A close family member invites two young relatives to enjoy the delights of a fully-populated prehistorically themed island, whilst meanwhile others with darker hearts have different plans for the revolutionary genetic technology. Thus 22 years ago did Spielberg thrill and excite us with Jurassic Park, a film that made you believe that dinosaurs had been resurrected and taught you, besides anything else, that toilet cubicles are not good hiding places.
Now here comes Jurassic World. The plot may be vaguely familiar, but the environment is stepped up several notches. The relaunched Isla Nublar is open for business with 20,000 excitable visitors flocking this way (and that). Bryce Dallas Howard (“The Help”, “Spiderman 3”) plays park manager Clare, an ice queen businesswoman who can’t even be bothered to accompany her two visiting nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) during their first visit. Clare understands that American visitors are fickle things, and dinosaurs are no longer “Wow” enough: genetic engineering and cross-breeding are being used to create new variants: bigger; fiercer; less predictable. Chris Pratt (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) plays Owen, a velociraptor trainer… yes, I didn’t make that up. When things go awry in a big (a VERY big) way, Owen steps in to try to save the day.
In any other year, this would probably be THE movie event of the year. As it is, Mr Abrams’ Xmas feature bags that expectation slot, but JW has certainly set the bar high. The film has done phenomenal opening business – creating a new US opening weekend record at $208.8M dollars! Think about that for a minute: given the budget was only $150M, that’s a return on investment for the studio within 3 days of release!
But is it any good? The answer is a qualified yes. In my personal ranking, this would come second, behind the original Jurassic Park but ahead of the disappointing JP2 and JP3.
Sure, its a ‘park your brain at the door’ sort of film, but director Colin Trevorrow, with only his second feature, delivers shock and awe at a sufficient pace to keep audiences entertained and is likely to delight kids (at least those impervious to a little light gore). The sheer spectacle of the Disneyesque visitor areas and a Shamu-like marine show are very engaging, but the film works best when it wallows in the misty-eyed nostalgia of the original classic. No spoilers, but there are a few moments of sheer nostalgic delight to be had.
The leads are all effective enough, with Chris Pratt solidifying his matinee idol status ahead of a rumoured reboot of Indiana Jones. The two young leads also shine, with Nick Robinson in particular being very watchable. Great also to see BD Wong reprising his role from the original JP film.
Where the film falters is with a stuttering storyline. A forced and superficial romance between the two leads is unnecessary, distracting and drives to a finale that drips with more cheese than the Brontoburgers sold in McDinos. The military involvement in the story is also strangely superficial – whilst it sets something up for an interesting sequel (“JW2: ISIS and the Revenge of the Raptors” anyone? (Title © RJ Mann)) the film could have been much tighter had it disposed of this thread and focused on the primary storyline.
In terms of the special effects, the CGI is OK but at times just tries too hard: a sequence with darting and diving velociraptors in the jungle alongside Owen’s bike looks particularly ropy. Dodgy brachiosaurs aside, I still think the 22 year old combination of models and restricted CGI-usage in JP1 was more convincing and much scarier.
Those concerns aside, this is a film I would gladly see again and so is recommended for an entertaining night out at the flicks.
Fad Rating: FFFF.