Nothing makes you feel older than being on the wrong side of 25 and watching every commercial property you were raised on be branded as antiquated and in dire need of a state-of-the-art nip and tuck. Such follies typically yield the bitterest of fruits and fans of whatever the original in question is can lick their lips as another Hindenburg combusts.
Miraculously — and mercifully — Jurassic World is a very satisfying watch. It wisely ignores the inferior sequels and acts as a direct — if belated — continuation to the original film, 1993’s groundbreaking Jurassic Park.
If it lacks the visionary firepower of last month’s Mad Max: Fury Road, it is at least head-and-shoulders above Spielberg’s disastrous Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Longtime fans (and really, who isn’t?) can breathe easy and know that they have a film they can take their children to and find genuine mutual enjoyment without having to endure hours of Harrison Ford proclaiming “I’m too old for this!” Indeed.
For the uninitiated, the plot concerns a California-based research company that develops an innovative method of cloning dinosaurs by means of extracting their DNA from mosquitoes preserved within amber. The technology is harnessed to create a futuristic amusement park curated by a kindly billionaire. Disaster ensues. Billy and the Clonasauras!
Jurassic Park‘s wildly inventive use of computer imagery combined with animatronics drew international praise for changing the way movies could be made. Though, it was met with heavy criticism over its poor characterization and sentimentality. A very similar appraisal could be made for Jurassic World, which at least has its predecessor to bear the brunt of tongue-in-cheek jokes.
The last park was never actually open for business, but now the fun is having an island full of pedestrians to liven up the frantic chaos.
Bryce Dallas Howard (not to be confused with Jessica Chastain) portrays Claire, the immaculately poised overseer of the expensive destination, whose estranged nephews are coming for a visit. This being a Spielberg picture (he retains a producer’s credit) you know it won’t be long before they start hugging.
Howard’s foil is Chris Pratt as a slightly ludicrous dinosaur trainer. A contentious battle of gendered stereotypes ensues and you know it won’t be long before they start kissing.
The advent of a new unstoppable super-dinosaur based on a cocktail of mysterious genetic traits (including the fearsome Cuttlefish) is quietly being engineered to boost sagging park attendance.
So it is only a matter of waiting out the clock until the fearsome Indominus Rex (truly the stupidest term in a science fiction film since Avatar‘s Unobtanium) eviscerates the patrons and more lowly creatures of Isla Nublar.
“At this point, everyone has seen a dinosaur. A triceratops is just another elephant for children,” quips Howard. A snappy observation, but as a comment on the film’s schtick it’s bang on.
During the pre-show, a ROM pundit explains how the franchise’s depiction of dinosaurs is arguably the most accurate in film.
Not exactly high praise, when your competition doesn’t extend much further than creaky Ray Harryhausen contraptions and didactic Saturday morning cartoons.
Pratt has maintained his action-figure physique and may do the majority of the swashbuckling, but it is Howard who emerges as the hero of the film. She is bestowed with the Dr. Alan Grant character arc from the original film and, armed with little more than a flare and impeccable ivory pumps, leads a T. Rex into battle. It is quite a sight.
The initially languid narrative gives fans plenty of time to savour the myriad references to the memorable images they grew up with: ominous footsteps echoed in liquid, precocious children trapped within a vehicle as crunching jaws close in, etc.
The film’s main strength is that it is so completely self-aware and downright post modern at times.
A chain of brilliant lines about product placement nearly break the 4th wall, culminating with Howard chiding a tech employee for wearing an eBay-purchased t-shirt depicting the original Jurassic Park logo. “Nobody needs to think about that right now!”
The majority of the tightly wound screenplay may vocalize the reunion of a fractured familial unit, but the expressive action speaks much louder. The hubris of western commercial tie-ins crumbles in carnage — more than one person dies in a gift shop.
And the captive animals take revenge on their (mostly) cruel captors. A scene involving an awesome aquatic creature in a show tank inevitably makes one think of the current bill against Marineland. Though, this is considerably more fun to sit through than Blackfish.
But ultimately, as last year’s Godzilla demonstrated, people are still game to watch gigantic reptiles pummel each other to scaly goo in a variety of central Amercian locales.
The melee crescendos into a climax that is so corny it could elicit the forced laughs of a million art house movie patrons, but is simultaneously so fun to watch it will have even the most jaded of critics (“hello!”) cheering in the aisles.
See you next month for the new Terminator film!
Jurassic World — Official Trailer
All photos courtesy of Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Inc.