There’s a problem when the most complex character in a film is the dinosaur. Then again, JURASSIC WORLD is a film, that like the eponymous amusement park depicted within its two-hour or so running time, has only those extinct animals to offer by way of novelty. Not that this quasi-sequel to JURASSIC PARK is bad, it’s just not very innovative. Aside from that dinosaur.
She’s an Indominus Rex, concocted in the DNA lab from bits and pieces of other dinosaurs by Dr. Wu (B.D. Wong) to be bigger and scarier than any known dinosaur in order to re-enchant a public grown jaded by mere stegasauri or even a T. Rex. Of course it goes wrong. She’s smarter than they expect, more cunning, and, thanks to having been raised in isolation (she ate her sibling early on), not quite sure where she belongs in the food chain. In other words a towering killing machine that is self-aware enough to be going through an existential crisis, and intelligent enough to take it out on everything and everyone around her.
This is new. And if the writing as a whole had been as clever as this element, this would have been a terrific flick. As it is, it’s a fun flick that asks us to suffer through the puerile dialogue between Bryce Dallas Howard as the park’s operations supervisor, and Chris Pratt, as the animal trainer whose background in the Navy is important for reasons never adequately explained. They had one date that didn’t go well, but now, with the philosophically confused hybrid on the loose, they find themselves together on an adventure.
Variants on the first film are the rule here. As in the original, there is the ci-mentioned couple with the prickly personal relationship stuck together in a crash course in compatibility, a pair of cute kids, and a park owner (a whimsical Irfan Khan) whose primary purpose is fun, not the bottom line. As in the original, science usurps the role of the deity and things go awry because of the hubris of humanity’s inherent lack of omniscience. The new wrinkles are less novel than irksome, beginning and ending with Vincent D’Onofrio as the slimy embodiment of all the evils found in the military-industrial complex. He’s fine in and of himself, quirky and arrogant, but his character’s goofy subplot about weaponizing dinosaurs is a non-starter than just gets progressively sillier.
Expected tropes abound, which is why the kids, Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins, are not only the nephews of the operations manager, they are also about to be the children of divorce as well , and the only two visitors to the park not accounted for when all heck breaks loose. They are, of course, bouncing around in a really cool gyrosphere, which proves to be irresistible to the Indominus.
The entire set-up for the action, including the thoughtful inclusion of every plot point that will be played out, is revealed in the first 15 minutes or so, and, once out of the way, gives way to the thudding repetition of safe, not safe, safe, not safe, safe, not safe, ad infinitum. Or at least ad terminum cinematum in this film that wallows in convenient coincidence. They are none of them particularly startling, which is consistent with the similar lack of boldness when it comes to the colors given to the dinosaurs, but it’s all competently directed by Colin Trevorrow, whose previous film, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, was a sci-fi flick without special effect that was also a sharp character study. Perhaps this is why the two kids are suitably adorable rather than painfully cloying. The most fascinating thing in the entire work, however, is the way Howard’s character can run in high heels. As a consummate corporate executive, she is, of course, organized, adaptable under pressure, and inflexible when it comes to insuring the profit margin. Nowhere in the job description could there have been a specification for an ability not only to sprint in four-inch heels, but also to maintain them intact on the pedal extremities while traversing rough terrain. Yet when the necessity demands it, she rises to the challenge while also, as in all pedestrian action flicks, being reduced to a tank top and a perfectly placed rip in her pencil skirt.
Setting aside even an internal logic, as in why don’t they create a heat source in a remote part of the island to divert the Indominus’ thermal tracking capability, there is some real fun. Aside from the shout-out to Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS, and a ripping good riff on a scene from MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL involving two guards on a wall, there is the undisputable delight in watching dinosaurs putting humanity in its place in the natural order of things. There is an even greater delight in watching dinosaurs duke it out while reducing to rubble the symbol of capitalism without conscience built by people who think that life is something that can be patented. That the rubble includes so many well-known franchises that, no doubt, hope to profit from their product placement is delightful in an ironic fashion.
JURASSIC WORLD fails in the putative romance between the prickly couple. In fact, Pratt has far more chemistry with the baby deinonychus clutch that his character is training than he ever attains with Howard, But for all the unintentional humor, we are provided some solid comic relief with Jake Johnson as the unlikely voice of reason manning the console in the parks control room. I could make a case for making him the main focus of the film with only digressions to the rest of the story. Perhaps he will be back in the inevitable sequel, which, as in all franchise hopefuls, is implied with extreme prejudice.