There are so many moments when the people in Jurassic World escape sizzling danger, run, and then stop running so they can turn around and watch the dinosaurs you almost want to skewer your own eyeballs. Nevertheless, the fourth, and most horrific, Jurassic Park movie is hard to hate. There's simply too much dinosaur fun. This is a joyful horror flick. You can almost hear director Colin Trevorrow cheering from the sidelines.
Jurassic World is a fan-made movie. Trevorrow grew up on the films of Amblin Entertainment and Steven Spielberg (his executive producer) and his Jurassic movie pays homage to those flicks (like Gremlins and Back to the Future) with knowing inside jokes, a light-hearted tone, and tons of stupid one-liners. But Trevorrow also brings a modern style of violence that's both campy and shocking, and not in that order. Gremlins is a good touchstone for this one.
Jurassic World is part of a new film genre. Today's directors are inheriting the franchises they loved as children. They're making them their own and in doing so, are commenting on the very nature of movie making itself. We're essentially seeing the result of a fan saying, "If I got to direct Jurassic Park, this is what I'd do..." Directors have had these chances in the past, but not on this scale. Franchises, remakes, and sequels are the driving financial force of the industry, the result of an entire generation wanting too much of a good thing. This can cut both ways.
The irony is Trevorrow uses the notion as a theme in Jurassic World. In the movie, the vision of park creator John Hammond is now a reality. It's been 22 years since Jurassic Park failed before it ever opened, and now Isla Nublar is a bustling paradise for tourists and adventurers seeking a glimpse of Tyrannosaurus Rex and his buddies. More to the point, the film's geneticists, led by Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong, the lone holdover from the first three movies), have succumbed to the public's demand for "more teeth" by creating a dinosaur hybrid, Indominus Rex, who's not long for the pen they keep her in. Trevorrow recognizes the ridiculousness of such a creation, but the same argument could be made against a fourth Jurassic Park film.
Luckily, Jurassic World doesn't take itself too seriously. It's the modern result of King Kong in 1933. Humans are still trying to make money off monsters that might eat them. And we still love watching these idiots run for their lives when the inevitable happens. Jurassic World fits that description, but it's also a horror show. Fat guys who can't run are destined to be appetizers. And the violence is glaringly real. Trevorrow deftly combines the old and new — people die, and horribly, but it's fun to watch.
Jurassic World is also held together by two worthy leading performances, by Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt. Howard plays Claire, the Park Operations Manager, a career woman-type who doesn't have time to spend with her two visiting nephews (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson). And Pratt, who seems to be auditioning for Indiana Jones here, gives his most serious performance yet as raptor trainer Owen Grady. They have formulaic chemistry as an odd couple type, the white collar girl and the blue collar guy.
Claire and Owen team up when Indominus Rex escapes and the nephews go missing (the boys, of course, stay out in the park despite warnings not to). Cell phones stop working at the worst times and the park's employees are exposed as slack-jawed yokels. I-Rex runs amuck and Owen is soon pressured by the film's only human villain, Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio), to use the raptors to hunt down the beast. Owen flatly refuses but it happens anyway and before long Pratt is leading the four sprinting lizards on motorcycle through the island jungle. The scene is the film's best, a crucial movie moment that's both thrilling and undeniably cool.
What follows closely resembles the other movies in the series, but with more. Pteranodons are unleashed from their aviary and they swoop and terrorize people in a scene straight out of Hitchcock. The raptors are also much more than mere animals. They're legitimate characters in the story and their relationship with Owen adds a primal thrill. Where the movie lacks is in its park design (surprisingly bland), its supporting characters (the older brother is intolerably too cool for school), and its corn-fed dialogue ("Depends on what kind of dinosaur they cooked up in that lab"). Jurassic World is an uneven film that makes little sense, but with Pratt racing through the jungle with raptors in tow, who really cares?