Jurassic World

Flabbergasted

First the disclaimer: this movie is going to make a ton of money regardless of what I think. Okay?

With that out of the way, what is the proper grading scale for a Jurassic Park movie these days? Sitting at 10 is the classic original that wowed everyone with its streamlined story and cutting edge effects. Clocking in at a big fat 0 is the awful Jurassic Park II (aka The Lost World), which put no heart into the endeavor and took its audience totally for granted. Coming in at 6 is Jurassic Park III, an anemic effort that's at least watchable.

On that scale I give Jurassic World a 7. It's not close to the original in quality, but it's the best sequel to date. If you can keep your expectations from getting too high, it's a decent ride.

The primary conceit this time around is that John Hammond's original dream has been realized. Jurassic Park has become a successful state-of-the art amusement park. The problem, in a nod to those disappointing sequels noted above, is that dinosaurs have become one more passé thing in our jaded blockbuster culture. So what's an amusement park with an ungodly overhead to do? Why make new dinosaurs, of course, with some handy dandy gene-splicing.

The other new development involves Chris Pratt of "Guardians of the Galaxy" fame as a  Dinosaur Whisperer who has managed to get a pack of four velociraptors to do a minimal set of tricks. You know, stay, look up, don't immediately eat people (although the latter clearly remains an option). It's a bit ridiculous, but Pratt's boyishly manly charm pulls it off.

Basically, the movie is Indominus Rex breaking free, assorted havoc of the claw-and-tooth kind, and two brothers running for their life until they reach Pratt and his Raptors. It should be simple, but there's fly in the ointment that keeps this movie from soaring like the first. It's the dead weight of a evil corporate-military plot. There's some generic evil guy who wants to turn dinosaurs into a hi-tech war fighting edge for Uncle Sam.

[Facepalm.]

It's hard to imagine a stupider idea. What's easier to build and transport to a war zone--planes with lots of bombs and drones, or dinosaurs? What's better to minimize your chances of indiscriminately killing civilians all over the place--planes with lots of bombs and drones, or dinosaurs? What has the least chance of killing your own troops--planes with lots of bombs and drones, or dinosaurs?  

There is, after all, a reason that humanity has generally avoided trying to press large predators into close proximity service. We don't ride lions, right? This whole misbegotten venture does, however, end in a moment of high comedy when our villain, about to get eaten alive, actually tells a velociraptor "I'm on your side."

What side would that be, exactly? And what is it you think you're actually talking to. After all, Pratt only got his raptors to perform by feeding them rats.

Anyone want to saddle up that lion?

The special effects are excellent, complete with a mosasaur in a man-made lake. There are also some genuinely funny lines. Pratt is good, although the public relations director who eventually falls for him is too uptight. She's a borderline offensive stereotype of the professional spinster. The two brother are her nephews. They're okay, save for one weird moment where they come to tears over their parent's supposed divorce in the works. That thought lasts for one minute and is never heard from again. I can't help thinking the whole thing would work better if they'd focused a little harder on these people and dropped the military subplot.

Amid the excellent special effects, I did have one complaint. Indominus Rex isn't really all that special. He's a slightly bigger, meaner T Rex. If people were bored with seeing T-Rex in a paddock, I can't imagine Indominus would be the big PR coup everyone insists he is. For a creature who is supposed to be part T-Rex, part raptor, part cuttlefish and part frog, he's surprisingly... passé?

Yep, we're jaded. Just not jaded enough to avoid forking over close to 200 million bucks en masse to Indominus this weekend. So yeah, there's going to be another one of these in a couple years.

Keep those expectations under control, folks.        

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