Time hasn’t been kind to Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park,” the 1993 blockbuster that paved the way for every CGI-driven popcorn flick of the past two decades. But it isn’t the movie’s visual effects that betray its age: it’s the setting. The film’s titular theme park may have spent millions on cloning dinosaurs, but as a visitor experience it looked like a total drag.
In this unexpectedly entertaining revival, the park has been brought up to date: It’s now a Disneyland-scale enterprise, where families can let their kids ride on a baby Triceratops before heading to the pool area to see an 18-meter Mosasaurus devour a shark in one chomp. In the language of operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the dinosaurs are “assets” — and, market demands being what they are, you’ve got to keep upping the stakes.
Hence the newest attraction, Indominus rex, a genetically engineered monster that’s been spliced together from T. rex DNA mixed with a bit of cuttlefish, tree frog and whatever else they had lying around in the lab. The resulting hybrid is just what the park’s cavalier CEO asked for — “Bigger. Scarier. Cooler.” — though it doesn’t take a chaos theorist to predict that this creation might get out of hand.
|Rating||out of 5|
|Run Time||125 minutes|
Sure enough, faster than you can say “Pachycephalosaurus,” Indominus has escaped her enclosure and begun to dismember everything in sight, human and dinosaur alike. This is all doubly inconvenient for Claire, whose nephews have gone AWOL in the park because she was too busy to look after them herself. She turns for help to Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a hunky, old-school dino wrangler who’s had surprising success training a pack of Velociraptors.
The relationship between man and beast plays a central role in “Jurassic World.” The screenplay was cowritten by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who also scripted 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” and it introduces shades of nuance that were absent from the original “Jurassic Park” trilogy. The characters in those films spent most of their time cowering or running away from the dinosaurs; this time, there’s the tantalizing prospect that we might all be able to get along.
The film is quite a step up for director Colin Trevorrow, who’s followed a now-familiar trajectory from well-received indie debut (2012’s “Safety Not Guaranteed”) to mega-budget franchise. It isn’t the shambles you might expect with someone who’s climbed the ladder so quickly, though. There’s a real verve in some of the big set-pieces, including a mass Pterodactyl attack that evokes the same giddy thrill as the late Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion effects.
“Jurassic World” knows it can’t induce awe like Spielberg once did, but it at least manages to have fun. Some of the film’s jokes about the current state of things are well aimed: the park’s security chief is eager to weaponize Owen’s trained Velociraptors (“Just imagine if we’d had these puppies in Tora Bora!”), while the new hybrid is due to be christened the “Verizon Wireless presents the Indominus rex.” Yet the movie doesn’t overdo the postmodern irony. After all, it’s not the 1990s anymore.