Halfway through “Jurassic World,” two characters stumble on the ruins of the original Jurassic Park headquarters. Everything is dark and overgrown with foliage, and the familiar “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” banner still lies in tatters on the floor.
“Jurassic World” makes a conscious effort to advance Michael Crichton’s story of modern-day dinosaurs while keeping strong ties to Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film. The result is an exciting, safe summer movie that is well worth seeing but falls short of the repeat-viewing threshold.
Set in the present day, “Jurassic World” gives viewers the theme park of John Hammond’s dreams, several years into operation. The flaws of the original Jurassic Park have been corrected, and business is booming. Children ride a baby Triceratops in a dinosaur petting zoo. Visitors mingle with the giant Brontosaurus in motorized hamster balls. And, as you’ve probably seen in the trailer, thousands sit in stands, Sea World-style, and watch a sea monster jump out of the water to snatch a great white snack.
Business may be booming, but the powers behind the park are under pressure to find new and better attractions to fill the screens of the smartphones and tablets visitors hold over their heads like they’re at a rock concert. (It’s kind of ironic given that, this being the fourth film in the series, “Jurassic World” audiences are pretty much making the same demand.)
The solution? Indominus rex, a brand-new T. rex hybrid that blends the best of a Jurassic favorite with … well, according to Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the uptight park administrator, that’s none of your business.
But the new hybrid is only one of the issues on Claire’s park plate. An ex-Navy man named Owen (Chris Pratt) has been trying to train Velociraptors, and a military contractor named Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) is hoping to use the finished product for some nefarious purposes. And if that wasn’t enough, Claire’s two nephews are in town, and she has to dump them off on her awful British assistant.
So we’ve got a few new characters, a new hybrid T. rex and a fully operating theme park with a human visitor for each of Jurassic World’s 20,000-plus dinosaurs. You can pretty much guess what happens from here.
For all of its new trimmings, “Jurassic World” is plenty of fun but essentially a reboot of the Spielberg original.
That isn’t to say audiences should skip it. On the contrary, “Jurassic World” delivers lots of frights and thrills and action, along with some expected Chris Pratt-style humor. One scene will even evoke warm comparisons to Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” But director Colin Trevorrow doesn’t bring us any genuine surprises and plays it safe when some recklessness might have paid greater dividends.
Though Pratt does his best to audition for his possible future Indiana Jones mantle, Howard’s Claire is the real protagonist here, arcing from stuffy administrator to action heroine. She rises to the occasion, even if she never quite manages to get rid of her high heels.
The animation continues to be excellent, though if we’re being honest, the Indominus rex doesn’t look quite as crazy as you might want it to be (and the 3-D option is unnecessary). Like the movie in general, the design of the hybrid monster leaves you feeling like if the people in charge had turned their amps up to 11, the result might have been more memorable.
Instead, “Jurassic World” nods humbly to the park that preceded it. It’s a fun summer ride, but it won’t keep you coming back over and over.
“Jurassic World” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, as well as some profanity. The violence in "Jurassic World" is as intense as you'd expect from a movie about razor-toothed dinosaurs chasing tourists. Compared to the first film, it's a bit more persistent and a bit less gory, and the emphasis seems to be on action more than pure frights. As far as ratings are concerned, PG-13 feels like a perfect fit, though some parents may feel comfortable taking their preteen children along.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. Find him online at facebook.com/joshterryreviews.