Hand a kid two dinosaur toys. Said kid will not use them to contemplate evolutionary biology. Said kid will smash the two of them together, simulating an epic dino-smackdown while emitting a likely-annoying reptilian howl. Jurassic World is that but with a $150 million budget. Director Colin Treverrow went from quirky indie Safety Not Guaranteed to blockbuster franchise revival faster than you can ask “how many zeroes are on that check again?” Those hoping Treverrow managed to retain the light, whimsical, creative tone of his former effort should remember this is a movie about dinosaurs eating people. When it comes to people eating, Jurassic World does it better than most.
The film begins with a clever conceit: the theme park from the first film 22 years ago is now working. Rebranded Jurassic World and built on the ruins (and bodies) of the original, business is booming. Critics chiding Jurassic World as a brain-dead romp should note the litany of small capitalist details that cleverly ape real-world Disney approaches. Asking any sequel to stand up to the original Jurassic Park is impossible; that film ushered in a new era of filmmaking. Treverrow and company can’t replicate that initial awe, so they choose to awe us with the scope of the park.
The plot of the original was “We made dinosaurs. Bad idea. Run.” So, don’t expect much more here. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) oversees operations and is concerned with the new attraction, a genetically modified murder monster called the Indominous Rex. Meanwhile, Owen (Chris Pratt), formerly of the Navy and presently of “dinosaur whispering,” is fending off advances from Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), who wants to weaponize raptors for military use. Indominous Rex breaks containment, and Claire turns to Owen to save her two nephews who are in the park. That’s a long way of saying “We made a new dinosaur. Bad idea. Run.”
Gaudy and loud, Jurassic World is pretty great. The final 30 minutes are a sensational “Rube Goldberg” machine of action, as awesome as any climax summer movies can offer It even satisfactorily provides a trite moral. Jurassic Park said “don’t mess with nature.” Jurassic World says “don’t always demand bigger and better.” The shortcoming is Claire. The tiresome cliché of the “successful worker who doesn’t spend enough time with family” is always obnoxious. It’s worse when applied to women. Our patriarchal culture still sees the primary function of women as “breeders” and homemakers; thus, the message of a character like Claire is “Screw your career. Make babies.” Nothing about Claire is good or plausible down to her impossibly durable high heels. Owen sucks too, but at least he gets to be “guy who remembers dinosaurs are living creatures who deserve respect.” You know he thinks that because he says that every 2 minutes.
In the end, Jurassic World is terrific spectacle paced perfectly and infused with more humor than any previous installment of the series (thank you, Jake Johnson). It is grownups playing with dinosaur toys, and if you did that as a kid, you’ll leave with a big, dumb grin on your face.
Grade = B+