Jurassic World ✮✮
The Lost “World”
by Glenn Lovell
The folks behind “Jurassic World” throw just about everything at the high-voltage perimeter fence to see what sticks, what fizzles. The result is a big, loud, cumbersome summer ride that takes a good portion of its two-hour-plus running time to gain traction. By then, those reared on the 1993-2001 franchise will be checking their watches, while those (14 and under) less familiar with the high-concept premise will be well and truly primed for the climactic smack-down between good and bad dinos.
The fourth in the series spawned by Michael Crichton’s 1990 bestseller about an island off Costa Rica populated with genetically engineered raptors, brontosauruses and T-rexes, “Jurassic World” was directed by the unlikely Colin Trevorrow (his sole credit the low-budget festival fave “Safety Not Guaranteed”) and produced by the notoriously hands-on Steven Spielberg, who directed the 1993 installment and its sequel. Desperate to please, this sci-fi fantasy feels like the first three installments mashed into one.
We’re back on Isla Nublar, Crichton and Spielberg’s homage to Skull Island in “King Kong.” Despite the large number of casualties among employees and guests, Jurassic Park has re-opened and is now an all-inclusive tourist destination. Still, like studio bosses in the 21st Century, those in charge worry about dwindling attendance tied to a slipping “wow factor.”
“Let’s be honest, nobody’s impressed by a dinosaur anymore,” says Spielberg’s park stand-in, delivering a one-sentence explanation for why the series went extinct in 2001.
The consumer, i.e. you the filmgoer, knows how he likes his dinosaurs: “Bigger. Louder. More teeth.”
And the cash-strapped amusement park obliges with “genetically modified hybrids,” including a toothsome main-tank occupant that puts Monstro to shame and a ravenous Tyrannosaurus hybrid dubbed Indominus rex.
You can see where this is headed. In a scam as old as DeMille and the midway shell game, Spielberg and company push gigantism and “Godzilla”-like mayhem in place of real suspense. There’s nothing here to match the scary sounds and red beady eyes peering out from lush jungle foliage in the first installment, or those telltale vibrations in a rain puddle. The sense of wonder that distinguished the first “Jurassic Park” — rightly hailed for its pioneering CG effects — is sorely missing. In its place are screaming throngs (shot from above, of course) and a loud, recycled John Williams score meant to cue us to the dangers ahead.
There’s a lot of room here to take on Hollywood’s mega-parks and crass merchandizing. Not to worry. All sitting targets are left intact. Obviously ticket sales, slumping or otherwise, are no laughing matter.
Predictably, most of the $150 million budget went to f/x, not marquee talent. The boyishly affable Chris Pratt (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) plays a dino-wrangler who’s attempting to train and win over the raptors; Bryce Dallas Howard (“The Help”) is a park mouthpiece who seems to be running things; Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins are the siblings packed off to the park for Christmas vacation by parents who may be nearing divorce. Because Mom and Dad need time to sort things out, the boys have been fobbed off on their dangerously preoccupied Auntie Howard. Vincent D’Onofrio is a loudmouthed military contractor who envisions a time when dinos will replace special-ops teams on the battlefield.
Better there than on the screen. To quote one of the island attraction’s naysayers, “The novelty has worn off.”
JURASSIC WORLD ✮✮ With Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson. Directed by Colin Trevorrow; scripted by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connelly, Trevorrow. 124 min. Rated PG-13 (for profanity, CG mayhem and cutaway violence)
Glenn Lovell is former film critic of the San Jose Mercury News. He has been published on film in Variety, Hollywood Reporter, L.A. Times and Boston Globe. He teaches film at De Anza College.