the Park is fully operational and has been for a number of years. In their efforts to make a creature more spectacular than dinosaurs that have been extinct for millions of years, however, the scientists once again overstep their mark and in their arrogance create a creature (the slightly off-looking Indominous Rex) that their park cannot contain. We also have a central character who is, once again, uncomfortable around children (in this case her own niece and nephew) and, like the second film, outsiders who wish to use the research behind the park for their own nefarious ends. And this isn't even taking into account the blatant homages to the original that crop up just as often as the apparently ironic in-your-face product placement.

Admittedly, CGI effects have improved dramatically since Jurassic Park - though, to their infinite credit, they still use animatronics as often as possible - but for all the flying pterodactyls and effortlessly kinetic herds of varied dinosaurs, the film lacks the sheer sense of wonder and awe that infused the original. Director Collin Trevorrow generally does a top-notch job, especially considering that his only feature work before was the quirky indie flick, Safety Not Guaranteed, but he doesn't come close to matching Stephen Spielberg's peerless ability to capture the miraculous on screen. For all of the film's technological advances over Jurassic Park, it doesn't come close to capturing the sheer "WOW!" of the first time we see a brontosaurus in the original or the instantly legendary T-Rex attack.

The biggest problem with the film though, is its characters. No matter how much I adore Chris Pratt, his character here is pretty shallow and really doesn't add up to much more than a generic Indiana Jones knock off. And his is undoubtedly the best character here. Bryce Dallas Howard isn't quite just eye-candy - though she is that - but her character is so under-written that she comes very, very close to being so. Even the kids don't come close to their original counterparts. Dr Ian Malcolm as so brilliantly played by Jeff Goldblum in quite possibly his most iconic role ever, may cast his shadow all over Jurassic World but his actual presence is sorely missed - as are the memorable characters played by Sam Neill, Laura Dern and the late, great Sir Richard Attenborough.

Screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver do solid work here with Safety Not Guaranteed's Derek Connolly and Trevorrow himself but this is nowhere near the franchise reboot that they provided for the Planet of the Apes series with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In particular where in Jurassic World is that wonderful characterization that they brought to the fore with both their human and ape characters in Rise?
All this said though, for all of my many problems with the film, it still does its job proficiently when it comes to creating a good, solid, if unspectacular creature feature with all the action and adventure and thrills and spills you could want from a Jurassic Park movie. And it's certainly worth checking out even if just to hear that immortal John Williams theme peaking out occasionally from Michael Giacchino's solid but nowhere near as brilliant score (not to fear though, Giacchino fans: he does sterling work on Pixar's latest masterpiece, Inside Out).

But really, I ask again, where is the heart?

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