In theaters Friday, June 12
3 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)
Shhhh . . . You hear that sound? That thump getting progressively louder?
Those are the footsteps of a vicious dinosaur running straight for the visitors at the world’s premier theme park — as well as the incoming boom of an incredible, massively entertaining, and, yes, dino-mite blockbuster.
Now face it, Jurassic Park was a disaster. Not the classic 1993 movie, obviously. The theme park envisioned by John Hammond in which living dinosaurs are on display to the public. It took a hungry, lawyer-chomping Tyrannosaurus rex to prove that a species extinct for 65 million years and humans can’t coexist. Or maybe the man was onto something, after all? Welcome . . . to Jurassic World, now the fully realized destination of the late pioneer’s dreams. A tourist attraction still located on a secluded island off Costa Rica, it hosts about 22,000 visitors a day and boasts such familiar comforts as Starbucks, Jamba Juice, and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville.
This Disneyland-meets-Sea World complex is so popular that visitors have grown blasé about interacting with the carnivores. (Perhaps the filmmakers wisely projected this same notion onto audiences who ignored the lesser two sequels.) To lure more customers and create more buzz, its new owner opens a new exhibit every few years. The latest one features a big bad dino called the Indominus rex. If you don’t remember reading about this breed as a kid, that’s because it was genetically engineered in the Jurassic World lab. (Dr. Wu, played by B.D. Wong, is the only returning cast member from Jurassic Park. He’s the one who showed off the hatching egg in the original.) No way the public can resist oohing and aahing over a ferocious, color-changing beast that ate her own sibling. But before the whopper of an exhibit can open, Navy-trained specialist Owen (the always-winning Chris Pratt) must declare it safe and sound.
Spoiler alert: It isn’t.
Hold on to your butts. During Owen’s visit, he realizes that the Indominus rex has figured out a way to escape the high-security gates. From there, the events unfold like a traditional horror film. The rarely seen villain constantly outsmarts its victims. Innocents get ripped apart. Heroes emerge. Chief among them is Pratt’s Dino Whisperer, who has a special way of communicating with the Velociraptors. It’s up to him to not only save the thousands at the park, but also rescue its uptight operating manager and his ex, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). Plus, wouldn’t you know it, Claire’s two generically cute and slightly annoying moppet nephews are also visiting that day. Problem is, the underdeveloped human characters can’t quite carry the dramatic load. The fallout is steep, as Pratt has better chemistry with the raptors than he does with Howard. And why wouldn’t he? At times, she’s more cold-blooded than the dreaded T. rex.
Not that you won’t sink your teeth into this pic. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg himself, this installment is visually just as awe-inspiring as his masterpiece. His fingerprints are all over it, from the imaginative set pieces to the accessible-but-not-dumbed-down narrative to the warmth at its core. The film, in fact, pays homage to the original in inspired ways: Jake Johnson’s smart-aleck technician wears the familiar bare-boned dinosaur T-shirt (you bought one back in the day, didn’t you?), and John Williams’ spine-tingling theme plays at the outset. When Claire’s nephews stumble upon a few artifacts from the original Jurassic Park, their discovery stirs memories of watching the film in the theater. To be able to reawaken that youthful wonder is nothing short of astonishing.
The groundbreaking special effects, meanwhile, flat-out amaze. In this day in which all of California can crumble to smithereens in San Andreas thanks to CGI, it’s important to appreciate the wizardry here. The dinosaurs give the realistic appearance of sneering, breathing creatures with distinguishable personalities. (You’ll even cheer for them!) Just try not to jump out of your seat and yell each time a leaping lizard darts into the camera frame. And, heads up, they emerge from all directions.
What a ride, indeed.
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