Whenever I think of the originalJurassic Park movie, I remember my namesake, Uncle Otto. When the movie was announced in 1993, my uncle looked forward to seeing the film. He was an amateur computer programmer and marveled at how digital technology could make lifelike dinosaurs run across the screen. Sadly, he fell gravely ill that summer and never got to see Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster.
I begin with this personal detail to remind older viewers and to explain to younger ones what a splash the original Jurassic film made back in 1993. Computer-generated dinosaurs were a big and new deal. Now that summer movies seem unable to doing anything without “CGI,” that initial wonder seems lost.
But under Colin Treverrow’s direction, and with Steven Spielberg’s blessing as producer, Jurassic World manages to capture some of the original movie’s magic through spectacular images and old-fashioned adventure scenes.
The Isla Nebula, located somewhere off the coast of Costa Rica, has once again become a dinosaur theme park. Dinosaurs are still brought to life in a special lab, but the park has taken on a grander, Disney World scale. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) micro-manages the park. Like her perfect hairdo and immaculate white dress, she seems to have everything under control. But her boss, Masrani (Irrfan Khan), wonders if the park’s newest attraction, a genetically modified super dinosaur called Indominus rex, is in a big enough pen.
He orders Claire to seek the help of Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), the local dinosaur expert and trainer. As you can guess, Indominus rex escapes. Owen, Claire, and Masrani must do their best to contain the raptor, which has brains equal to its incredible brawn.
Parallel to the main dinosaur-on-the-loose story, the screenwriters add a rather sentimental plot line involving Claire’s nephews, who are also on the loose in the park. And parallel to that family drama, the head of security schemes to use Owen’s trained dinosaurs as military weapons. As a result the story gets fairly wobbly at times, until it moves to the main event, dinosaur versus man.
In that regard, the movie has numerous moments of peril with dinosaurs gobbling up secondary characters. Yet the screenwriters clearly made an effort to add some moral substance. Marsrani realizes too late that he gave his lab far too much freedom in designing Indominus and provided no ethical direction. And when all her technological controls fail, Claire has to learn to trust people and respect the animals in the park. While Jurassic World is not as strong thematically as Mad Max: Fury Road, it does try to say something about corporate greed and the dangers of trying to play God with DNA.
Chris Pratt, who demonstrated his off-beat action hero abilities in last summer’s hit Guardians of the Galaxy, is enjoyable to watch, as expected. The excellent French comedic actor Omar Sy (The Intouchables) has a minor role, and, like Khan (The Lunchbox, Life of Pi), is underused.
At the end of the showing I attended, the audience clapped resoundingly. Maybe it was the relief of seeing a summer movie that didn’t have (1) comic book superheroes, (2) angry robots, or (3) convoluted time-travel. Maybe it was the pleasure of seeing a Spielberg film, complete with musical themes by John Williams, a Harrison Ford-worthy lead, and digital dinosaurs wandering lifelike across the screen.
As noted above, the movie has a number of violent scenes and, perhaps worse, scenes where you are left to imagine what happens after an angry dino appears. While I saw many children in the theater, I would definitely not bring anyone under 13 to the film. (Universal)