“Jurassic World” (2015) starts off the summer with a thrill

Michael Ambrosino, Contributing Writer

Remember when you experienced “Jurassic Park” back in 1993, when the craftsmanship led by Mr. Steven Spielberg himself transported you to an entirely different world, literally filled with places and creatures you have never vividly seen on screen before? Remember that look of jaw-dropping awe on Sam Neill and Laura Dern’s faces when their eyes first met with the gigantic Brachiosaurus  and the more to follow walking in the crystal blue lake, completed with John William’s classic musical score as we, the audience, shared that sense of unspeakable awe? Remember the astounding CGI work showcased in those mesmerizing wide shots? What about the relentless charm of Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm, or the terrifying sense of uneasiness that flew through the air?

“Jurassic World” has next to none of that spirit until the final thirty minutes or so, which is unfortunate knowing Steven Spielberg was in fact behind the scenes and a very capable filmmaker, Colin Trevorrow, of 2012’s “Safety Not Guaranteed,” was at the helm.

As far as I know this new film was made by massive “Jurassic Park” fans, openly stated by director Colin Trevorrow. “Jurassic World” never feels like the work of someone who truly is a massive fan of “Jurassic Park.” That’s kind of harsh, but never does this film resonate with the audience the same way “Jurassic Park” did on an emotional level. This new film feels way too much like a product made primarily to reel in the necessary cash to make a fifth installment. In other words, it feel like most of today’s summer films out of Hollywood.

“Jurassic World” opens awkwardly with two young brothers, Zach and Gray (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins – the possessed kid in “Insidious”), saying goodbye to their parents as they depart to Jurassic World, now a Universal Studios-type theme park. There are a few good laughs here between Zach and his association with his girlfriend, which his parents humorously mock, as well as many good ones to come. The film isn’t humorless; Trevorrow’s sense of humor certainly shows in the film, primarily through Zach’s character and his eye on girls his age (you will see what I mean if you see it), Vincent D’Onofrio’s hammy Hoskins, and Jake Johnson’s character, Lowery.

Anyway, the two kids go on the ferry, eventually make it to Jurassic World, and John Williams’ classic theme song plays through a big master shot of the park. The opening is passable; it is rushed, ultimately feeling awkwardly crafted. This leads to another handful of awkwardly handled conversation sequences between park heads, including Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire, D’Onofrio’s Hoskins and Chris Pratt’s (Star Lord in “Guardians of the Galaxy”), Owen.

To make the big picture small: Claire and a team of scientists created a genetically modified hybrid who ate its sibling; a monster bigger than the T-Rex known as the I-Rex. It broke containment, and is basically out killing for sport and munching on everything it sees.

“Jurassic World” has some logical flaws that continuously bothered me throughout the film. For starters, I do not buy the idea of Jurassic World even being open as a theme park. It’s senseless. After the finale of “Jurassic Park,” which saw the development of the park coming to a close, wouldn’t one think it’s NOT a good idea to have dinosaurs stampeding around? Secondly, I do not buy the idea of the creation of the I-Rex. This creature is essentially Planet of the Dinosaur – it’s an intelligent dinosaur whose senses surpass those of other dinosaurs. There should have been scientists managing the entire operation, who should have known every little consequence of the creation. I understand that part of Trevorrow’s ambition is to create a fun, dopey action picture, but at least give it a little bit of sense.

Even the film’s theme contradicts itself. “Jurassic World” is a commentary on consumer behavior. Everyone wants bigger, bigger, bigger! “More teeth,” as the film cleverly puts it. However, “Jurassic World,” as a whole, is everything it is poking fun at: a bigger and stupider attraction for bigger and stupider consumers.

As for the performances, everyone does a fine job with the material. In regards to his relationship with the raptors, Chris Pratt delivers a strong performance. However, I must say, I don’t know how I feel about Chris Pratt playing it straight. His character, while occasionally humorous, is mostly devoid of charm, and it’s difficult for me to process a Pratt performance without a few winks at the camera. Jake Johnson and Vincent D’Onofrio are easily the most entertaining aspects of the film, hamming it up and making us laugh like hell (Johnson’s killer comedy moment turns a cliché on its head). For the most part, Colin Trevorrow manages to make the character interactions enjoyable.

The problem with “Jurassic World” is simply that there is too much. We have a fairly simple story over-weighed by an overabundance of characters and motivations. It makes the film feel jumbled. Everything feels forced and fast-paced to a point where it is difficult to really care about anyone or anything. There’s a highly disturbing yet sickly hilarious sequence involving a woman’s watery demise. I didn’t care about her death, I laughed like hell! Also, certain sequences are placed in the film purposely to promote nostalgia, which I understand. However, they never add anything other than nostalgia to the film. Some of the writing is truly bad and heavy in exposition. The suspense never wrings out like a wet cloth. It’s never scary or tense. Stuff just happens.  

The film is a lumbering pile of exposition up until the final half hour or so when it starts to feel like an exciting “Jurassic” film, but even at that moment it’s difficult to care. The filmmaker has a lot of fun with the finale, throwing tons of action, effects and dino-brawls at the screen that will make the little kid inside you pop out and scream in excitement. But wait, there are also dino-nods and dino-communication, two things that are way too corny for even Jurassic Park: The Animated Sing-Along.

I can’t complain about the entire film. There are some well done sequences here and there, including the “watery” demise I mentioned earlier. The audience got a kick out of it, as did I, as well as much of the finale. While it has its moments, “Jurassic World” just feels forced. The “feel” of a “Jurassic Park” picture is captured in the final reel. However, everything prior to the end is an experience equivalent to so many other heartless blockbusters we have seen already.