Step right up to the most fantastic thing you’ll ever see: living, breathing dinosaurs. Now bigger and meaner than ever, feast your eyes on the sleek theme park that houses them all, Jurassic World. Watch in awe as what we knew would happen in the first movie happens once again on a much more tragic scale in the sequel to "Jurassic Park."
Two brothers Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) are sent off to vacation at their aunt Claire’s (Bryce Dallas Howard) workplace, Jurassic World. She, being too busy, sends the boys off into the theme park on their own when chaos ensues. The theme park’s latest creation, Indominus Rex, breaks out of containment and proves too smart to be recaptured even with the help of a dinosaur behavior specialist Owen (Chris Pratt). As the bloodthirsty, genetically modified dino reigns chaos on the tiny Costa Rican island, it’s up to the business woman and the raptor trainer to save the park attendees and her nephews.
Pratt and Howard’s characters are disappointingly one-dimensional characters. One is a Marine veteran who knows how to train connect with raptors. The other is a Type-A professional woman who has her lack of motherly instincts called into question several times over throughout the movie. She’s unnatural, he’s grounded, and I couldn't keep my eyes from rolling into the back of my head at her every subsequent line of dialogue.
Even more painful is the reoccurring references to “Jurassic Park” in “Jurassic World," a reminder of how incredibly right Steven Spielberg captured the awe and wonder of seeing your dreams turn into the monster trying to eat you in the 1993 original. Spielberg held onto an egalitarian approach when it came to creating his characters: two scientists, Grant (Sam Niell) and Sattler (Laura Dern) and siblings Lex (Ariana Richards) and Tim (Joseph Mazzello). In “Jurassic World,” there are two boys, a down-to-earth guy who “gets” dinosaurs and the no-nonsense business lady who learns the tough lesson that you can’t control everything.
I won’t tell you how many times I got into trouble for wrinkling my freshly ironed shirt to replicate Dern’s look when I was younger, I’ll just tell you about the solid minute I spent laughing during “Jurassic World” when Howard runs (in slow-motion!) from a large carnivore in designer heels. I pray that moment was meant in jest because it would be the only way to justify the sheer absurdity.
Absurdity is also what you’ll find in the suspect science of animal behavior or genetic engineering, but most audiences would probably let such indignities slide. Director Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) clearly loves the source material and packs it plenty with “Jurassic Park” references, some lifted almost intact from the original.
Clearly, he sets the entire movie up to crescendo into a dinosaur cage match at the park entrance, but that’s hardly a surprise to anyone who has seen the trailer. Trevorrow’s use of fan service and adventure movie clichés is either a decision to create the least surprising sequel in the “Jurassic” series or complications from the rushed effort to bring the sequel to the big screen as quickly as possible. That predictability stunts the narrative from becoming anything that would inspire Spielberg-esque awe.
Although “Jurassic World” suffers from a severe lack of Jeff Goldbulm and character development, the audacity of the amusement park is sure to win over a sizable audience. A Disney World-inspired (Jurassic World closely replicates the spoke and wheel layout of their Florida theme parks, which leads attendees to a center point that then splits off to various attractions, a design the Universal theme parks don’t follow) land that is lined audacious merchandising kiosks and complete with a Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville sets the stage for much of the more interesting scenes in the movie.
We think we’re over the shock-and-awe days of the original “Jurassic Park,” and Trevorrow wants to say otherwise. Tapping into the vein first punctured by “Jurassic Park” writer and “West World” director Michael Crichton, this latest iteration draws less fresh blood than warm nostalgic memories. We know why we return to the safety of a theater to watch a theme park spoil from the inside out from greed. We know why we’re excited to see dinosaurs thunder across the big screen. It’s all about the spectacle. Unfortunately, for “Jurassic World,” the presentation is a little less at the caliber of Disney or Universal than it is a regional Six Flags.
“Jurassic World” opens in theaters Friday.