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“What have we learned?” they knowingly say.
“Life has evolved to show us the way.
Dangerous creatures and habits have filled
The past, and on them the near-future will build.”

“What have we learned?” they foolishly ask.
“Our forerunners clearly weren’t up to the task.
What they could not do we will better complete.
Mistakes of the past we will never repeat.”

“What have we learned?” they say, sure of their touch.
Those who see clearly say “Clearly, not much.”
________________

MPAA rating: PG-13

 

In many ways, 2015 was the year of the unexpected sequel/reboot. I’d bet that not too many people wanted or expected Hollywood to resurrect franchises like Jurassic Park, Mad Max, The Terminator, or Fantastic Four. (Lots of fans wanted another Star Wars so that doesn’t count.) Some of those turned out better than others, but the mammoth hit of the summer was Jurassic World.

The film starts out with two brothers, older punk Gray and younger whiz kid Zach, as their parents send them off to a theme park on none other than Isla Nublar. The audience’s nostalgia is tapped early on as we enter the famous giant gates and behold Jurassic World in all its glory. There’s a baby dinosaur petting zoo and a big glass hamster ball for safaris and a SeaWorld-style splash show with something a little bigger than a killer whale. Tourists and merchandise are everywhere, and there’s a certain satisfaction to seeing John Hammond’s dream so triumphantly realized.

By the looks of things, the creators of the park seem to have worked out all the bugs, with financing from owner Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) and scientific guidance from Dr. Henry Wu (B. D. Wong, the only returning cast member from the original film). But as Ian Malcolm said in The Lost World, they’re not making the same mistakes twice, they’re “making all new ones.” Just as the whole frog DNA idea backfired for Hammond, the park runners do a little too much genetic manipulation to create an uber-dinosaur, the Indominus Rex. As the park’s operational manager, Zach and Gray’s Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) seems coldly confident that there’s nothing wrong with toying with nature. You can guess what happens next.

Like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World seems to directly parallel the original film in order to balance the new with the familiar. There’s the gate entrance, a hands-on scene involving a sick/dying dinosaur, an intense glass scene that lets kids in danger look directly into a predator’s maw, a flare scene involving a T. Rex, and a vehicle being chased by a rogue dino. While I like The Force Awakens more, I have to admit that Jurassic World better differentiates those scenes from their original counterparts. It also nails the most important element of an effects-driven movie like this, the dinosaurs. Some creatures may be more obviously CGI than others, but the life-and-death action and dino duels are exhilarating to behold, if rather vicious in their body count.

Jurassic World is quite an improvement over the last two Jurassic Park sequels, but it’s a Procompsognathus next to Spielberg’s original. Its greatest weakness is its characters, who lack the appealing personalities of the first gang of ill-fated visitors. After Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt was the hot actor and the obvious choice for the hero in the latest addition to the Jurassic Park series. His role as Owen Grady is the most persuasive, acting as the practical conscience for the shocked park leaders and the personable trainer for the park’s four semi-trained Velociraptors. Pratt can’t carry the whole movie, though, and everyone else is rather interchangeable. Howard is your typical half-empowered damsel; the kids are your typical kids in danger, with a troubled home life that is left unresolved; and Vincent D’Onofrio is your typical dense, single-minded fool of a villain, who is convinced that the raptors can be used as weapons even after that very plan blows up in his face.

By the end, the human characters become almost irrelevant during a big dino brawl, dumbly running parallel to the fight and trying to just stay out of the way. The end almost reminded me of 2014’s Godzilla, in transforming a former monster into something of a hero who battles whatever rival to its superiority but leaves man alone since he’s too trivial to matter much. These last two paragraphs sound perhaps more critical than I mean to be. Jurassic World is an entertaining summer movie that revitalized the franchise; I just don’t know why it nearly became the highest grossing film of the year. Hopefully, the next installment will put a little more focus on the characters. I love a good dino flick; it just helps when I connect more to the people in danger.

Best line: (Masrani) “You created a monster!”   (Dr. Wu) “Monster is a relative term. To a canary, a cat is a monster. We’re just used to being the cat.”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2016 S. G. Liput

356 Followers and Counting

 

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