Movies naturally make me nostalgic, as do movie theaters, particularly the ones where I was once an usher. The packed opening night of Jurassic World at the Queen Ka`ahumanu Theater brought me back to the summer of 1997, when I tore tickets and helped maintain order in that very theater, which housed multiple screens showing The Lost World: Jurassic Park. I remember a little boy who ran screaming into the lobby. He told me the dinosaurs scared him. I got him to calm down but discovered he couldn’t remember which of the four theaters showing the movie he just ran out of. With flashlight in hand, we went through each theater, trying in vain to find the boy’s folks (naturally, they were in the last theater we checked and didn’t realize he left). Crazy things happen when huge masses of people come to one place, all in hopes of seeing dinosaurs.
In this fourth entry to the Michael Crichton-based original, the re-opened dinosaur park, expanded and re-named Jurassic World, is bringing in masses of tourists and revenue. The “park” (more like a dino-themed Disneyworld or a reptile variant on Crichton’s own Westworld) is overseen by Bryce Dallas Howard’s operator, as well as hordes of others, including a dinosaur expert and trainer (played by Chris Pratt). A perimeter breach by a deadly new form of dinosaur coincides with arrival of Howard’s nephews, who, like everyone else in the park, are now in terrible danger.
Considering how director Colin Trevorrow’s debut film was the (comparatively) micro-budgeted Safety Not Guaranteed, it’s impressive to see how efficiently he’s made only his second film. Even with Steven Spielberg as his producer, Trevorrow had a lot to take on and delivers a fun, wow-inducing adventure film.
Pratt is effectively cast against type, playing a “badass” and the only person on the island with any common sense. I’m a big fan of Howard and am always happy to see her on screen but her character is hilariously stupid at times, a quality that undermines the performance.
Continuity is the biggest problem here. A few scenes go by too fast or involve characters who disappear and re-appear (like the boy’s appointed park guardian and their parents). You know a longer, fuller narrative was edited down for time. It’s also difficult to connect this to the first film, as the enthusiasm in the re-opened park, thousands of patrons and employed scientists suggest mass hypnosis took place off camera. Doesn’t anyone recall the events of the first movie?
B.D Wong is the sole returning cast member from the 1993 film, playing a key scientist. It’s not a supporting role, as Wong is playing a crucial character, but it seems like he must have signed a non-disclosure form regarding the first film’s events, which he never brings up. We see the “old” Jurassic Park but, if the second film is still cannon, has everyone forgotten the T-Rex that walked around a California suburb and ate a dog? The filmmakers might as well just have called this Jurassic Park and deemed it a remake, as so many of the same things happen to similar characters.
Unlike many summer movies, this one gets better as it goes along and offers some of the most exciting scenes of the season. If there’s a signature moment, it must be the sight of Pratt, riding his motorcycle alongside a pack of “domesticated” velociraptors, an image as admirably goofy and exhilarating as it sounds.
All of the Jurassic Park films are about either neglectful parents realizing their shortcomings and/or the forming of a family unit under stress. Rather than mimic the clueless adult guardians on screen, I hope parents will be mindful of the film’s PG-13 rating and not take their very young ones to see a film so intense and violent. Jurassic World, both the movie and the park, looks like fun places to visit… until someone lets a dinosaur out of his cage and forgets to feed him.