Published Jun 12, 2015Times sure have changed in the 22 years since Steven Spielberg thrilled audiences by convincingly bringing dinosaurs to life onscreen in Jurassic Park and, like the inevitable expansion of the fictional theme park itself, the series has been forced to adapt to the times. A worthy successor to the original (that ignores its two decent enough sequels), Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World is propelled by the same awe and cautionary tale of human hubris, but it's been carefully engineered — like the film's newest and fiercest dinosaur, the Indominus Rex — to account for the fact that what once was groundbreaking now seems pedestrian to desensitized audiences. In other words, this ain't your daddy's dino movie.
The dinosaurs inside the impressive Jurassic World theme park represent something different to all of the film's characters. If visiting teenager Zach (Nick Robinson) is more interested in scoping girls, at least his younger brother Gray (Ty Simpkins) sees the prehistoric creatures as an exciting attraction. Their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who runs the park, regards them as a product to be sold, while her employee and erstwhile flame Owen (Chris Pratt) respects them deeply and is even making breakthroughs with training raptors.
The trouble starts when Owen is reluctantly summoned by Claire and Masrani (Irrfan Khan), the park's new financier after John Hammond's death, to advise on the gargantuan and genetically engineered Indominus Rex ahead of its unveiling. When the dinosaur proves to be a more clever girl than initially suspected, they soon find themselves with an extremely dangerous beast on the loose that's endangering the safety of the thousands of guests at the park.
While it's difficult to fully invest in the plight of the two cookie-cutter kids placed in harm's way — especially when they find time for some insipid bonding over their parents' impending divorce — we're reminded that the children in the original grated on the nerves a little, too. Pratt and Dallas Howard fare well in their roles, with the former cementing himself as an action star blessed with the rare ability to command the screen with gravitas but also land a well-timed wisecrack when needed and the latter effortlessly slipping into the icy disposition (and inconvenient heels) of a bureaucrat slowly developing a beating heart. Their chemistry may be more perfunctory than palpable, but they capably carry any scenes devoid of dino mayhem.
Jake Johnson provides even better comic relief from the control room than Samuel L. Jackson before him, and Vincent D'Onofrio has more intriguing motives than Wayne Knight ever did. His grand plan of militarizing dinosaurs to ensure less human casualties in combat inspires images of crazed raptors battling overwhelmed terrorists. Devious almost by virtue of being played by D'Onofrio alone, he's certainly not justified in his actions, but he's so set in his convictions, and D'Onofrio is so good, that it's hard to feel that he's entirely wrong, either.
But all of the characters naturally take a back seat to the marvellous spectacle of the dinosaurs, and there are some stunning sequences in which they're showcased. From the introduction of the aquatic mosasaurus to an encounter with the Indominus Rex while the kids are inside a gyrosphere to a terrifying attack by pterodactyls on a crowd, there are spectacular sights that are sure to make even the most disillusioned of jaws drop. The overstuffed climactic battle alone is nearly worth the price of admission.
Jurassic World demonstrates recognition on the part of the film's creators that innovation is an absolute necessity in setting yourself apart from the pack during a time when, given the glut of superhero films at multiplexes, effects are required to be more special than ever. It's survival of the fittest out there, and dinosaurs still rule.