Jun 15, 2015

[Movies] Jurassic World (2015)

I don't think many of us were expecting a fourth installment in the Jurassic Park series of movies. Sure the first movie had been quite the magical movie experience, but by the third movie it was clear that the writers were running out of good ideas. But hot on the heels of his success in Guardians of the Galaxy, we had Chris Pratt once again playing the lead role in a fairly popular genre movie. I'm definitely not complaining.

Jurassic World was a confusing creation in terms of the early press. By most accounts the movie was being positioned as a sequel to the first movie, but not necessarily in conflict with the second and third movies. But at the same time, it felt like it was a partial reboot of sorts that was clearly ignoring those other sequels in favor of its own story.

The movie was also promised to be notable since it was the first time we were going to feature a fully functional dinosaur theme park. In all prior installments the parks had never reached an operational status because of the other disasters that happened along the way.

Synopsis: Jurassic World is the fourth movie released as part of the Jurassic Park movie franchise and it takes place 22 years after the events of the first movie. It was directed by Colin Treverrow with a screenplay by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly, and Colin Treverrow as well.

Over two decades after the initial incident at Jurassic Park, the island of Isla Nublar is now home to Jurassic World, a fully functional theme park with living dinosaurs as its main attractions. The park has all the problems of a major theme park and a zoo and the pressure is on to keep visitors coming. To this end, park operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is doing her best to run things as a tight ship and to continually attract sponsors and donors to invest in the park including sponsoring new attractions in the form of brand new dinosaurs born out of genetic manipulation. They are set to introduce their first such dinosaur, Indominus Rex to the pubic, but it has proven to be quite violent.

To this end, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) instructs Claire to reach out to ex-Navy officer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who has become a velociraptor trainer and expert, to evaluate the paddock security setup to ensure that nothing untoward will happen when Indominus Rex is introduced to the public. Around the same time, Owen has been approached by InGen Security head Vic Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio), to consider the military uses of trained velociraptors. And for the usual child focus of this franchise, we also have Claire's nephews Zack (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) arriving at the park, eager to see the dinosaurs and spend more time with their Aunt Claire.

First, as much as a lot of the movie seems to want to just push forward and forget about the past releases at first glance, this is clearly still a great homage to all that had come before. There are so many throwbacks to the first movie including an early Easter Egg of someone reading a book by Ian Malcolm complete with Jeff Goldblum's image on the back cover and other little details that stress the fact that this movie is set on the very same island as the first movie. Beyond Easter Eggs, knowing that this was the same island actually becomes a bit of a plot point later on. And this was all a great way to celebrate the franchise without going the limited route of trying to re-hire as many of the original cast as possible just to cram them back into a situation where they probably can't perform as well as they once did. Life's just like that.

The core premise is simple enough - things will inevitably go wrong. And as much as we see these characters pretty much making the same mistakes as everyone else who have come into contract with the dinosaurs in the past movies, it still makes for an entertaining movie experience. This is not some big philosophical discussion of the place of man in creation or whether or not we should get into genetic experimentation and modification of this magnitude - this is a movie about dinosaurs.

To that end, character development is highly limited but not outright bad. For example, it was nice that Claire and Owen had apparently gone on a date some time in the past - thus any potential romantic entanglement between them as a consequence of the events of the movie would not feel like trauma leading into false feelings of bonding and attraction between the two of them. It's not amazing, award-winning characterization, but it's not exactly lazy either. Thus it's okay you might forget the names of the brothers or the folks in the control room - that's not the point of the movie.

What this movie is about is dinosaurs, and after three movies of mixed quality, the folks behind it decided to focus on making sure we got what we want. And if it's one thing that we've learned over several movies is that humans suck at dealing with dinosaurs. And thus this movie was designed to give us dinosaurs fighting dinosaurs just like in the much older movies that utilized really campy stop-motion animation. And as much as the foreshadowing of such dinosaur-on-dinosaur moments are pretty heavy-handed at different points in the movie, it doesn't mean that we don't enjoy the big action moments when they happen. Sure, we had less slow-panning beauty shot of the dinosaurs in all their glory, but we did get great action bits involving said dinosaurs and including ones that had dinosaurs fighting one another.

In terms of more subtle nuances, I really appreciated the effort to put things into the proper perspective. Instead of just talking about dinosaurs as park attractions in a more abstract sense, there was a definite effort seen in the writing to point out the challenges of managing wild animals of this nature. There are a lot of discussions about the consequences of some of the dinosaurs having been raised in total isolation and their lack of social skills and such, which all point back to proper animal care techniques practices in zoos around the world. It was a nice touch that wasn't too clear in prior movies except for flippant comparisons that talk about how this park had attractions that could eat the patrons.

Jurassic World is a lot of fun and it nicely celebrates a lot of the high points of the first movie, while also being unable to escape many of its tropes. It's not a perfect movie and it probably isn't meant to be one either, but the end result is still pretty impressive indeed. Thus the movie gets 4 silly park visitors getting mauled by dinosaurs out of a possible 5.

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