When it comes to a movie like Jurassic World, a new chapter in a beloved film franchise, all you can really hope for is that it will try to be as good as the original film. Jurassic Park was such a massive hit and cultural touchstone for people of my generation that we were willing to forget the second and third entries and place all hope on this fourth one. Well, hope or not, it didn’t do much to make it seem like the original film, but I think that’s exactly why I enjoyed it.
Audience anticipation and expectation can make or break a movie like this and what Jurassic World does well is give itself over entirely to what a large portion of the audience was probably hoping for with a fourth installment: wall-to-wall dino action. Everything about this movie is unabashedly bigger than the original, going from the relatively small cast and surroundings to a massive, island-wide theme park full of people, and with more dinosaurs than ever before.
You probably can guess it, but this installment takes place 22 years after the events of Jurassic Park, in a world where John Hammond’s vision of a viable, packed theme park on Isla Nublar has become a reality. Now called Jurassic World, it’s got the latest in state-of-the-art ride technology to accentuate and heighten the park’s 14 species of herbivores and eight carnivores. (Why are we making carnivores still? Oh right: for this movie to exist.) But some interesting developments are afoot: the park’s billionaire owner (Irrfan Khan) wants to keep making the park as great as possible, but its by-the-numbers overseer (Bryce Dallas Howard) thinks doing so involves creating new, more fearsome, and “cooler” dinosaurs that didn’t actually exist. This leads them to the hybrid creation — Indominus Rex — a highly intelligent, highly deadly beast that has never been around another living thing besides the sibling it quickly ate.
Meanwhile, a former Navy guy (Chris Pratt) has been working with a pack of four velociraptors to create a bond, effectively becoming their alpha. This is very intriguing to Vincent D’Onofrio’s character, who is the head of InGen’s military contract to the park, which provides a crack security team in case something should go down. InGen, if you’ll remember, is the Weyland-Yutani of the Jurassic universe: always looking to exploit the science for its own gain. D’Onofrio wants to breed raptors under military control to infiltrate war-torn areas in lieu of drones.
All this happens while Howard’s two nephews (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) arrive to explore the park with their special cut-every-line wristbands. Ordinarily this would be fine, despite their aunt not having any time for them, but with a creature as clever (girl) as Indominus Rex, things are bound to go south. And go south they do, eventually leading to tens of thousands of park patrons running for their lives, and even most of the dinosaurs having to do the same.
This is not a movie that tries to replicate the awe and majesty of the first film, which would be impossible. So we don’t really get those moments of “Holy crap, there are dinosaurs in front of us!” because at this point in the universe, everybody had seen them already, it’s become old hat. So, what this one does do is trade on the memory of Jurassic Park and turn it into an incredibly violent, action-heavy, ’80s-style B-movie. They decided to remove all the childlike wonderment and make it all about the dinosaurs tearing people apart and Raptor-Bros following a motorcycle. Once you get to the climax, if you aren’t keyed in to the kind of movie you’re watching, you’ll probably throw your hands up and say “whaaaat?”
A note on the violence: if you have little kids who like dinosaurs — even if they enjoyed the original Jurassic Park — you probably should scope it out yourself before letting them go see it. To say that this movie is violent is sort of an understatement. It gets to be utter bedlam at a certain point. While maybe five people are killed onscreen in the first movie, I’d say conservatively there are mid-double-digit deaths in this iteration. And because there is an active park being attacked, a great many of them are just innocent bystanders. There’s one particularly gruesome death that comes to mind regarding a largely innocuous character. Innocent dinosaurs also bear the brunt of the Indominus Rex’s mayhem and it feels a bit mean-spirited. That can be pretty disturbing to kids of any age.
So, provided you know what you’re getting in to, I think you’ll have fun with Jurassic World. It is not much like the first one, but if you like a very well-designed and well-directed piece of dino-damaged cheese, then I think you’ll have a good time. I certainly did.