Sunday, June 14, 2015

Nerdtastic Review: Jurassic World

Jurassic Park is very dear to my heart. It was one of those films that truly ignited my love for movies. I vividly remember seeing it for the first time (not in theaters because my Mom thought it would be too scary for me on the big screen). I remember feeling the same awe and wonder that Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler felt as they saw the Brachiosaurus in all its glory that they had only dreamt about. I remember John Williams' epic score that I still find myself humming out of nowhere on any given day. I remember wanting to give anything to go to a place where dinosaurs were real. I remember being terrified as the T-Rex broke through its paddock and the Velociraptors outsmarted their prey, clever girl.

I remember all of it, all of the incredible feelings that came along with that movie, just as I remember all of the feelings of dread that came when I saw the first ever trailer for Jurassic World. How could they do this? Horrible CGI on the Mosasaurus, Raptors running alongside humans, and an entirely made up dinosaur? It all just felt, wrong. My worst fear for this movie seemed to have come to fruition; that they would forget the awe and wonder that children like myself felt when we saw Jurassic Park for the first time. It has never felt so good to have been so, so wrong about something. Jurassic World is a masterpiece.

Now let me clarify what I mean when I call Jurassic World a masterpiece. It is not a perfect movie by any means. Some of the CGI could be better, some of the plot lines are a bit pointless or hollow, and some interesting revelations about the main monster never really come around full circle. But what Jurassic World does so well is show us that it is born out of complete adoration for the original film.

The park is open! Twenty two long years after the devastating failure to open Jurassic Park, Jurassic World is a fully realized Disneyland with dinos. Throughout the movie we get a first hand look at several of the attractions within the park such as the T-Rex feeding and the Mosasaurus water extravaganza that can excite even the most moody teenagers. The park is so well fleshed out that it is easy to believe this is a real place; complete with a Margaritaville and the Samsung Innovation Center (product placement at its finest). Unfortunately for eccentric park owner Simon Masrani and his park coordinator Claire Dearing, a Stegosaurus is no different to kids these days than an elephant. What I loved about Jurassic World is that it so aptly acknowledged the idea that audiences these days need things to be bigger and better, or in their case, have more teeth. It was almost as if the movie was telling us, look, we had to make this one bigger and louder so the audience would come, but we know what makes this series special.

We explore Jurassic World with Zach and Gray Mitchell, Claire's nephews who are treated to the VIP experience complete with cutting to the front of every line at the park; even though Claire is too focused on work to spend any time with them herself. Gray represents who we all were when we first saw Jurassic Park, obsessed with dinosaurs and wanting nothing more than to see as many of them as we possibly could. Zach represents who we all became as we got older; jaded and uninterested in the same things that we obsessed over at one time. It's a composition that works well to move the movie forward as we slowly see Zach rediscover how awesome all of this really is. There are some bigger family matters that they try to address in order to add some more depth to these two, but it never really hits home and feels a bit forced at times. It's nice to try and give us a reason to root for these two, but Gray's non-stop energy and Zach's eventual desire to protect him, give us plenty of reason to not want the boys to become a snack.

Off in the Restricted area of the park, we meet Owen Grady. Part Navy Seal, part Dog Whisperer, and all Chris Pratt, Owen is essentially a Raptor trainer who has imprinted himself on a pack of the fearsome predators in an attempt to create a meaningful, symbiotic relationship. This was part of the movie that I was so worried would jump the shark, but they hit heavily on the fact that Owen is not in control of the Velociraptors, but one of their pack whom they could just as easily turn on at any second. This leads to one of the plot points that didn't really hit home for me as we meet Vic Hoskins, a big, bad military man who wants to use the relationship that Grady has formed with these creatures to breed them for war. It becomes a continuous plot line that I honestly feel could be completely removed from Jurassic World; but it is interesting enough to keep things moving and it gives the movie a chance to show that nature is always the one in control.

Our story lines are brought together as Claire reluctantly enlists Owen's expertise to sign off on their newest experiment turned attraction, the Indominus Rex. A hodgepodge of dino-DNA mixed together to create an apex predator that could fit anywhere in the food chain...probably not a good idea. As Zach and Gray explore the park, Owen and Claire are quickly outsmarted by the Indominous and all hell breaks loose in the most glorious way. I won't spoil anything here, but suffice to say that the carnage in Jurassic World finds the perfect level of insanity without being exhausting. Each encounter puts you at the mercy of the dinos, sweaty palms and all. Jurassic World is one of the few movies that has ever truly justified its "bigger is better" mentality as nothing feels blatantly overdone or needlessly drawn out.

Everything else is vintage Jurassic Park. Michael Giacchino's score is wonderful, with continuous undertones of the original soundtrack by John Williams. The acting ranges from decent enough with Zach and Gray to truly wonderful with Chris Pratt once again stealing the show. There are several one liners to keep things light and a particular gem is New Girl's Jake Johnson playing a Jurassic World hipster who works in the control room. The pacing is brisk with a great balance between developing the story and pure mayhem. Everything just seems to work.

At the end of the day, Jurassic World remembers where it came from. It remembers how we felt when we were first introduced to this prehistoric world. It remembers what it was like to sit on the floor and play with dinosaur toys, imagining these epic scenes that we are finally able to see with our eyes. And most importantly, it remembers that life finds a way.

My Rating: A-

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