I think it fair to say that the level of enjoyment you’re going to get out of Jurassic World is directly proportional to how much of a thrill is it to see prehistoric creatures brought to life on the big screen. While I was never that kid who was super nerdy about paleontology, the first Jurassic Park scratched an itch I never knew I had. It’s an exquisite film, one that revels in its revelry, perhaps the ultimate showcase for the “Spielberg shot” (eyes wide open, staring up into something giant and majestic, as we the audience wait for the grand reveal).
So, let’s be blunt – we may be back on Isla Nublar, but this ain’t Jurassic Park, even if it has the temerity to mine the original in sometimes compelling ways. But to its credit this film spends much of its time both playing with the original tropes of that film and messing around with our expectations. At its best, then, it’s lots of fun.
Much of that can be drawn from pretty decent performances by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. Both characters are highly stylized to the point of almost being caricatures, yet the filmmakers wisely undercut some of their more obvious traits to keep them interesting. Ditto the two kids (central to all of these tales), who certainly could have been far more obnoxious (and far more of tacked-on idea) than they ended up being.
This may sound like I’m stretching to say something positive here, and perhaps I am. Still, I was actually pleasantly surprised there was as much story as there was, and even if it all plays out pretty much identically to how you’d expect (it’s the fourth film in the series, after all), it at least felt like the writers tried to make things a bit more complex and interesting, giving us the audience a modicum of respect which is sadly lacking in too many of these projects.
And, yeah, the storyline itself does take some swallowing on the level of a giant mosasaur chewing on a dangling shark. It’s again about blind hubris, and there’s certainly a sense of “this again?” as (shocking) things begin to go wrong and “nature finds a way” of causing chaos. It’s hard to buy a clumsy CEO flying a copter, hard to buy stormtrooper-like military men suddenly calling the shots when things go awry and tens of thousands are set for evacuation.
The easiest thing in the world would be to just dismiss the whole thing as big and stupid. But you’d be missing the critical word that comes after that description. It’s big, it’s stupid, but it’s also sure as hell fun.
For when the rampage comes, it comes hard and fast. There’s the gnashing of teeth and the rumbling of footsteps, just as our main characters get to escape in the nick of time.
If we’re forced to choose, the film’s a lot better than the third one (which still, it should be remembered, had scenes with lots of dinos, so, awesome). For all its faults Lost World still contains some exquisite filmmaking, including the dangling-over-a-cliff scene that represents Spielberg at his best. In this film we’ve got plenty of big beasties brought to life using the latest in tech, and it’s sometimes easy to take for granted the revolution that Jurassic Park helped ignite. We’ve come a long way, baby, but there’s still something thrilling about entering those gates into this wonderland of dino creatures.
There’s a plot point about the main dino, a “hybrid”, that I was pleasantly surprised about. The revelation may be underwhelming during the story beat, but given the preposterous direction one could expect when they talk about a super-creature, suffice it to say they didn’t go down Brundle-fly material (though, we can safely agree, some of Goldblum’s DNA sprinkled through this film wouldn’t be a bad thing). That big reveal was actually the moment where I thought, screw it, I’m having fun here. I’m watching giant monsters chew and tear each other apart, I’m seeing a guy riding a motorcycle flanked by raptors, I’m even enjoying a giant Lucite hamster ball trundling along the grass.
We’re treated to a bit of escapist fun that gives us pretty much what we want from a silly summer blockbuster. It looks good (the 3D is subtle but very well composed), it sounds terrific, and there’s enough rambunctious action to keep one entertained. Equal parts nostalgia and spectacle, Jurassic World makes for quite the ride.
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