Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
Ian Malcolm once famously told John Hammond that he was making all new mistakes in response to the elderly entrepreneur’s claims that he wasn’t repeating his previous fatal errors. While Malcolm may have been proven correct, at least Hammond was aware of his past failures. Flash forward two decades and apparently those who inherited InGen chose to completely ignore what happened the last time an attempt was made to get a dinosaur safari park off the ground, because this time they are most assuredly making the same mistakes again!
Thankfully though, that doesn’t extend beyond the fictional reality of the narrative to the filmmakers themselves. Director Colin Trevorrow and his production team at Universal have taken stock of what worked and what didn’t in the franchise’s first three outings to craft an action-packed, adrenaline-fuelled rollercoaster ride of a summer blockbuster. Jurassic World is a resounding success both as a sequel and as a standalone adventure.
The plot takes us back to Isla Nublar where a fully functional resort is now well established, averaging twenty thousand guests at any one time. But apparently this isn’t good enough for the powers that be, who decide to play Frankenstein with dino DNA in a bid to boost their profits. Suffice it to say, all does not go according to plan and history ultimately begins to repeat itself.
While one could argue that the basic premise is a retread of the first film, there are more than enough new ideas and fresh faces thrown in to make it feel unique in its own right. It helps too that it’s been twenty two years since Jurassic Park first graced our screens, which proves long enough for this to be a fun and nostalgic viewing experience that pays a fitting homage to its roots without rehashing things completely. It also takes the opportunity to right some of the wrongs of the past; one snub in the final act very obviously aimed at a much maligned moment from the third movie was particularly gratifying in this regard.
That being said, anyone going in expecting Jurassic World to live up to the awe and spectacle of its twenty two year old progenitor is likely going to be disappointed. Whether this is the best sequel or not is open for debate, but I don’t think there are many out there who would claim it surpasses the original outing. Although that really shouldn’t be allowed to pass for a valid criticism. Jurassic Park was an innovative marvel upon its release that’s unlikely to be topped within its own parameters, so this latest entry should be judged solely on its own tremendous merits.
The script does well in building suspense by teasing many of the key creatures throughout much of the opening act. This allows the pace to slowly increase in momentum and for all of the pieces to fall into place in a way that feels neither rushed nor laboured. It also means that by the time the action gets into full swing, the audience is invested enough in the plot and the characters for it to feel genuinely exciting rather than flat and hollow. And this movie certainly does not skimp on the set pieces, arguably delivering some of the best that the franchise has ever seen.
There’s definitely more of a focus on popcorn entertainment and action than there is on shock and horror, despite the fact that it isn’t afraid to get bloody and moderately graphic at times. Everything from car chases through the jungle to tension filled dinosaur hunts to full on out of control monster madness is crammed in between the opening and closing titles. It all works splendidly within the tone of the narrative, with each successive sequence feeling like a natural progression of the plot and ensuring that things remain gripping from start to finish.
It’s in its final act that Jurassic World really excels though. The last third of this movie is absolutely relentless. The pulse pounding action during the climax alongside the astounding special effects should serve as a huge treat for both long time franchise fans and casual moviegoers alike. The fact that nothing of the ending is showcased in any of the theatrical trailers is also refreshing in an age where most movies’ best material is spoiled by their promotional campaigns. From a visual standpoint, it means that the finale is an entirely unknown entity, even if you can make some broad guesses as to what might happen as the plot progresses.
While there’s no denying that the dinosaurs themselves are the true stars of this series, most people have been just as curious as to how the cast of newcomers works here. And the answer is pretty damn well, at least in relation to its two lead protagonists. Jeff Goldblum’s zany presence may still be sorely missed, but Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady proves to be a more than worthy successor to Sam Neill’s Alan Grant.
Pratt quickly separates himself from the smart-ass intergalactic outlaw that’s made him an international sensation by delivering a performance with a lot more gravitas. His portrayal of Grady conveys a sense of intensity and intelligence which really makes you believe that he has what it takes to lead and survive in a wilderness packed with deadly prehistoric beasts. At the same time, he manages to endow the character with a lot of heart and compassion so that he ends up being a fully developed, well rounded and extremely likable new face for the franchise.
Likewise, Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing is the best female addition to a Jurassic movie since Laura Dern’s Ellie Sattler. Despite starting off as something of a corporate cliché, there’s an inexplicable likability about Howard’s performance right from the start. This only increases as the story goes on and Dearing steps up to show her more virtuous side, helping to facilitate some of the most crucial aspects of the plot. Together, she and Pratt inject a great amount of depth and soul into a movie that could well have been dull and lifeless without some compelling human characters to get behind.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Dearing’s nephews, who seem shoehorned in for the sake of featuring some children and add nothing of real value. Nick Robinson plays a cringe worthy part as Zach; a stereotypical moody adolescent whose favourite pastime is staring creepily at girls. Ty Simpkins doesn’t give a bad performance as Gray for an actor of his age but it’s not enough to save an otherwise badly written role. If Jurassic World suffers in any great way, it’s due to the inclusion of these siblings.
Of the rest of the support cast, Jake Johnson is hilarious as tech wiz Lowery Cruthers. He doesn’t get a huge amount of focus, yet he steals every scene in which he features. B.D. Wong gives a wonderfully ambiguous performance as morally dubious geneticist Henry Wu, Vincent D’Onofrio is on fine form as nefarious security chief Vic Hoskins and Irrfan Khan enjoys an intriguing turn as park CEO Simon Masrani.
There are also some dinosaurs who themselves feel like actual characters with personalities of their own. Animals who are both heroic and villainous appear throughout, some of whom even have names which adds greatly to the fully fleshed out feel of the movie as a whole.
All in all, despite a couple of minor missteps, Jurassic World is not just a satisfactory successor to its forebears, it’s one of the most thrilling and absorbing action/adventure movies that has graced screens in recent years. With strong lead performances by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, impressive CGI, exhilarating action and the perfect balance of nostalgia and originality, this is definitely one of 2015’s best and most enjoyable cinematic endeavours to date.
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