The latest film in the Jurassic Park franchise, Jurassic World, is out in theaters and it's…okay, I guess. But it's also kind of a let-down.
Mostly it made me want to watch the original Jurassic Park again.
Here's a snippet from my review:
The movie poster tagline for the original "Jurassic Park" described it as an "adventure 65 million years in the making." The latest sequel, "Jurassic World," feels more like the product of 65 million writers.
The film credits just four scribes for the screenplay, two of whom also get credit for the story, which is probably the film's best joke: There isn't really a story here. It's just one event after another on a theme park island filled with tourists and genetically modified dino-monsters. Computer-generated dinosaurs roar their computer-generated roars and show off their computer-generated teeth; people run and shoot and scream; a few of the more indispensable types get tossed around and chewed up; and then, after a few minutes of expository babble, you get to do it all over again. Gnash, stomp, repeat.
The GMO beasties are the movie's big hook, its reason for being. Why would anyone want genetically modified superdinosaurs? A better question, the movie seems to retort, is why wouldn't anyone? Sure, people love dinosaurs, but an expensive and fully operational theme park like Jurassic World, the setting for the latest installment, needs to keep the public's attention with new attractions.
The same logic, of course, applies to the franchise itself. Basic dinosaurs won't do anymore, so the science wizards at the franchise's genetics corporation, InGen, have, like the writers on the film, cooked up a bigger, badder strain of snarling prehistoric menace: the Indominus Rex, a 50-foot-tall creature made up of Tyrannosaurus DNA and a sprinkling of whatever other lizard genes were lying around the lab. It can fake out heat-signature detectors and alter its skin color like a cuttlefish. What else can it do? Don't worry — you'll find out.
Similarly, the screenplay seems to have been generated by scientific committee from the DNA strands of other, better blockbusters.
I'm a little bit disappointed that they didn't go with the truly batty original concept for the film, which featured a troop of intelligent, genetically-altered dinosaur super-soldiers squaring off against a dinosaur hunter in a castle in the Swiss Alps.
Sure, there's still a pack of well-trained raptors (which, after a great intro, disappear for most of the movie and then show up for some murky action scenes in the third act) and a genetically modified T. Rex, but it's all more or less in line with what we've seen from the series before. The dino-warriors idea might have been nuts, but at least it would have been interestingly new.
Back issues: I wrote about the greatness of the original Jurassic Park on the occasion of its 3D re-release a few years back:
Even still, the movie is an absolute blast, a classic big-budget thrill ride that deserves its reputation and more. The movie retains an ecstatic, primal intensity, and the relentlessly eventful final hour remains an almost flawless exercise in cinematic high terror. The big set pieces, especially a midfilm encounter with an angry T. rex, are paced with heart-stopping precision; Mr. Spielberg and screenwriters Michael Crichton (who also wrote the novel on which the film is based) and David Koepp dole out information just fast enough that the audience is always a half step behind — still processing the last scare when the next one hits.
It is also arguably the last film by Mr. Spielberg — the blockbuster auteur behind trendsetters like "Jaws," "E.T." and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" — to provoke genuine awe and wonderment. For that, you can credit his innovative but surprisingly restrained use of computer-generated special effects.