Film Review: ‘Jurassic World’

Most Anticipated Movies of 2015
Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg's test-tube dinosaurs get a critic-proof reboot that's fun for a while, but not a patch on the original.

“No one’s impressed by a dinosaur anymore,” notes one character early on in “Jurassic World,” and it’s easy to imagine the same words having passed through the lips of more than one Universal Studios executive in the years since Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg’s 1993 “Jurassic Park” shattered box office records, along with the glass ceiling for computer-generated visual effects. Two decades and two lackluster sequels later, producer and studio have spared few expenses in crafting a bigger, faster, noisier dinosaur opus, designed to reclaim their place at the top of the blockbuster food chain. What they’ve engineered is an undeniably vigorous assault of jaw-chomping jolts and Spielbergian family bonding that nevertheless captures only a fraction of the original film’s overflowing awe and wonderment. Which should still be more than enough to cause a T-rex-sized ripple effect at the summer multiplex turnstile.

If the first “Jurassic Park” served as a game-changing harbinger of the CGI-era tentpole movie (as well as the movie-as-theme-park-attraction-as-movie), “Jurassic World” can be seen as a self-aware commentary on the difficulties of sustaining a popular franchise in an age when spectacular “event” movies are the rule more than the exception. The galloping gallimimus herd and screen-filling T-rex head of ’93 now seem almost as quaint as the stop-motion ape of the 1933 “King Kong” after the VFX breakthroughs of “Lord of the Rings,” “Avatar” and the two recent “Planet of the Apes” movies (whose writer-producers, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, share “Jurassic World” screenplay credit with director Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly). And when “Jurassic World” begins, a similar dilemma faces the operators of the eponymous theme park, which, after a rocky start, is running incident-free on that doomed Costa Rican isle of Isla Nublar, where it has become a full-fledged, Disney-like resort, complete with luxury Hilton hotel (one of the many brands seemingly unfazed by placing its products in a movie about a literal tourist trap).

Business is booming at Jurassic World, yes, but in the tourism business, as in Hollywood, stasis is a kind of death. The public — and, moreover, generous corporate sponsors — want ever more bang (and teeth) for their buck, observes the no-nonsense Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), a loyal corporate flack who oversees park operations for Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), the Indian billionaire who inherited Isla Nublar from the late John Hammond (Richard Attenborough). So it’s time for a little razzle-dazzle cooked up by ex-Hammond geneticist Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong, the sole “Jurassic Park” cast member to reprise his role here): a new, hybrid dinosaur breed known as Indominus rex (or, more precisely, Verizon Wireless Indominus rex), made from T-rex DNA and whatever else tumbled into the gene splicer. Will these people never learn? Not as long as the thrill-seeking public keeps queuing up for more.

Bits of dinosaur DNA isn’t all that’s been recombined here, and if you’ve ever seen a “Jurassic Park” movie (or maybe any movie), it doesn’t take much guesswork to figure out that all of man’s state-of-the-art structural engineering will fail and Indominus rex will get to stretch her mighty legs all over Isla Nublar. The roles of the obligatory imperiled children are filled this time by Claire’s two visiting nephews — a surly hormonal teen (Nick Robinson) and his geeky, dino-obsessed younger brother (Ty Simpkins) — whose parents are (per the Spielberg norm) in the throes of divorce. In lieu of Pete Postlethwaite’s big game hunter from “The Lost World,” “Jurassic World” gives us Vincent D’Onofrio as a jingoistic military type who envisions using dinosaurs as battlefield soldiers. And standing in for Sam Neill’s eminently practical paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant, we get Chris Pratt as sardonic ex-Navy man Owen Grady, who’s spent years not-quite-taming a pack of captive velociraptors (the “Jurassic” films’ most intelligent and lethal predators). They don’t quite eat out of Grady’s hands just yet, but at least they don’t bite (or bite off) the hands that feed them.

Pratt is effortlessly engaging here, doing a minor-key variation on the stoner-surfer Indiana Jones routine he deployed to fine effect in last summer’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” (a more inventive, risk-taking studio movie than this one). He certainly gets more to do than Howard, whose part is like a third-generation xerox of the high-strung damsels-in-distress played by Kathleen Turner in “Romancing the Stone” and Kate Capshaw in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” Then again, the “Jurassic” films have never exactly been rich on the human side — perhaps the key point that kept even the original film, for all its technical wizardry, from fulfilling Spielberg’s stated desire to create a “land-based ‘Jaws.’”

What it lacked in character, however, “Jurassic Park” more than made up for in ingenious booby traps and hairsbreadth escapes, several of which now rank among the iconic moments in modern action-fantasy cinema (an angry T-rex treating a Mercedes SUV like a matchbox car; two velociraptors cornering their human prey in an industrial kitchen). “Jurassic World” doesn’t produce any such memorable setpieces, but it’s generally a more imaginative work than “The Lost World” and (especially) the woeful, Joe Johnston-directed “Jurassic Park III,” which both found unduly contrived ways of returning key characters to the very dinosaur-infested isles they swore they would never revisit, while adding new characters so unlikable that they could scarcely be devoured quickly enough.

Trevorrow, who turned heads when he was handed the “Jurassic” reins (after having directed only the modestly charming, Amblin-esque time-travel romance “Safety Not Guaranteed”), gives the movie a warmer, brighter touch, closer in feel to the original film, especially in its central sibling rivalry and the portrait of a childless adult (Howard here, Neill there) whose parental instincts are awakened by dino-trauma. But he’s far less adept at staging big action (which tends to be more frantic than thrilling), and some of the movie’s best ideas remain oddly underdeveloped, like unhatched eggs. Having seeded the promising notion of rampaging dinos turned loose on the unsuspecting public (a la the final moments of “The Lost World”), “Jurassic World” ultimately makes little of it, relegating most of the action to the park’s interior, far from the madding crowd. Ditto the Indominus rex’s nifty adaptive camouflaging ability. And only late in the day (too late) does the movie arrive at the tantalizing, “Godzilla”-like suggestion that, sometimes, man and monster might find themselves united against a common enemy.

Trevorrow has littered the film with sly callbacks to the original “Jurassic Park,” plus amusing nods to “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Birds” and many others. It’s fun enough while it lasts, but somehow, finally, all too much and not enough. The problem isn’t that dinosaurs have ceased to impress us, but that dinosaurs alone are not enough to sustain us in a sophisticated blockbuster culture that has, only just recently, given us the topsy-turvy emotional landscape of “Inside Out,” the determined desert fugitives of “Mad Max: Fury Road” and the all-too-human ape leader Caesar of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” — movies as bold in their storytelling and as rich in their emotional stakes as they are spectacular in their visual derring-do. “Jurassic World” starts out as a satire of bigger-is-better corporate groupthink only to become the very object of its scorn — a giant wind-up machine that’s all roar and precious little bite.

The dinos themselves have rarely looked better than they do under the direction of VFX supervisor Tim Alexander, especially Indominous rex (arguably the movie’s most well-developed female character), and a new underwater beastie who’s like Shamu on steroids. Composer Michael Giacchino provides wall-to-wall pulse-pounding percussion, horns and strings, though the tunes most viewers will come out whistling are John Williams’ extensively recycled “Jurassic Park” themes.

Film Review: 'Jurassic World'

Reviewed at AMC Century City, Los Angeles, June 8, 2015. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 124 MIN.

Production

A Universal release presented with Amblin Entertainment in association with Legendary Pictures. Produced by Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley. Executive producers, Steven Spielberg, Thomas Tull. Co-producer, Trevor Waterson.

Crew

Directed by Colin Trevorrow. Screenplay, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly, Trevorrow; story, Jaffa, Silver, based on characters created by Michael Crichton. Camera (color, 35mm), John Schwartzman; editor, Kevin Stitt; music, Michael Giacchino; production designer, Edward Verreaux; supervising art director, Doug Meerdink; art director, Christa Munro; set decorator, Ron Reiss; set designers, Ernie Avila, George Lee-McDonnell, Kevin Loo, Todd Cherniawsky, Lorrie Campbell; digital set designers, Masako Masuda, Randy Wilkins, Forest Fischer; costume designer, Daniel Orlandi; sound (Datasat/Dolby Digital), Kirk Francis; sound designers, Al Nelson, Pete Horner; consulting sound designer, Gary Rydstrom; supervising sound editors, Al Nelson, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle; re-recording mixers, Christopher Boyes, Pete Horner; visual effects supervisor, Tim Alexander; visual effects animation supervisor, Glen McIntosh; visual effects producer, Erin Dusseault; visual effects and animation, Industrial Light & Magic, Image Engine Design, Hybride, Vuirtuos, Ghost VFX, Base FX, Level 256 VFX, Avery FX; special effects supervisor, Michael Meinardus; dinosaur consultant, Phil Tippett; associate producer, Christopher Raimo; assistant director, Chris Castaldi; second unit directors, David Leitch, Chris O’Hara; second unit camera, Patrick Loungeway; casting, John Papsidera.

With

Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, BD Wong, Judy Greer, Irrfan Khan.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 43

Leave a Reply

43 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. dieter dohm says:

    We ain’t invincible and if these majestic creatures were taken of earth for a reason and we need to remember that even though it in a movie making waves ,fictitious or not I love this our biggest enemy is bacteria and mother nature.

  2. dieter dohm says:

    Best effing movie I have seen in my life ,it kept me cheering on every turn and scene. In German Shizer !!!!-ladies and gentlemen if u don’t like this there’s something wrong you!!!! :-) go hard !!!well done /perfectly mad as

  3. Hafiz says:

    i love the ”Jurassic World ” all part …this is a really good movie
    lots of fun in this move.. and also some horrible movie

  4. Tommy Peters says:

    Caught this on a bad torrent but it was enough to reminisce, not of Spielberg’s opus but Disney’s George of the Jungle with bits of Travolta’s sexist one-liners, high heels and all. Not the first time a screenplay made a villainous dinosaur hilarious but it is the first to lift our protagonist from the equally hysterical Godzilla. C’mon! Be children. 5 stars for fun!

  5. Jan Harde says:

    Hello all, well for those who have seen this you will know what I am talking about, and for those thinking of watching it, you may want to read this first. I LOVED the Original Jurassic Park, and NOT the sequels as most agree, and this movie was so hyped that I think I expected much much more. It was like what Cath here before me said “a Let down” BIG time, way to slow in the beginning, no story line at all, and NO WAY I would take children to see this movie, with all the gore and half eaten people, and dying and dead creatures everywhere. Not an exciting story for children at all, and Mr. Spielberg, you were asleep at the switch so to say, and this is NOT your normal excellence in movie making.
    It was Purely made for the Almighty DOLLAR nothing else at all, and the next of the Jurassic sequels to come, and YES there will be more !! How exciting ! NOT, we are probably in for more DRECK like most of this was, except for the always incredible visual effects and CGI that they are famous for.
    So in closing, slow beginning half, way to much death and gore for children, how did it get a PG rating.CRAZY. !!
    ENJOY the summer all.

  6. Cath says:

    This movie was a bit fat FAIL!! Simply terrible, bad cast, bad script, very thin on plot, and no real star.

  7. Rex says:

    Oh, come ON. Jurassic Park III wasn’t THAT bad. Not as good as the first two, but at a lean 90-ish minutes, it was a solid little thrill show. Just sayin’ . . .

  8. Dickrichie says:

    everyone that likes this movie went in with low to now expectations. Which makes sense cause all they want is to be reminded of the eye candy from their past. That doesn’t make Jurassic World a good movie. It makes it a mediocre movie that reminds you of how you felt watching a better movie.
    It had a giant opening weekend. It will probably push the next sequel it will be soon forgotten though because there’s nothing memorable about the film. C+ at best

  9. Dashingscorpio says:

    Scott, It looks as though that line “No one’s impressed by a dinosaur anymore” was far from true!

    “Box Office: ‘Jurassic World’ Sets Global Record With $511.8 Million Debut”

    It’s probably no coincidence the biggest block busters are usually the most “unrealistic” escapism.

    Maybe people are embracing these “popcorn movies” to escape all the negativity in the news from around the world. It seems going to the movies is one thing people from every nation enjoys doing.

  10. i’ve just watched the original, and forgotten how much Arianna Richards’ continual screaming got on my wick.

    I’d also forgotten that Samuel L. Jackson was in it.

  11. priscillakennedy says:

    People don’t go to Jurassic Park movies for rich, character driven drama,blah, blah, blah…..they go for the child in them that wants to see dinosaurs come to life, to see them run, fly and eat people. Not every movie has to be a deep, thought provoking, experience. I sometimes want a thrill a minute, special effects extravaganza. And this move delivers in spades

    • Riley says:

      I go to movies for the story because movies are stories, not 90 minute light shows and displays of computer generated imagery. But I am in the minority of course.
      If Jurassic Park could tell a good story, this one could have (and sort of did) as well.

  12. Steve says:

    “an angry T-rex treating a Mercedes SUV like a matchbox car”? The SUVs were Ford Explorers in the first movie, not Mercedes.

  13. soleillune says:

    I went to see it and it’s not very good. The plot, however little there is, is idiotic. If you don’t care whether there is intelligence or not in a movie then you might like it. If you like when things make sense then don’t bother.

  14. ohsnap says:

    Yeah, I’ll go see it. But all the ones not directed by Steven Spielberg have lacked something. His direction of the Jurassic movies reminded me of the old sci-serials and I really liked them. After viewing the trailers, it seems like this movie is made for 13 yrs old who like movies like ‘The Transformers’ and is mainly for visual effects. Nothing will be as awe inspiring and scary as the first one. Maybe it’s time to let the franchise go.

    • Rex says:

      I suspect in due time, we’ll learn that Spielberg directed portions of Jurassic World. I realize that franchises these days have such tight rules regarding their construction that a novice like Trevorrow could logically be handed the gig, but not without SERIOUS oversight to make sure he stayed on message, visually and story-wise. This kind of show practically writes and directs itself, so Trevorrow’s followup shows may prove whether he was a more than just a front man on this one.

  15. LOL says:

    Just got back from seeing it. It was average crap with no plot, and that ending was so obvious. The dinosaurs look like software.

  16. Philm Guy says:

    It was Bob Peck who played the big game hunter in JP. A terrific actor, he sadly died just a few years after making that film.

  17. Nanny Mo says:

    So I went to an advanced screening. Here’s the dope: If you like the kind of Spielberg movie where you leave your mind at the door and jump at romance and jokes aimed at a 13 year old, you’ll like this film. It was fun, funny, dorky and just what you’d expect from Spielberg. Frankly, I liked it, but don’t over-think it, it’s not a brilliant film and yes, if you foresee it happening, it probably does. Entertaining, it is, classical brilliant cinema, it is not. Go see it for fun.

  18. Henrik D.R. says:

    Great review, kind of got the same impression.

  19. Josh says:

    Absolutely spot on review

  20. me says:

    There is also a (huge) level of snobbery when it comes to movies like this, as if admitting to enjoying oneself for 2 hours is beneath people. It can just be fun for fun’s sake (and sorry, GOTG may be a lot of things, but original isn’t one of them).

    You only get one chance to make a first impression. After all this time, it is impossible to be awed by a Jurassic Park movie, because that already happened.

    • Couldn’t agree more. I thoroughly enjoyed it because I knew I wasn’t getting Citizen Kane, I was getting a Jurassic Park sequel. As for GOTG, it was a good movie, but it was just Star Wars redone, yet again, and Serenity nailed that particular genre better than anything since the originals.

    • John K says:

      Yes. You nailed it. This movie will probably be exactly what 90% of the people who walk in to see it are expecting.

  21. fred mertz says:

    That’s a nasty headline.

  22. Lee Mastroddi says:

    It’s a Jurassic Park movie poured into a Transformers mold. As such it will reach its intended audience, most of whom are not in the U.S.

  23. Bill B. says:

    Been there, done that, but I do like Pratt.

  24. Mr. Average says:

    Whose, not who’s.

  25. Deek says:

    Whenever the lead into a review uses the term “critic-proof,” I audibly grown. Basically the critic is going to spend several paragraphs trying to convince you not to see the movie, but they know you will. “Go see Fury Road,” which became a critical darling in spite of it basically being a two-hour car chase based on a series of successful B-movies from the 80s. Oh, don’t forget to drop in a comparison to a film that made its debut in Cannes, but hasn’t been released widely yet so we know how much hipper you are than us when it comes to movies!
    But seriously, why throw in the term “critic-proof”? It’s like you take it personally that people will go see a movie about dinosaurs eating people instead of listening to a stuffy critic who uses phrases like, “jingoistic military type.” The term jingoistic infers military type, so why be so wordy? It’s the writing equivalent of digital effects.

  26. Nanny Mo says:

    Well it’s possible that Spielberg has jumped his own shark but I am going to go and see this one if for no other reason than I got a free ticket. Plus, Universal’s Parks needed to do something to keep the ride current, it was starting to feel like the old vintage ride among the new ideas.

  27. I’ve yet to see the movie but the review was thoroughly entertaining to read. One question: Why the mention of Verizon before Indominus rex? I mean, what kind of a product placement is that if it is so indeed?

  28. Jurassic World is your typical summer blockbuster fluff. Poor acting and nonsensical dialogue reminiscent of the old “Land of the Lost” series. Like many of the Star Wars prequel films, most of the cast seemed to just check in and collect a paycheck. Bryce Dallas Howard and Vincent D’Onofrio were so god awful that I couldn’t stop laughing. You know it’s bad when the most interesting character in the film is a sick dinosaur. As expected, it was visually stunning but lacked the suspense and magic of that first film. I wasn’t expecting “Jurassic Park” but I wasn’t expecting a Roger Corman B-movie either.

    • Iván el Terrible says:

      “I wasn’t expecting a Roger Corman B-movie either”
      Bloody hell, even the worst thing Corman has ever done is still better than most of the summer blockbusters of the last years.

      • Brian Wiley says:

        Unfortunately, It seems these bonehead blockbusters are now aimed at foreign audiences who seem to devour our crap.

      • macd says:

        Actually just about all of these recent summer “blockbusters” are merely ripoffs of Roger Corman’s quickies of yesteryear, the main difference being the humongous budgets and half the entertainment value. Moviegoers (in the U.S., at least) are already tiring of these bloated ‘B’ cinematic turds, and I, for one, think a sequel to “Humanoids from the Deep” would be a lot more fun than “Jurassic–IV”.

  29. BrucePayne says:

    Stop spamming viruses on every review, jerk.

More Film News from Variety

Loading