Sunday, June 14, 2015

Boom Crunch Cha-Ching Scream Chomp Chomp

When Jurassic Park opened in 1993, I saw it on summer vacation. At that point, no one had seen visual effects like the ones on screen, and it was a genuine thrill ride. I screamed my way through that  entire movie, and it has easily become one of my favorites of all time. Try to find someone who wasn't born in the mid-80's who dislikes the original. You can't, and if you say you are one of those people, I will call you a liar to your face. 

After two sequels, the series cooled down. I've always loved the original and liked Jurassic Park III more than The Lost World. Who doesn't? It's always felt more successful when the island is hidden from the public eye and the terror is contained. In this era of reboots, sequels and spin-offs, it was only a matter of time before people went back to the island to make some more genetic mistakes. Is Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World a bad mutation or a worthy new jumping off point? I had reservations, sure, but I have to admit that World kicked my nostalgia into high gear. 

Jurassic World is a huge destination vacation spot now, and the island resort is trying to make sure people come back to the attraction by genetically modifying dinosaurs. Apparently, dinosaurs aren't a big enough drawn themselves. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire, the park's operations manager, complete with bitch bob and click clacking heels. Her two nephews, Zach and Gray, are visiting, but Claire can't manage to stop having high-profile meetings to give them the time of day. When Claire needs someone to test the paddock walls of the newest attraction, she reluctantly enlists the help of Owen (hunky Chris Pratt), a raptor trainer. The first third of World is a lot of standing around and talking science and mutation while tiny allusions to the original satiates die-hard fans of the original: a goat in the T-Rex paddock, that classic John Williams score, Zach and Gray getting attacked in the Gyrosphere, etc. 

As soon as all hell breaks loose, we are reminded what a thrill ride the world of Jurassic can be. These dinosaur fright fests are not there for the human characters or the most cohesive plots, so if you go into for that, you might not enjoy it. Jurassic Park was state-of-the-art spectacle. In this day and age of rampant CGI sloppiness, the wonder of the special effects has definitely waned. World replaces that with genuine scares. This run through the park is bloody and more violent than I anticipated. There is a terrifying set piece where pterodactyls descend upon the park visitors, and one unlucky woman gets flown around and raptors chasing after our titular heroes had my audience jumping and screaming. 

Is the CGI top-notch? Not always. The earlier scenes with Pratt and the raptors were kind of sketchy, but it's definitely better in the later scenes. The entire raptors plot is kind of silly--make them more straight-up killing machines next time? It reminds us that not all dinos are big stomping monsters. Pratt isn't given much to do except turn around dramatically and perfect the art of scowling while elevator doors close. Howard fares better, and there is a moment in the final sequence where she runs with a flare that had the 8 year-old in me flipping out. All right, I'll admit it. The 31 year-old me was going pretty wild throughout the entire final 20 minutes. 

Is Jurassic World high art? Not necessarily. It reminds us of the tired trope that we should never play God and that product placement is ridiculous (the park features a Starbucks and Ben & Jerry's among other standard outlets). The jaded kids who need "more teeth" to get their excitement up are almost as scary. Is Jurassic World a thrill ride that delivers? Absolutely. It doesn't strive to do anything but give you a few jumps and a break from this summer heat. 

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