There’s a scene in the original Jurassic Park where the Tyrannosaurus rex, fresh from a victory over a pack of Velicoraptors in the devastated foyer of the eponymous theme park, lets out a roar of victory. A banner emblazoned with the words “When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth” flaps across the screen. The scene seemed an accurate prediction of the nascent franchise’s success: The original Jurassic Park not only became the highest grossing film released worldwide to date, but redefined the summer blockbuster with its special effects, family-friendly script and, um, giant fucking dinosaurs.
But the intervening decades, much like human history, were unkind to the dinosaurs. While the original flick distilled Michael Crichton's dark, cynical novel into an accessible, consumer-friendly blockbuster, sequels The Lost World and Jurassic Park III failed to live up to their cinematic ancestor, mired by convoluted plots and milquetoast acting. The dinosaurs once ruled the silver screen, but they’ve since been replaced by bigger, louder, and more thrilling summer adventures.
Jurassic World has managed to revitalize a franchise long on the verge of extinction by adhering to one simple rule: This is a movie about giant fucking dinosaurs, and we’re going to give you giant fucking dinosaurs. The entire film centers on a genetically engineered hybrid Indominus rex and the imminent threat the unusually brilliant beast poses to the 20,000-plus tourists sunning themselves in the high-tech theme park. Why fictional company InGen decided to give this whole dinosaur-nature-preserve thing another go after the first three movies is beyond me (*cough* profit), but the Indominus spends the majority of the movie making InGen executives regret ever thinking this was a sound business model.
Director Colin Trevorrow masterfully whips up an explosive action flick by carefully and faithfully distilling the original elements of Jurassic Park into a brand new stew of dinosaur mayhem. Cute callbacks to the original movie—references to the late Richard Attenborough’s John Hammond sparing no expense, a brief ditty on chaos theory, and a very specific flare sequence—are more than just homages. The recipe for Jurassic World is the same as the original: Throw together an outdoorsy guy (Chris Pratt instead of Sam Neill), some devil-may-care genetic engineering, a few lost children, a dash of corporate espionage, and a little bit of chaos, and bam: all the dinosaurs are running wild.
To be clear: Let’s not mistake Jurassic World for A Normal Heart, or even Dragonheart. The dialogue is stilted, its military-industrial subplot too on-the-nose and confined to megalomaniacal soliloquies delivered by security chief Vincent D'ONofrio and chief scientist B.D. Wong (the only original Park cast member to not get his arms ripped off, apparently). Pratt, entering his second summer as normal-guy-turned-chill-action-bro, does an entertaining job as Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady, blending into the background and allowing us to focus on what really matters: the dinosaurs. New Girl’s Jake Johnson is an unexpected delight, channeling Jeff Goldblum’s naysaying Ian Malcolm and providing some decent laughs. Bryce Dallas Howard, though, delivers a lackluster performance as Claire Dearing, the park’s uptight (and insubstantial) operations manager and Pratt’s ostensible love interest; the latter has more chemistry with his trained raptors than her, and they secretly want to eat him.
But that’s okay! Like the InGen executives who whipped up the Indominus to boost profits, Jurassic World ups the ante on its prehistoric predecessors with fast-paced dino-action in pursuit of that sweet, sweet box office moolah. The sequences with Chris Pratt and his Velociraptor squad in pursuit of the Indominus are even better than was hinted in the trailers, and a pterodactyl attack on unsuspecting tourists manages to evoke shades of The Birds. The deaths are less campy—no Martin Ferrero eaten off the toilet, no Wayne Knight with a faceful of black goo—but everything is bigger, louder, and more intense than any previous Jurassic Park film. And this is exactly what a Jurassic Park should be.
For all it’s energy and batshit crazy dinosaur action, it’s unclear if Jurassic World can trump the pure, unadulterated magic that Spielberg’s original film brought to theaters in 1993. But if you’re headed to the theater looking to see some giant dinosaurs wreak havoc on some poor unsuspecting saps, then take a piece of advice from Samuel L. Jackson: Hold on to your butts.
Photos by Photo: Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment