Jurassic World: Bringing Life Back to the Movies (and also some Dinosaurs)

I lived on Nellis Airforce Base in the mid-Eighties and because I was a young kid at the time, my family only visited the strip once. On that single trip the only thing I cared about was visiting a museum made from a converted casino (complete with red velvet carpet and brass foyer railing) that had an amazing display of animatronic dinosaurs. For most of my life I’ve been dino-obsessed and I never saw anything as amazing at that point in my life as full-sized, moving, roaring dinosaurs. That feeling of amazed and that feeling of being completely engaged in the entertainment experience is what I felt for the first time in a long time while watching Jurassic World.

Admittedly I had high hopes. 1993’s Jurassic Park is the movie I’ve seen the most in theaters and being, self-admittedly “dino-obsessed,” seeing all-new dinosaurs in an all-new Jurassic Park story was more than exciting. There was a slight worry of disappointment that was blown away by what appeared on screen.

I’ve seen loads of cynical hipsters commenting that “it was just ok” or “wasn’t very deep” or “was just a popcorn movie.” I think, rather than do a straight review I’ll explain why it was more than “just ok.”

  • Progression: This movie took what the first (and some of the second and third) did and moved the story forward in a logical and effective way. The dilemma of cloning is still an intense one, but it is one that has been covered already and one that, at its simplest root, doesn’t illicit the same conversation it did in the early Nineties. Genetic manipulation and gen-hanced organisms is something that is topical now. Furthermore the uses of this science beyond the exploratory and into the military applications is more than topical. It wasn’t just a “oh look more dinos” movie. It was a “look at what genetics misused run amok can cause.”
  • Pacing: Jurassic World introduces the world and its characters relatively quickly but effectively without a lot of explicit backstory. Yes there is a bit of expositionary dialogue, but no flashbacks (thank f*ck…) and no original Star Trek style over-simplification. The world is bright and controlled, until control is lost. The Jurassic World park is deep and realistic and we are lulled into the comfort of the world despite knowing what is coming. Because of this the scene (this is NOT a spoiler) where the Indominus Rex escapes is one of the most tense scenes I’ve seen in a film in YEARS. From there on it is a race to stop the super-saurus rex as plans are tried and it gets closer and closer to the safe zone. Plot devices are introduced and recur seamlessly without being obvious of shoehorned in. Take note film makers on how some of that can work.
  • The Horror: I don’t get scared in movies, but there are scenes in this film that are more effective at horror than most horror movies have been in recent years. Particularly dinos hunting soldiers in the jungle. It was reminiscent of the Alien franchise in its execution. The Indominus herself is like the villain in a slasher movie. Killing characters (in this case dinos we all love ‘caus their dinos) for fun and stalking our leads through an enclosed environment. She’s vicious and relentless with the “it will not die” special rule and has a bit of Godzilla thrown in. The raptors (Misty, my local princess, is an even bigger JP fanatic than I and she was afraid they’d be like domestic dogs) are more intimidating and frightening than ever. Even while being trained! The released dino rampages, as they off characters we know and tear through unsuspecting extras, make a more effectively scary bodycount than anything I’ve seen in a so-called “straight up” horror movie in probably a couple of decades.
  • The Joy: This is a movie that loves its history, its subject matter, and more than anything ADORES its fans and audience. The filmmakers knew what we wanted out of a Jurassic movie. They knew what we liked about the original series, what we were kind of “eh” about, and what we expected out of a continuation. Audiences in modern movies don’t applaud (though I did see an audience inexplicably applaud when “Lucasfilm” showed up on screen during Revenge of the Sith). During my first viewing of Jurassic World the audience applauded twice at the end of the film. Once after the climax (after everyone gasped) then in the final scene before the credits rolled. This movie reminded me WHY I go to the movies. So much so I saw it twice in IMAX 3D in three days.

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In a world dominated by superheroes and teen entertainment it made me supremely happy that Jurassic World broke box office records. A lot of people believe that Star Wars later this year will do it again. That remains to be seen, but for now I’ll rejoice that once again…Dinosaurs rule the earth.

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