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Fourteen years. Fourteen years of a constant up and down, “it’s happening” then “it’s dead” from those who brought to life this film series to fruition. Fourteen years of waiting for the next film, and then finally it’s released. Words can’t express how excited I was for this film to come out. The last time I was this amped up was when The Dark Knight was released in 2008.  And after months of build up from one of the most intensive marketing/viral marketing campaigns in recent history (which is actually continually happening throughout the films release right NOW,) the park was finally opened to an anxiously awaiting public. I sat with friends in that cinema, and when the lights went out I could feel my heart beat faster, and when it began I allowed myself to be transported back to Isla Nublar once again in Jurassic World.

It’s twenty two years since the closure of the original Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar. Twenty two years since John Hammond’s dream came to a screaming halt. But a new empire has arose: Masrani Global. They have taken control of International Genetic Technologies (InGen) as well as all of their subsequent… assets. So out of the ashes of Jurassic Park (and apparently all the other subsequent incidents that happened in 1997 and 2001) Masrani has created Jurassic World, and John Hammond’s dream is now a reality. Jurassic World brings in over twenty thousand people each day, and each guest can now come face to face with the most fascinating creatures to ever roam the planet… well, fascinating for a period of time it seems. The novelty of dinosaurs living again seems to be fading, Dr. Henry Wu and his team are cooking up something that’s sure to excite everyone: Indominus rex, a genetic hybrid with the base genome of Tyrannosaurus rex with some other “classified” species thrown in to the mix (that are revealed throughout the film.) The problem is… it suddenly excites everyone in all the wrong reasons. During a inspection of the I.rex enclosure by Owen Grady, one of the resident JW animal behaviorists who is currently working with the park’s velociraptors, the I.rex escapes. Chaos ensues, as the monster rampages though the island killing everything and everyone in sight. Vic Hoskins believes that he and his InGen ACU unit can capture the creature, by using some very radical means. These radical means end up backfiring and even more chaos ensues as even more creatures on top of I.rex are now fanning out across the island. Is there any hope for survival for the people left on the island?

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I’m going to try really hard not to let my passion overshadow my judgement right now. ANYBODY who know me knows that Jurassic Park is “my thing.” It’s my Star Wars, my Star Trek, my whatever you want to say. It’s the movie [series] that inspired me and so many others. As silly as it sounds, they are the films that made me the person I am. But I’m also a huge cinema fanatic in general, as well as a paleo-guy. So there are several conflicting thoughts, impressions, and emotions flying around in my head right now.

I’ll be frank: liked this movie, a lot. It’s a fun ride, and director Colin Trevorrow delivered some astounding fan service while also bringing a lot of originality to the table. The film does have it’s issues, which I’ll discuss, but overall I left the cinema with an extreme sense of pleasure mixed with just enough wonder to make me feel like this film was a good breath of fresh air in a once extinct franchise.

Warning: from here on out there will be plenty of spoilers… you’ve been warned.

The plot to Jurassic World is probably a story that many have thought of in some way shape or form (I can name at least two videos games off the top of my head where JP is reopened after the events of the first film- the original JP Arcade and JP for Sega Game Gear (and then there is Operation Genesis where you can open your own park)) I remember playing with the toys when I was a kid and playing out what it would be like for the park to actually open.  I don’t feel like it’s super original. The way that it’s portrayed and handled by Colin Trevorrow is however. Everything that we saw at Jurassic World seemed like something I would totally expect to find at a world renown and SUPER expensive theme park.  And while I can recall many many people and die hard fans of the franchise rolling their eyes and groaning at the fact that we’d be getting a hybrid dinosaur I loved and understood Colin’s reasoning. I went to the zoo a few months ago with my family and saw so many people on their phone texting and not taking in all of the animals. Same thing happens in museums, so after Jurassic World has been open for ten years I would totally expect that people would be getting “used” to it, and when that happens at any theme park a new attraction has to be built. In this case it was the Indominus rex.

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I. rex was a wonderful antagonist I felt. Do I feel like it could have just been a normal dinosaur: yes. But as I said I totally understand why it wasn’t. Plus this was actually supposed to be a monster. When rewatching Jurassic Park 3 before hand (I had a marathon of all the films before seeing JW) I couldn’t help but think that a monster is exactly what the spinosaur was- and it irritated me. Yes, the rex(s) and raptors had their monster parts as well in the previous films but at least most of the time it was explainable as to why they were hunting the humans or tracking them (be it territory, food, or otherwise.) The spino had no reason to hunt the humans. The I. rex does. It is not a dinosaur, as Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady points out- it is a monster. It kills for sport, not to eat.  It’s scary looking, it’s big, and it kicks some major tail in Jurassic World. Also it has an ability I’ve been waiting to see in a JP film since reading Michael Crichton’s The Lost World: chameleon/camo skin. Technically it’s cuttlefish skin, but none the less I. rex has the ability to camouflage itself into it’s surroundings. While I really would have loved (and still would love) to see carnotaurus in Jurassic World with that ability like in the novel it looks amazing and is effective none the less. Plus, according to the official Jurassic World website I. rex does have some carno DNA in her so… that’s something I guess.

From a Jurassic Park canon standpoint, for the most part, all the dinosaurs looked great. A lot of the old guys are back and have some shining moments- including the original film’s Tyrannosaurus rex. There are some new guys as well, including the Apatosaurus (which interestingly enough was the sauropod in both of Michael Crichton’s novels but has never been in a previous JP film.) The one animal I would have loved to have seen more of… Dilophosaurus. We get one great moment, but it’s SUCH A TEASE. Oh well, even that one short moment answered an age old question in the canon: yes, the dilos in the first film were juveniles.

I’m going to keep my paleo-analytic critiques to a minimum here, because most of anything I have to say about inaccuracies in the animals of the film have been said by many paleontologists already. From a paleo-perspective the film’s dinosaurs are kind of “meh.” Inaccuracies have been in the JP universe since the first film (well… even since the novel.) To fan of the series they’ve always been able to be explained through the genetic modification that occurs during the “de-extinction” of the animals, and that’s even explicitly said in this film. But I will say that with them having a new park for this film and actually going back from “scratch” on many of these animals, it was kind of a missed opportunity to have some really accurate representations of dinosaurs on screen. While I was able to stomach a lot of the inaccuracies the biggest one I have a hard time dealing with is whenever a pterosaur tries to make off with a human, or even a dinosaur.  That and a near tail dragging stegosaurus.

My biggest complaint, above all, concerning the dinosaurs was the over use of CGI. In the first two JP films there was a perfect marriage or CGI mixed with practical effects- it was seamless. In JP3 it leaned more towards CGI, and the practical effects that were there for some reason didn’t seem as good as in the first two films. In this film nearly every shot of the dinosaurs was CGI. Now, a LOT of it looked good- I can’t lie. There was some really great computer animation work going on in this film. But there were plenty of scenes that they could have used practical effects on, and didn’t. But when they did, it was breathtaking. Like the dying apatosaur scene, it had me in near tears.  It was almost as emotional as the ick triceratops scene in the original Jurassic Park. It looked alive. It was wonderful, and I wish that we could have seen more practical effects- especially towards the end…

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The acting was good. There were several kind of “cheesy” and forced moments, but I never found myself getting annoyed (in the wrong way) with the characters like I did in JP3 or even some in The Lost World.

Chris Pratt actually goes into some more serious territory with Owen Grady. While the signature charm we associate with Pratt  pops up from time to time, for the most part his character is more akin to Muldoon in the first film with a no-nonsense and practical approach to treating, training, and caring for the dinosaurs.  Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing goes through some good evolution through the film, and becomes kind of a Ellen Ripley of sorts. I think I would have liked to seen more from her in this regard, she does have an amazing and key moment in the end of the film. The one point I really disliked in the film was how Owen and Claire’s relationship just kind of sprung from nowhere. It felt really forced and I disliked it.

Vincent D’Onofrio plays, I guess, the human villain of the film. It’s all in the eye of the beholder really. But he does make some really bad judgement calls and his comeuppance is as good as Dieters in The Lost World. And I am SO glad we got to see some more from BD Wong as Dr. Henry Wu. A lot of his material is straight from the original novel here and it’s stuff I, as a Jurassic Park fan, have been waiting to see and hear for a long time. He does a great job of playing Wu, like to a T and I really hope we see more of him if the series continues. 

Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson do a great job of being… well, the kids of this film. Their relationship feels plausible, although for the most part they were just kind of “there” in the film and didn’t offer a lot of support the way children in previous films have.

Irrfan Khan as Masrani did a great job but we really didn’t get to learn much about the guy before he goes down in a fireball. I knew I liked him but his death wasn’t as powerful as if it would have been if, say, Hammond was to die in the first film. If he was given more time I feel like that would have helped.

Other talent like Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, and Katie McGrath offered some variety in the supporting cast but we all knew they’d pretty much be fodder or just help the story along and have a few great moments.

Along with all the new, Colin Trevorrow does an outstanding Job of bringing back the old. We have a wonderful moment where we get to see the old Visitor Center again from the first film. The only problem, the scene(s) only last a few minutes and we move on. I really would have liked it if we slowed down the film when we got in to the “restricted” area of Nublar, which is almost the entire norther half of the island. There are still some unanswered questions, more locations I wanted to see. On top of it all, there were some thing that unless you’ve been following the marketing you wouldn’t really know. Like the rex. I’m sure few people actually realized that the rex in the film was the original (via interviews or websites, etc) the average viewer wouldn’t realize. I wish they would have shown or discussed the roundup of the rex and possibly more of the original animals from the first Jurassic Park. And damn it!- I wanted more dilophosaurs! Sigh… But really JW really has some super nostalgic moments.

The film also has a lot of inside jokes/nods towards the other films in some really clever ways. Take the ptero attack on the chopper. The pteranodon’s beak breaking through the bubble and into the chest of the ACU member- that’s taken directly from a cut sequence from The Lost World. Also that blood dripping on ACU member Hamada’s hand when he’s searching for I.rex… reminded me a lot of when Malcolm is trying to explain Chaos Theory to Dr. Sattler in Jurassic Park. “Which way is the drop gonna’ role off?” Moments like that, and many others in the film just left me tickled as a JP fan. Trevorrow goes above and beyond with the fan service in the film, and for that I thank and applaud him.  He also adds in some really tense moments very akin to the Alien franchise, and you’ll know them when you see them. These moments and Colin’s willingness to show gore actually make Jurassic World the most violent of any of the Jurassic films.

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The fan service goes even into the soundtrack of the film. Composer Michael Giacchino is back for is third turn in the JP franchise (originally scoring the soundtrack to the The Lost World and Warpath: Jurassic Park PlayStation video games.) For JW Giacchino brings a lot of originality to the plate but really pays homage to nearly all the work done before for the franchise. Not only are their call backs to the classic motifs of Jurassic Park (and The Lost World theme at one major point) composed by John Williams but we get a lot of music that is similar to the themes heard in Operation Genesis, from Jurassic Park; The Game, and even a hint of the PlayStation games. It’s nice, and really brings some added emotion and nostalgia.  The new Jurassic World theme is majestic, and while it may not be as iconic as the classic JP, it’s exactly what this film needs, and the I. rex theme is creepy as well. There are a few moments in the film where I feel like the soundtrack is a tad much, and over the top- but it’s defiantly not as obnoxious as the JP3 soundtrack gets at points.

Some moments of the film really dance a fine line of being exactly what you didn’t know you wanted to see and absolutely overkill. The two main ones being the death of Zara and the death of I. rex. Zara’s death was just… crazy. I personally would have liked to have either had it be the mosasaur or just the ptera and not both, but I can’t like… it looked cool. And I. rex’s death… I actually won’t spoil. I saw it a mile away before it happened during the final encounter, and when it actually happened the cinema erupted in applause- and I was a part of that roaring audience. It was a bad ass death for a pretty bad ass monster.

In the end… to be honest, my head is still spinning. I caught the 7 pm showing (Central Time) of Jurassic World and it’s now almost 1 AM and I’m finishing this review. My thoughts are still jumbled, “but, uh… well there it is.” Jurassic World, while having some zany moments, and some nonsensical plot points about militarized dinosaurs… is pretty much everything I wanted in a sequel. I do wish it was a tad longer, taking more time to explain some things and slow down at some moments, but the pacing wasn’t bad really. I’m super interested in if there will be some deleated/extended scenes in the BluRay release. All in all though, after a fourteen year wait that came after kind of a very bitter bitter sweet third film I feel like this film is a great addition to the franchise. While it’s not as good as the original it’s defiantly a very worthy sequel.

Jurassic World answers a lot of questions I feel, while opening a whole new door for future teams to go down should they choose. If not, I’m actually not concerned. While there are plenty of loose strings it has an ending more akin to The Lost World and not super open ended like Jurassic Park 3. And that makes me as both a fan of this wonderful franchise and a movie goer satisfied. And those questions, along with the ones have have yet to be answered are still out there for future teams to tackle (oh please, let one of those teams include me! … I can wish….)

Jurassic World is a wild romp through the island of Isla Nublar that is not to be missed. It chaotic, fun, terrifying, and exhilarating. This movie is the definition of what a summer blockbuster should be and is defiantly not to be missed. If you’re a fan of the franchise though, bring some tissues- because the nostalgia train is gonna’ hit ya’, hard.

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  1. […] the film with the second highest grossing weekend at the box office of all time!  While I really enjoyed the film and think it’s a great addition to the franchise, there are some thoughts and questions that have been keeping me up at night that I had along the […]

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