Jurassic World Review: Is It Better Than Jurassic Park?
I don't remember how old I was when I first saw Jurassic Park, but I know I didn't see it in theaters during its original run. Why? No specifics come to mind, but movies weren't an overly huge part of my life back then, largely since I was so obsessed with sports. After I finally got around to watching it, in the high-tech age of beepers and Zack Morris cell phones that was the early 1990s, I remember being blown away, but still remorseful that I never did get to see it in a big theater. 20-some years later, at the ripe old age of 38, I became a kid again when I saw Jurassic World in all of its IMAX 3D glory, because it reinvents the spectacle and the story of the original classic, while giving us a glimpse at the fluid filmmaking style of the man who very well may be the next Steven Spielberg, Colin Trevorrow.
I'm sure plenty of original Jurassic Park fans are approaching Jurassic World with trepidation, abiding by the age-old axiom "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me." While The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III aren't the worst movies in the world, it's hard to imagine any way they could have succeeded with such towering expectations after the original broke new ground (and the bank). For those worried about being "fooled" a third time in a row, that doesn't happen in Jurassic World.
Calling Jurassic World a "sequel" seems as unfair as calling it a "reboot," a "re-imagining" or any other term the Hollywood system deems buzzworthy. There is both continuity with the beloved original (while essentially ignoring the sequels) and brand new characters, with a story that brings the franchise back to its roots and looks forward to the future. Jurassic World embraces its past by sticking with a fairly simple story (dinosaurs are alive, and you can come see them yourself!) and introducing characters we're genuinely intrigued by and/or care about. At the same time, that premise is shown through the prism of our current society, giving us a glimpse at how massive this resort would be in today's corporate climate, and the pitfalls associated with the quest for the almighty consumer dollar that put financial responsibility over anything else.
The characters are all developed incredibly well, from Chris Pratt's Owen Grady, the no-nonsense raptor trainer who isn't thrilled with the resort creating a brand new dinosaur through DNA splicing, to Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire Dearing, the career-oriented businesswoman who hasn't found time for much else in her life. The real heart of the story is Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), two siblings who are sent on a trip to the resort to visit their Aunt Claire, a dream come true for the dino-loving Gray and a constant nuisance for Zach, who can't bear to be away from his girlfriend.
When the new genetically-created dinosaur, dubbed the Indominus Rex, escapes from captivity, we are taken on a seamless, multi-faceted journey, following Zach and Gray trying to survive on their own in the midst of the park, Owen and Claire trying to track them down, and the slightly-nefarious Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio), who is just itching to turn these prehistoric creatures into militarized killing machines. We also get some wonderful comic relief from Jake Johnson's Lowery and Lauren Lapkus' Vivian, who work in the massive control room that oversees the whole park, and have a hilarious and perfectly-placed scene towards the end. The only character I had any issue with is Irrfan Khan's Simon Masrani, the CEO of Masrani Global who owns the resort. When we first meet Masrani, he seems like a super-wealthy eccentric, flying a helicopter and asking Claire about how happy the patrons of his park are, something she isn't sure how to quantify. From there, the character has a Jekyl/Hyde complex, shifting frequently between this big-hearted businessman to any typical CEO only concerned with the bottom line.
If anyone should emerge from Jurassic World a true star, it's director Colin Trevorrow. Jurassic World is only the director's second feature, following his brilliant 2012 indie Safety Not Guaranteed, which he co-wrote with Jurassic World collaborator Derek Connolly. While we've seen plenty of filmmakers go from a shoestring budget indie to an immense studio tentpole, like Gareth Edwards following up the low-budget Monsters with the enormous Godzilla, there is something special about how Colin Trevorrow crafts his scenes. I wouldn't be surprised if people walked away from this thinking Steven Spielberg directed it. I realize how bold a statement that is, but it's the best way I can think of to describe his impeccable direction.
To put it bluntly, Jurassic World is the Jurassic Park 2 you've been waiting 22 years for. With that said, I think the wait plays a small part in how effective the movie is. It's not because the technology has evolved so much to give us even cooler dinosaurs (although it has, and it does), but simply because absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. I'm glad there hasn't been a Jurassic Park movie in 14 years, because if there had been and it failed (again), then maybe we wouldn't even get a chance to see what Colin Trevorrow can do with this franchise. Jurassic World is one of the few movies in ages that found a way to replicate that elusive Steven Spielberg/Amblin magic of Jurassic Park and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, delivering such big ideas in a grounded and realistic fashion, figuratively transporting the viewer beyond the screen and into the story. Fans often like to say that bad reboots and remakes "destroyed their childhood." Jurassic World is the polar opposite, recreating the splendor and awe of your first visit Jurassic Park in new and phenomenal ways.
Jurassic World arrives in theaters on June 12, and stay tuned for our interviews with Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson and Jake Johnson later this week. If you agree or disagree with my review, let your voice be heard below, or on Twitter @GallagherMW. Will you be heading to your local theater to check out Jurassic World this weekend?