‘Jurassic World (2015)’ is The Franchise’s Best Sequel So Far- Throwback Review

Following the previous entries, the island of Isla Nubar is now the location of the exciting, fully operational theme park Jurassic World. John Hammond’s vision has come to life as visitors worldwide can visit this enormous park/ resort filled with genetically created dinosaurs that have been open for ten years. In their latest attempt at bringing a new audience to the park after declining visitor rates, scientists have genetically engineered a new hybrid dinosaur called the Indominus Rex to be a part of a new attraction and boost attendance. However, it turns out to be a distressful day as the beast escapes its captivity and goes on a killing spree around the park. Former Navy vet and Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) teams up with the park’s operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) in a race against time to find it before mayhem hits the entire island.

Just when we thought of giving up on hope, the fourth continuation in the famous Jurassic Park franchise has finally come true with Jurassic World. As someone who loves the original Jurassic Park, one of my absolute favorites, you better believe I’ve been looking forward to a new installment forever. However, I still consider myself lucky to have seen it on the big screen for the 20th-anniversary re-release two years prior. Nobody will disagree about how the first film, directed by Steven Spielberg based on Michael Crichton’s novel, was a game-changer for visual effects on how we view dinosaurs in awe. It had us boost our knowledge about them. Unfortunately, the sequels, 1997’s The Lost World and 2001’s Jurassic Park III, weren’t as praised critically by most fans and critics. And I’ve never been a fan of either of them.

Many lifelong fans have been eagerly anticipating the long-awaited return to the world of dinosaurs, especially if it is a worthy sequel after the dismal release of Jurassic Park III 14 years ago. Everything leading up had me curious about what plans they had to make this work after wondering for a decade about early concept ideas/ script revisions and the expectations of the original cast members. All I wanted out of this was to be entertained and thrilled, as any summer movie requires you to sit back, relax, and eat a large tub of popcorn. But I’ll be honest; the hype was real where this was my third-most anticipated film of 2015. The first time I saw this on opening weekend, I really liked it, as the fun adventure they intended it to be. When I watched it again three years later, my thoughts changed a little, but I still enjoyed it. Taking the time recently to prepare for the forthcoming sequel (Jurassic World: Dominion) from a critic’s perspective, I didn’t realize to be a little more conflicted/ mildly positive about it now. But if there’s one thing to say about Jurassic World, it’s the more watchable sequel in the franchise worthy of being called entertaining. 

Director Colin Trevorrow takes over the reins after he first rose to promise with his 2012 indie comedy Safety Not Guaranteed. It’s almost as if Spielberg (who serves as an Executive Producer) really saw something in him to bring this to life, as most directors get their big shot at a $150 million blockbuster compared to his $750,000 directorial debut. Trevorrow had hoped to make a continuation of a film that meant so much to him growing up for a new generation. Did he succeed? Mostly. He’s no Spielberg, but who can capture the awe-striking wonder 22 years ago? We finally have a film that captures the realism of a SeaWorld-style amusement park, which is exactly what we’ve desired since the beginning. In some way, World treats itself like a true sequel without a reference to the follow-ups. Since this is a Jurassic Park movie, first and foremost, it was only a matter of time for any creation to go sideways, proving again why messing with nature is rarely wise in today’s world. They don’t go out of the way to give an understandable theme since we’re already aware and it’s nothing but a monster feature.

I loved Chris Pratt’s inclusion in this series, and he completely stole the whole movie from everybody. Two summers in a row where he gets to show audiences around the world he’s capable of being the next action star in franchises: this and Guardians of the Galaxy. He doesn’t make his character a goofball and makes Owen serious with some charisma. Even though Pratt is primarily known as a funny actor, he tones his humor down when needed to. This was a guy who didn’t need to be worried about when training raptors. Some thought was dumb from the trailers, but they handled it better than I imagined, as it showed Owen has an unexpectedly deep bond with these animals. It’s also pleasant to see Bryce Dallas Howard in a role where she isn’t playing somebody unlikable. It took a while to warm up to her character, though. People don’t talk about her enough in this film, specifically. Did I believe the romantic chemistry between her and Pratt? It’s a weak element that felt almost forced, but it never took away from their excellent performances.

The Indominus Rex was ultra-scary and the action involving the dinosaur being hunted down was intense. So yes, it’s very questionable and unwise for scientists to make a new dinosaur when there’s a high chance of killing you. But at least it is a more threatening antagonist than the Spinosaurus in the third. She was one of the more memorable non-human villains of the year. And the CGI for the dinosaurs wasn’t too bad, especially the design of the I-Rex and the raptors. The first and second were better than what we saw here, respectively, leading to a noticeable Oscar win and nomination. There’s a lot of it, for sure, although they could’ve used more practical effects to push the believable factor up high. One moment, in particular, is one of the quieter moments of a dying Apatosaurus that gave off the most emotions in the film. But once the story gets to the action and peril on this island, it’s always exciting to watch. Anything involving the I-Rex killing the employees or the terrifying sequences of the pterosaurs attacking the resort is proof nobody is insane enough to make this park real. Though the climax has shades of the original, it was nothing short of amazement that will please fans.

Even when the other aspects don’t break any new ground, John Schwartzman’s cinematography made the film a beautiful-looking sci-fi, shot on 35mm film and digital with the Hawaii backdrop to double again for Isla Nublar. And Michael Giacchino’s score isn’t one of his most memorable, but it certainly captures the nods to John Williams’ original that still made it his own. Hence, the standout piece “As the Jurassic World Turns,” can be put on repeat, as it’s appropriate to play while you’re walking around Universal Studios.

Some problems have occurred upon re-watch that made the movie not great, and it’s primarily because of the flaws in the storytelling (by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly and Treverrow). The first 30 minutes were a bit slow for the build-up inside the park and had me worried it would not hold up; once the I-Rex became loose in the second half, it got better. But the whole subplot with Clarie’s nephews, Gray and Zach, wasn’t an aspect I cared too much for. I enjoyed Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson’s performances; I thought this tried too hard to make them the new Tim/Lexi siblings to care about, especially when the mention of their parents possibly getting a divorce was only brought up once and never again. And Vincent D’Onofrio is one of my favorite actors and he too gives a good performance. But he was a cliché villain and his purpose for wanting to train the raptors as military weapons sounded dumb and unbelievable to a high degree. They’re raptors; they will rip apart everybody.

Surprisingly, many people hate this installment, and the Internet will make that clear like it’s the worst thing ever or dumb enough to rank it as the worst in the franchise. Even admitting I like it makes me think I’m dumb. It’s not great, but this was never the thinking man’s sci-fi. It did very well in theaters. But though the reception was positive, with a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes (the only sequel with a fresh score), it was an expected massive hit for the studio, becoming the second highest-grossing movie of 2015 with $653 Million and the seventh highest-grossing movie worldwide, as of 2022, with $1.6 Billion. The most common thing that anybody will do while watching this will compare it to the original. And they shouldn’t since it’ll ruin the entire experience.

Overall, Jurassic World doesn’t come close to holding a candle to its original predecessor and falls a bit short of character development and memorable thrills. However, for reviving a franchise, it gets the job done by being nothing but a fun blockbuster ride adventurous enough to want more. Many won’t agree with me being in the minority, but I’m still looking at this installment as the better sequel. 

Grade: [B-]

Jurassic World opened in theaters in 3D and IMAX 3D on June 12, 2015, and is now available on home release. Runtime: 124 Minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril. Studio: Universal Pictures.

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