The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Jurassic World

When it was released in 1993, Jurassic Park became an instant phenomenon. It wasn't just because the movie had groundbreaking special effects that made dinosaurs seemingly return from extinction; it was also because it perfectly exemplified the sort of forget-everything-else-and-go-for-a-ride magic a really great summer movie can provide. Even two vastly inferior sequels - The Lost World and Jurassic Park III - couldn't diminish the impact of the original. After a long absence, audiences now have the chance to return to John Hammond's prehistoric amusement park in Jurassic World. Nothing will ever top the original, of course, but this sequel is certainly leagues better than the others.

Years after the catastrophic incidents on Isla Nublar, the park is officially open for business. In order to keep people coming through the doors, new attractions are continually added. That means using genetic splicing to create species that didn't really exist (and often have more teeth). One of these creatures, the bigger-than-a-T-Rex Indominus, gets loose, putting the lives of park visitors in grave danger. Director of Operations Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) calls in raptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to help bring things under control. The crisis means that Claire is not able to watch over her two nephews, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), who are among those seeing the sights. Meanwhile, Vic Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio), the head of security for InGen (the company that messes with dino DNA), wants to use Grady's trained creatures as weapons.

Jurassic World was directed by Colin Trevorrow, whose only previous feature credit is the indie comedy Safety Not Guaranteed. While perhaps not an obvious choice to take over this franchise, he nonetheless provides the movie with a brisk pace and some effectively-staged action sequences. As a piece of dinosaur-based entertainment, Jurassic World certainly delivers enough goods to be fun. Trevorrow makes the wise decision to stay faithful to the tone of the original. His picture has the same slow build to increasingly intricate mayhem. As such, it feels like a much truer sequel than we've had to this point.

At the same time, the movie suffers from not having the Steven Spielberg touch. With only two films, Trevorrow doesn't possess the same cinematic mastery as Spielberg, who knew how to play the audience like a fiddle. Jurassic Park worked because it effortlessly shifted gears, going from wonder, to suspense, to humor, to terror, to excitement, to relief over and over again. Jurassic World isn't that smooth; you can feel the gears changing, and nothing in it will achieve the iconic status of that famous glass of rippling water. Also, while the actors are all appealing, it's hard to get around the fact that their characters are of the stock variety. There's no Ian Malcolm here, no Alan Grant. Instead of originality, we get characters who have fairly routine personal dilemmas to conquer while outrunning the dinosaurs. Claire, for instance, is the typical uptight corporate drone who has to learn to reevaluate her priorities.

When all is said and done, though, people come to one of these movies looking for some thrills. Jurassic World largely works on that count. There are many bang-for-your-buck scenes. One of the best finds the two boys in a gyroscopic bubble, being knocked around like a pinball by the prehistoric beasts. A sequence in which hordes of pterodactyls escape and begin swooping down on park-goers is equally intense. The final act features multiple large dinosaurs going up against each other. While I wouldn't call the 3D presentation essential, it does add to the experience on numerous occasions. Lots of sharp claws are thrust out at the audience.

Jurassic World makes no bones about its desire to recapture some of the magic of the original, no matter how small the bites. That could have been a pandering choice, but Trevorrow working from a script he co-wrote with Derek Connolly, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver makes it work. This is a movie obviously made by a devout fan of Spielberg's picture. Rather than reinventing the wheel, Jurassic World simply modifies it. The film is respectful without being slavish, and it uses the tone of the original to drive action scenes of its own creation. After two previous sequels that felt like a betrayal, it's nice to have one that's of a similar spirit.

( out of four)

Jurassic World is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril. The running time is 2 hours and 4 minutes.

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