Jurassic World (2015) — A movie franchise will find a way

“She is learning where she fits on the food chain — and I’m not sure you want her to figure that out.”

Justin’s rating: There will be dinosaurs on this dinosaur tour, right?

Justin’s rating: How bad will the parents here in Jurassic World feel when they turn on the news to see that the time they sent their children off to DinoLand is the one week where the beasts get out and slaughter pretty much everyone? You have to imagine that it’s going to weigh on the conscience. But then again, they sent their kids to a poorly regulated zoo with a gruesome history, so maybe it’s entirely possible that they are trying to prematurely empty their nest.

After a lengthy 14-year sabbatical (it took that long to wash the taste of Jurassic Park III from audiences’ mouths), Universal Studio’s dinosaur series returned with one grand and artistic desire: To make as much money as is humanely possible by delivering a the most formulaic blockbuster that science could artificially engineer. This is accomplished by throwing gobs of money at both CGI and Chris Pratt (both of which look great in trailers) and by milking the Jurassic Park franchise for all nostalgia left in it. Everything is bigger and better funded in Jurassic World… but is it better?

Apparently in the intervening years since John Hammond’s grand experiment to make a theme park starring resurrected dinosaurs failed and killed Samuel L. Jackson, people thought, “Let’s do it again!” “Let’s do it again” is very much a running theme in Jurassic World, because you’re going to see and hear all sorts of callbacks to the previous movies. That includes returning to the original film’s Isla Neblar, where it seems like a successful tourist attraction is finally operating. (My favorite laugh-at-the-stupidity callback was when the kids stumbled over the old Jurassic Park jeeps that had been sitting there since the early 1990s and somehow restored one and drove it off within the span of ten minutes.)

Heading this up is park manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who takes one look at a well-oiled machine and thinks, “How could we introduce catastrophic failure into the system? What about whipping up some freakishly smart, terribly powerful super-dinosaur that will teach us not to monkey in God’s domain?” We don’t really like Claire, if you couldn’t tell. She’s clearly the corporate villain here, but Jurassic World weirdly treats her as the protagonist. Claire would be dino chow except for the efforts of dino wrangler Owen (Pratt), who has trained velociraptors to be his hunting buddies and goes along with her scattered attempts at leadership. At this point I’m just flinging my hands into the air and grousing, “Why not?”

Since no Jurassic Park movie documents two hours of adequate OSHA measures and people refusing to take stupid risks, it all goes quite badly on the weekend that Claire’s two nephews arrive for a visit. The genetically enhanced Indominus Rex finagles a dino breakout, and suddenly the park’s safety rating takes a sharp nosedive. Cue lots of people being eaten, Chris Pratt looking amazing in a vest, and enough dinosaurs to placate the kids in the audience who aren’t here for the plot (if you get my drift).

I’m smart enough to know when I’m being pandered too, and I felt a whole lot of that here. Just throwing John Williams’ score at me doesn’t mean that I’m going to instantly assume that this is Steven Spielberg quality. You gotta earn that, man, and this doesn’t have his magic touch that generates a sense of wonder. Instead, I felt like this movie was cleverly disguised in the remnants of a much better one.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t entertained. For a popcorn flick, it did the job to keep my attention with a lot of eye candy, disaster scenarios, and humorous quips. Both Jake Johnson and Pratt deliver the same effortless charm that made me love them in New Girl and Parks and Rec, which was a consolation prize for when I got bored of the CGI and predictable plot progression. And I do love seeing the park actually operate as John Hammond originally intended, even if the whole idea is laughably ridiculous.

So in the end, I’m calling this one a wash. It’s neither a terrible betrayal of the original classic nor a worthy standout on its own. If I have no desire to see its sequel, then that should tell you that I had my fill and moved on to graze elsewhere.

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