Friday, June 19, 2015

Jurassic World [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

Let's face it. If you were a kid growing up, which I think we all were, you went through a dinosaur phase. You drew pictures of them, you had your favorites -- velociraptors and ankylosaurus for me -- watched 'The Land Before Time' and pretended to be T-Rex's (walking around with your arms tucked in roaring). Unfortunately, when you get older it's harder to be as enthusiastic about dinosaurs. This is why we have the Jurassic Park series. Even though "The Lost World" and "Jurassic Park III" exist. 'Jurassic World' is the fourth installment in this series and stars Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and The Kingpin, err, I mean, Vincent D'Onofrio. While lacking the pure wonder that the original film gave us, it more than makes up for its one-note characters with dazzling dinosaurs that are more than just the backdrop to the story.

'Jurassic World' is set 22 years after the events of 'Jurassic Park.' InGen, the company that cloned the first dinosaurs, has successfully opened a theme park called "Jurassic World." One day, operations manager Clare Mitchell (Dallas Howard), has two of her nephews, brothers, Zach and Grey Mitchell (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins), visiting the park. Though she is too busy to be with them during the day, they plan to meet up later in the evening. In order to drum up attendance, InGen created a genetically modified dinosaur with the genes of a bunch of different predatory dinosaurs as well as present day animals, Indominus. Meanwhile, at a different part of the park, Owen Grady (Pratt), a former Marine, has just finished a successful training session with his velociraptors. After the session, InGen's head of security, Vic Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio), tries to convince Owen that the raptors would be perfect for military use. The park owner, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) orders Owens to go check out the Indominus' enclosure, to make sure it's ready for visitors. Clare and Owen head to the exhibit, only to find that they weren't getting a heat signature from Indominus and that there are giant claw marks on one of the walls. While Owen and two guards are checking out the claw marks, it is discovered that Indominus is still in the enclosure and that she is masking her heat signature. Owen and one of the guards escape, but in doing so, so does Indominus. Now the park must find a way to stop Indominus, because it's putting not only the lives of the other dinosaurs in danger, but the people in the theme park as well.

I'm going to start right out and say it, I wasn't a fan of the first 20 minutes or so of this film. I understand you have to set up characters, but almost nothing of values happens during this time frame. I don't need to see a family take their kids to the airport or them riding on a boat across the ocean to the island. This could've been plausible if there was any meaningful dialogue, but there's not. Once they get to the island, Claire is introduced and finally Owens and Hoskins start getting screen time, the film sets into a good, albeit one note, pace. The characters are almost lifeless and that's not a good thing. Chris Pratt is a charismatic and hilarious actor (see 'Guardians of the Galaxy' and 'Parks and Recreation'). Bryce Dallas Howard has shown she has acting chops ('The Help' and '50/50'). Vincent D'Onofrio has a stupendous role in 'Marvel's Daredevil.' Even Ty Simpkins has had great roles in the 'Insidious' series and 'Iron Man 3.' So the lack of good writing really hurts this pretty well rounded cast. Even so, the characters, though dull, do serve a purpose throughout the film. The brothers get into jungle hi-jinx, causing their aunt to enlist her "will he, won't he" boy toy to go save them (and the rest of the park, I guess). All this is while the evil corporation is plotting a take over, well, more preservation, of the dinosaur's DNA when all the poo hits the whirling fan blades. The story is tired, but you didn't come to this for story, I didn't come to this for story -- but at least it wasn't completely terrible -- we came for dinosaurs, and boy did we get dinosaurs. Side note, Claire was running around through a jungle all day and a theme park all night, all while wearing high heels. Like full on sprinting, running, ducking, hiding, etc. Come on man. Come on.

The CGI in this film, the action and the use of dinosaurs themselves in the film really did save it for me. I love theme parks and the idea of one revolving around actual dinosaurs is an awesome idea, vision, dream, whatever you wanna call it. 'Jurassic Park' did this, but not to the kind of "theme park" I always picture, like Six Flags or Universal Studios. So seeing it actually come to life in this film is freaking awesome! I want a Jurassic Park or World t-shirt that I paid $40 for, while I walk around in my triceratops hat, personalized with my name on it. I want to go see Free Willy aka The Mosasaurus pop out of the water to engulf a shark. I want to be a kid again (somehow) and go into a petting zoo and ride a baby triceratops or pet a baby apatosaurus. The idea an execution of the theme park side of this film is actually awesome. I was entranced once the brothers reached the island and actually started going around the park. The flip side of things is the awesome CGI that was used for the dinosaurs. I recently re-watched 'Jurassic Park' and the CGI and models used in 1993 weren't half bad. But the CGI in this film is done pretty well. It felt like Chris Pratt was besties with his raptors. It felt like a fight when Indominus was tearing through the jungle killing it's prey. You even got a little sad when one of the apatosaurus dies in Owen and Claire's hands. On the flip side, the brutality is in full force. For a PG-13 film, I wasn't expecting to see as much dino on human violence. Humans were being picked up by pterodactyl, eaten whole and stomped on by the Indominus and torn to shreds by raptors. Boy, did I love every second of it too! I'm glad they didn't shy away from the fact that these are dinosaurs whose first instinct is to kill and hunt prey. Not to mention the final act of 'Jurassic World' is a pleasure to watch and is well worth sitting through the first half hour of so. I was enthralled.

'Jurassic World' isn't going to win over any fans. Unless you're there for Chris Pratt. Chris Pratt isn't going to make any new 'Jurassic World' fans, but this is a great effort for what is a reboot, sequel, a requel! The story is only okay, the acting, despite the awesome cast, is one-dimensional. But the dinosaurs, kicking ass and taking names is a beauty to watch. It's a pretty long film, at just over two hours, but if you can get past the first part of the film, everything gets better. The music is on point throughout, and I had to hold back yelling "Dododododo-Dododododo!" when they first panned to the island. If they can get the writing better, I have high hopes for the next 'Jurassic' film. As long as it's not some weird romantic comedy involving Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and talking dinosaurs. 'Jurassic World' is still, I think, well worth the watch.

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