WHY DO WE never learn? If you try to pen in herds of artificially grown pre-historic animals and show them off to thousands of trusting people, all in search of a bigger, better thrill, shit’s gonna happen.
And so it does in “Jurassic World” the enormously entertaining, thrillingly made re-boot (sort of) of Stephen Spielberg’s Jurassic juggernaut. Spielberg didn’t direct this one, that was left to Colin Trevorrow who, like Spielberg made his first short movie when he was twelve. But, as the producer, all his trademark touches are there: For one thing, near the start of the movie we encounter a huge Easter Egg (that’s the term used to refer to an inside joke). Masses of Isla Nublar’s guests are in a Sea World type aquarium, gathered to see the feeding time of a vast aquatic dinosaur. He’s being fed a shark, which he gulps down on one mouthful. That’s Spielberg stating that “Jurassic World’s” going to eat up “Jaws” in one smooth gulp.
Beyond this insider joke, Trevorrow delivers Spielberg’s trademark ‘gentle ordinariness’. It’s summertime in suburbia and we meet Spielberg’s idea of the typical American family (i.e they’re White. Hispanics and people of color never really enter Spielberg’s world unless they’re noble slaves nobly struggling to unshackle their chains). We meet two young boys (Ty Simpkins from “Iron Man 3” and Nick Robinson) off to visit their spinster aunt, Claire (Bryce Dallas from “the Help”) who, lucky for them, just happens to run Jurassic World.
Still located in Isla Nublar off the coast of Costa Rica (but really, Hawaii), it’s the theme park to end all theme parks.
This time, not content with cloning raptors and other dinosaurs, the sly, cunning head of gene sciences at JW (B.D Wong from Will Smith’s miss-hit, “Focus”) has concocted his own dinosaur, the Indominus Rex. It’s guaranteed to amp up both audience thrills and (more importantly), profits for the park. It’s a skyscraper-tall, brain-enhanced beast that’s part animal, part monster that, like the monster in “Predator” has learned to hide in plain sight.
Part of the thrill of a movie like this is we’ve been trained to anticipate what’s going to come next. Young – unprotected- kids, vast crowds, a man-made monster and the arrogance of people thinking they’re in control of nature. At what point will all hell break loose? Or, respecting the science of the franchise, at what point will chaos descend?
And when it does descend, run!
Director Trevorrow (ably assisted by veteran Spielberg producer Frank Marshall of “Raiders…” and the other Indiana Jones movies, Patrick Crowley of the Bourne franchise movies and John Jashni of “Pacific Rim” ) skillfully reprises all those familiar tropes: the shuddering trees, the panicked animals, the thundering footsteps and the bellowing roars of approaching death and destruction.
People are eaten, cars and trucks tossed aside like toys, buildings bludgeoned and profits shattered as the Indominus Rex runs amok.
And against this background of noisy destruction, there’s a gentler storyline about the sanctity of relationships. This is what links the multiple stories that play out, and lifts the movie to provide an (emotional) appeal beyond its obvious visceral thrills. The two young brothers bond in their flight to survive, hunky trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) wins the unlikely trust of four raptors, which proves to be a life saver, estranged sisters (Judy Greer from “Tomorrowland” is Claire’s sister) come together and the cold, all the business all the time, park manager, Claire finally warms to the muscular charms of her savior.
The muscular savior is Chris Pratt, who you may remember from the surprisingly good “Guardians of the Galaxy” (as well as “Parks and Recreation”) exudes the kind of relaxed warmth and sly wit that makes him much more endearingly charismatic than simply a badass with a big gun.
As his love interest, it’s great fun to observe the transformation of Claire in her unsullied all white power suit and her brusque corporate coldness strip off to rediscover beneath the make-up and the manicure, her buried humanity.
What’s just barely buried though is the movie’s deeper environmental message: if a hubristic corporate world continues to think they can mess with and control nature for their own profit margins, think again.
That way lies only disaster.
Jurassic World; director: Colin Trevorrow; with Chris Pratt, Bryde Dallas, Ty Simpkins, Judy Greer, Vincent D’Onofrio, Irrfan Khan and Nick Robinson Dir of photography: John Schwartzman (“Saving Mr.Banks”); Production Director: Ed Verreaux (“Looper”);