At 12 or 13 years old, I read my first Michael Crichton book and perhaps my first serious novel that was orientated toward adults. I was captivated by Crichton’s science fiction, in a true sense of the term, and couldn’t decide if I was excited or horrified as in how plausible he made “Jurassic Park” sound. Cloning dinosaurs from damaged DNA found in blood inside of gnats and ticks that were fossilized and preserved in amber had many wondering if this were actually possible.
At some point after furiously turning pages of the book, I heard that Steven Spielberg was going to be developing and directing a film based on Crichton’s book. I don’t know if there was ever a film that I was more excited to see – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was certainly up there but the letdown is just too devastating to contemplate much.
My family took me to see “Jurassic Park” on opening weekend at Southcenter Mall in Tukwila. They used to have a one screen theater that was it’s own free standing building in the back parking lot. If recollection serves me right, the line for the movie was wrapped three-quarters around the outside of the entire building. I viewed this ground-breaking movie with a full audience all of us enraptured by the magic of what Spielberg and team had accomplished and the audience was also in a fair amount of suspense and terror.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the first “Jurassic Park”, I own the movie and it was probably my favorite movie, for a time, as a teenager. However, once the end credits came on, I did feel a little let down. The book was just too amazing in my 13 year old mind and many scenes from the end of the book were not in the film. Character’s fates, especially John Hammond, were radically altered for the movie. If one goes back and watches “Jurassic Park”, it seems fair to say that everything builds up and the film just ends with the characters flying away in the helicopter rather suddenly.
Fast forward 22 years and two lackluster sequels. A long gestated and in development Jurassic Park 4 finally comes to the big screen with Spielberg as an executive producer and a relatively new filmmaker, Colin Trevorrow, who made the witty and fun “Safety Not Guaranteed” at the director helm. This time, I saw “Jurassic World” a few weeks after release at the big Regal Cinemaplex at Northgate Mall.
With the plots of “The Lost World” and “Jurassic Park 3” centered around teams going back to the dinosaur site islands to either study or to have very bad ulterior motives, the only logical place for the storyline to develop would be to have a fully functioning theme park. Hence, “Jurassic World”.
The film opens in a snowy landscape and brothers Zach, played by Nick Robinson, and Gray Mitchell, played by Ty Simpkins are sent to “Jurassic World” by their parents to visit their aunt, Claire played by Bryce Dallas Howard. Claire is the park’s operations manager who is one poorly written, cliche character. She later will run from dinosaurs in high heels. I don’t fault Howard, who can be a good actress, as much as the screenwriting team.
Enter Chris Pratt who portrays Owen Grady who lives on the island as a Velociraptor whisperer. Pratt has really seen his career take off from the lovable Andy Dwyer on “Parks and Recreation” to Peter Quill in the Marvel, comic book smash hit “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Here he is a raptor expert and trainer who makes us think we can take velociraptors home as pets. Owen takes the part of Jeff Goldblum’s Malcolm in warning the operators of the theme park of impending hell.
Of course, he has a short dating history with Claire and he eventually finds out that the geneticists at the park led by Dr. Henry Wu, B.D. Wong back from the first picture, have created a hybrid T-Rex monster called Indominus Rex. They have created this monster because tourists seem bored and need something bigger, stronger and faster which is ironic because of this third sequel feeling the pressure to top all the previous episodes.
Yes, Indominus Rex escapes his paddocks and the brothers Gray and Zach are lost in the park, off-roading with the Indominus on the loose. Owen and Claire, in high heels, set out to rescue the children while the corporate team is slow to evacuate the island. There have to be a lot of people to be eaten after all.
In spite of the painfully bad script treatment of Claire, “Jurassic World” is fun and I was glad that I saw the movie on the big screen. The strength of the production is the design and mis en scene. When the children, Zach and Gray, leave for the theme park, the audience is taken along with them. The chartered boat cruise to the island and the monorail that runs into the park have a nice build up. The effects and layout of the theme park are top-notch as well as the featured attractions which we see glimpses of.
So, yes, the character types are recycled. The script writing is eye-roll inducing at times. The bonafide magic of the Spielbergian original is gone. There are various corporate profit interests who see different uses for the dinosaurs including Hoskins played by Vincent D’Onofrio which is all familiar from past installments. Even with all of this, I would still recommend catching the flick on the big screen. There is just something about a dino theme park malfunctioning which directly causes tourists to be munched on by prehistoric reptiles that captures our attention. Enjoy and suspend that disbelief.