Monster Nation: Jurassic World review

  A new set of jaws: The Indominus Rex thinks Chris Pratt is yummy

          In the summer of 1993, I was ten years old.  My parents took me to see Jurassic Park for its opening night at the Tower Theaters in South Hadley, MA.  Being a precocious child, I’d read the Michael Crichton novel in preparation for the movie—even if I didn’t understand half of the language.  But nothing could prepare me for the experience of watching the movie.  Sure, the characters were a little thin at times, and the sophisticated science and philosophy had been dumbed down in favor of a cartoon Mr. DNA and Jeff Goldblum hitting on Laura Dern.  But for me—and millions of other kids that June—none of that mattered in the face of such hair raising action and revolutionary, photo real dinosaurs.

            So it was with much excitement, tempered by trepidation, that I went to see director Colin Treverrow’s Jurassic World this week.  But as the film kicked off and sent its two youngest characters, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins)—whose parents, in true Spielbergian fashion, are divorcing—to Isla Nublar, circa 2015, I kept squeezing my boyfriend’s hand with joy.  John Williams’ theme music, respectfully interpreted by Star Trek (2009) composer Michael Giacchino!  The original wooden doors rammed through by a Disney-esque monorail!  Mr. DNA!  If the movie’s pushing of fans’ nostalgic buttons is a little calculated, it’s also delightful and self-aware.  Jake Johnson‘s Lowery steals the movie as a witty audience surrogate who waxes nostalgic about “the original park… you didn’t need fancy hybrids—just dinosaurs!”  Of course, Jurassic World can’t merely parrot the first film’s premise.  There’s a hybrid, alright: the Indominus Rex, a calculated creation meant to wow visitors with its “exaggerated predator features.”  Non-spoiler alert: it’s a bad idea.  They might as well have named it Hubrisosaurus.  The boys’ aunt Claire (an on-point Bryce Dallas Howard) and rogue-ish Raptor trainer Owen (geek hunk du jour Chris Pratt) have to join forces to both find her missing nephews and take down the Indominus Rex.  Non-spoiler alert #2: these opposites attract, and they make a good team.

            But if the story’s a bit predictable, it includes enough character development, wit, and surprises to keep things interesting and smart.  Openly gay actor B.D. Wong gets a larger role as Dr. Henry Wu, the genius behind the original Park: he has a debate with Jurassic World’s billionaire owner that touches upon many of the scientific and philosophical wrinkles that fueled Crichton’s original novels—leftover ideas from the first book even come to fruition in some of the island’s new attractions.

            And my inner ten year old?  He friggin’ loved Jurassic World.  The scene in which the Indominus assaults a gyrosphere containing Gray and Zach, stretching its gnarly maw over it like it’s a see-through jawbreaker, is one of the most exhilarating action sequences I’ve seen since that first film’s T. Rex attacked a land cruiser.  The digital dinosaurs are the most seamless money can buy, nearly equaling the artistry of those in Jurassic Park.  The production design is top notch, bringing the fantasy of a fully operational dinosaur park to vivid life.  At just over two hours, the movie seems a bit overlong—and yet I wouldn’t take back a second.  In fact, I’m certain I’ll be going again. ]

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