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Movie Review of the Week – “Jurassic World”

Movie Review of the Week – “Jurassic World”
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By Alison Bailes

There’s a monster lurking inside “Jurassic World” all right. And it’s scarier than the genetically spliced Indominus Rex chewing up the scenery of the titular amusement park. More deadly and pervasive than any prehistoric dinosaur is the marketing machine that is working overtime throughout this Steven Spielberg-produced creature feature. By now we’re used to product placement in our movies, as well as merchandising tie-ins.  But just as the scientists and money-men behind Jurassic World need to go bigger to attract more visitors…so do the bean counters at Universal. The result is a Movie Event that both parodies the synergistic commercialism of a Disney World and plays lip service to it at the same time.

22 years after the late John Hammond (Richard Attenborough in the original 1993 film) envisioned it, the island of Isla Nublar is finally a fully operational attraction site with cruise ships docking and families flocking to pet the dinosaurs (the baby ones at least) and gasp at the bigger ones. Monorails run quietly and smoothly around the majestic countryside and “gyroballs” take eager spectators among the friendlier animals, kind of like giant hamster balls rolling among the pachyderms. An enormous water park echoes Sea World, where laughing crowds are splashed by the crashing waves of a jumping megasaurus.  A mini village boasts kiosks full of Jurassic World t-shirts and there’s a Starbucks for your caffeine fix. Park workers drive shiny Mercedes. Clearly corporate underwriting is the backbone of Jurassic World…the park and the movie.

Themes of human hubris and the ethics of scientific discovery are undercurrents of course. We all know what happens when man tries to cage wild animals (see “King Kong”) and it’s rarely good.  There’s also a rather good storyline about modern day warfare, with the delicious Vincent D’Onofrio stepping into the Wayne Knight villain role. Director Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) nods to his mentor by dangling a great white shark over the water park. It’s a pleasure to catch the homage and the cinematic touchstones.

As well as dinosaurs rampaging and crowds fleeing, Trevorrow who re-wrote a script (by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver) with Derek Connolly (from original characters by Michael Crichton of course!) manages to inject some good old-fashioned romance and banter into the action by way of Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard.  Pratt is the Indiana Jones-like dinosaur whisperer, who has a way with reptiles, if not with women. Howard plays Claire, the uptight park manager whose high heels and sculpted hair belie her feisty survival instincts. There are also two imperiled children, the younger one looking like he stepped out of Spielberg’s own “E.T.”.

Much has been written about Claire’s appearance…a throwback to classic 1940s adventure flicks and their imitators (Kathleen Turner in “Romancing the Stone” comes to mind). But Trevorrow is ahead of the criticism, quick to make fun of his own leading lady. Pratt and Howard have great chemistry with Pratt making a very sexy, chiseled leading man. And the action scenes don’t disappoint, although Trevorrow is guilty of overusing a couple of “horror” shots one too many times.

Hanging in the air also is the specter of the original film that this sequel manages to honor and expand on (we obviously are supposed to gloss over JW 2 and JW3). With Spielberg DNA pervading every shot, Trevorrow colors clearly within the lines but achieves a crisp, vibrant copy, his own Indominus Rex if you will. It’s all very similar, just bigger and toothier and bloodier.  But just as much fun.

 

 

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