For anyone under the age of about 30, it’s difficult to put into words just how amazing Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park was when it debuted in theaters during the summer of 1993. As moviegoers today, we are accustomed to astonishing visual effects almost every week, especially during this season. Yet when those dinosaurs made their first appearance on screen 22 years ago, our jaws dropped along with Laura Dern and Sam Neill’s. It was a triumph of special effects and now our nostalgia factor with the original has reached the beloved status.
I never could quite put Jurassic Park alongside my Spielberg foursome of popcorn classics that are Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a near great motion picture experience that’s only flaw is my indifference to the human characters that populate it. Having said that, we all know that the prehistoric creatures are the real stars of this series.
It is in that context that Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World mostly succeeds, more so than sequels we saw in 1997 and 2001. We have new dinos to feast on our eyes upon their creepy looking and menacing eyes. The script allows a proper amount of reverence for 1993’s groundbreaking picture, but none for the follow-ups because few of us have much reverence for them.
And we have to have the scared kids, right? Here it’s teenager Nick Robinson and little bro Ty Simpkins visiting their aunt (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is Jurassic World’s busy bee operations manager. Their parents are getting ready to divorce in grand and cliched fashion and their week long excursion to the park on Isla Nublar goes astray when the genetically designed new theme park attraction Indominus rex escapes his confines and his big debut involves terrorizing visitors. This doesn’t sit well with Jurassic’s head of security (Vincent D’Onofrio, hamming it up in a winking performance) and we learn of his plans to train some of the park’s dinos for military combat purposes. Let us ponder that – how cool would it be if that actually happened and we got to see it in an inevitable sequel/spinoff, eh?
Our main hero dealing with all this dino drama is Owen (Chris Pratt), an expert handler of the creatures who more than earns his overtime pay in these two hours plus. It is Pratt’s effortless charisma that makes him just about the most entertaining human character this franchise has given us thus far. His sidebar romance with Howard is perfunctory and tolerable. Pratt doesn’t get to let loose quite as much as he did in last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy, but he is a very welcome addition to the proceedings.
The special effects and design of the creatures will simply never rival the wonder factor from over two decades ago. Still these dinosaurs look pretty darn awesome and seeing them in the setting that Richard Attenborough’s Hammond wanted them in is a summertime treat. Jurassic World accomplishes this by reminding us how thrilling and fun this series can be in a way we haven’t experienced since the very first time we saw those now iconic park gates.
*** (out of four)