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Jurassic World Review

“You just went and made a new dinosaur? Probably not a good idea...” - Owen


 

Jurassic Park is one of those monumental films that, very much like Star Wars before it, changed the landscape of how films were made. It’s a real landmark. Not only for its undisputed place in film history and its amazing achievement in pioneering the use of CGI, but also for the cherished family memories it holds.

Jurassic Park was the franchise my kids grew up with. My son Steve was way too young at about 20 months to go with me to see the preview screening on a Thursday night in the summer of 1993 of the original Jurassic Park. It was at the now demolished Plaza cinema in Bangor. Now the site of a Dominos pizza joint.

One of the really big, memorable moments of movies in my mind was the first sight of a brontosaurus on its hind legs eating the uppermost leaves of a tree before landing its front legs with a shudder that seemed to shake the foundations of the old Plaza. It was as much of a gasp inducing moment as the opening shot of Star Wars, when the Star Destroyer comes into sight from the top of the screen and seemingly goes on forever, or of the mother ship’s approach over the Devil’s Tower in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or Christopher Reeve’s flying into action to save Lois Lane from plunging to her death in Superman. It was a truly magical moment, and a reminder of why we see these movies on the big screen. And that was only the beginning – we hadn’t seen the awesome T-Rex scene yet.

There was a vast array of JP related merchandising in the house, Steve had a virtual zoo of dinosaur toys, and grew up with an interest bordering on obsession in dinosaurs and lizards.

As the franchise grew into a trilogy, we were again amazed by the scope , the skill and the sheer imaginative artistry in bringing The Lost World to the screen. As sequels go, it’s again a landmark – the T-Rex attack on the camp, the trailer hanging over the edge of the cliff – the Tyrannosaur loose in San Diego. It was everything we wanted to see in a sequel.

When the third film came along, it seemed oddly muted in comparison with its predecessors. It was far shorter in running time, we felt misled by the trailer which seemed to indicate that the plane was hit by a pterodactyl, and there was a sense of disappointment that it seemed to be that the dinosaurs had lost their bite. Okay, we had some incredible scenes with pterodactyls and the Spinosaurus was a bad ass mo’fo, especially of he could take down a T-Rex, but still…….(sigh)

I think the biggest hit that JP3 took was the absence of Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair. Joe Johnston is an incredibly talented director, you just have to watch The Rocketeer, Jumanji or Captain America: The First Avenger to see how great he is, but somehow JP3 was a film that somehow lost momentum for the series, and that was that.

Until now.

Twenty two years from the release of Jurassic Park, Jurassic World has opened, and the Jurassic spark has been reignited.

But, I have to admit there were a few doubts in my mind when I realised that Colin Trevorrow was directing. Trevorrow has only one feature film to his credit and I haven’t seen it, nor has anybody I know (It’s called Safety Not Guaranteed and I’ll have to seek it out). Having someone who is a novice helm something this big, no – this HUGE seemed to be a massive risk, even with Spielberg executive producing. My fear was that it would be JP3 all over again, and I was hoping to see the series move forward, not accelerate a decline.

Set reports indicated that Spielberg was constantly on set throughout the filming, he advised on casting, he rewrote some scenes and that was just the beginning.

Having seen the film on opening day, I left the screening happy, because Jurassic World is as much of a Colin Trevorrow film as the original Poltergeist is Tobe Hooper’s. Spielberg’s style is predominant in every single frame of Jurassic World, from the direction of the child actors to the framing of the scenes and camera angles – this is the biggest Steven Spielberg movie I’ve ever seen credited to another director. And damn, it’s great to see. That alone is worth the price of admission.

It’s been (as in real life) 22 years since the events of Jurassic Park, when everything that could go wrong actually did go wrong. Isla Nublar has since been reopened and the public have been flocking to it. It’s the world’s greatest theme park, the kind of place that makes Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios seem like a county fair in comparison. Seeing the scenes of the park in operation took me straight back to my own visits to theme parks in the USA. The generic theme park music, the layout, monorails – it’s all the best bits of every theme park, but bigger and better in scope. Imagine being able to pet a baby triceratops, or a huge outdoor amphitheatre surrounding a tank that houses a massive Mosasaurus. Now, having experience a killer whale splash zone, the amount of water that thing throws when it lands in the water having leaped out to grab a hanging morsel used to entice it……wow. The morsel, incidentally is a great white shark. The seats even descend so the beast can even be seen in its underwater habitat.
(I've seen a lot of posters for the film, the the one I've used above is by far my favourite.)

But despite huge attractions like this, the public, bless them, always want something newer, bigger and better. Leave it to the InGen geneticists to come up with something even newer, even bigger and, well deadlier. They’ve cooked up a brand new creature that’s part T-Rex and part something else, that I won’t reveal here. It’s called Indominus Rex and it’s a real monster in every way. It’s intelligent, it’s carnivorous (there used to be two of them, but this one ate its sibling) it hunts for sport rather than just for food, and as these things have a habit of doing, it’s loose!

Come on, it wouldn’t be a JP movie without something being loose and hungry – so that’s hardly a spoiler.

Two kids are lost on the island, their aunt is an administrator. Great administrator, lousy aunt – Claire - played by Bryce Dallas Howard who is far more likeable in this film, despite her failings as an aunt, than she ever was as Gwen Stacey in Spider-Man 3

The star of the show though is the charismatic Chris Pratt, fresh from his success as “Starlord” Peter Quill in last summer’s surprise hit Guardians of the Galaxy. His character is a raptor trainer. He has actually trained raptors to obey his voice commands, something the military might have an use for. This and other moral questions are asked, but aren’t examined too deeply. We’re not here to answer questions of scientific or military ethics, we want to see dinosaurs and mayhem – the real staples of the Jurassic franchise, right?

There are plenty of nods to the original JP film, as we see the original visitor centre with the banner still on the floor where it landed when the T-Rex came crashing through, the original infra red goggles still work and an original Jeep comes in handy – but none of those remote controlled Ford Explorers are around (Mercedes seems to have the contract now). Mister DNA is still there, voiced by Colin Trevorrow (Well, he had to do something, seeing that Spielberg seems to have directed his movie for him). In the control centre, blink and you’ll miss seeing the book written by Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum’s character) about his exploits in the first film that he references in The Lost World. We also visit the aviary from JP3, and encounter the pterodactyls.

The true test of special effects is of course, how convincing they are and there isn’t a frame of film involving a dinosaur in this movie where I remembered I was looking at an ingeniously designed array of pixels in a computer program rather watching a living breathing creature. Once again, Industrial Light & Magic have taken the art of visual effects and raised the bar of photo realism.

Frankly, the film delivers on every single aspect. It’s faultless entertainment, and coupled with the films I’ve already seen in the past few weeks, I’d say that 2015 is one of the strongest summer blockbuster seasons I’ve ever seen, and we still have two and a half months to go.

 

 

Copyright © 2010 - 2015 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.

 

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