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This is what a tentpole studio blockbuster looks like in the year 2015: character archetypes with which audiences can identify and are familiar, visual effects and money shots that favor marketing viability over sophistication, and if available and willing to grace the screen with his Reincarnate-of-Harrison-Ford visage, Chris Pratt.
In Steve Persall’s 1993 review of the original Steven Spielberg spectacle for the Tampa Bay Times, the critic wrote, “We ask for two things from big-budget thrillers like this: make us believe and make us jump. Jurassic Park delivers on both counts.” If all Jurassic World aspires to achieve is that same standard, it succeeds; the masterful tension that Spielberg wrought with the original film may not be as present in its decades-later reboot, but the dinosaurs are scary, and the action sequences advance at meteorite speed.
The human characters, however, aren’t so interesting—in fact, they’re fossils of the past. The setup between scientist Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and raptor wrangler Owen (Chris Pratt) is archetypical Tarzan and Jane, Disney’s own iteration of the dynamic of an epoch that predates this film by almost twenty years. She’s the stick-in-the-mud businesswoman who can’t learn to have fun. He’s the rugged cool-guy who teaches her to. Somewhere in the mix, a prepubescent boy is tossed into the danger, missing all but a stamp reading “merchandising target audience” affixed to his forehead. Is it really meant to be believable when Claire outpaces a velociraptor in stiletto heels? Or surprising when Owen pulls her in for a kiss amid the massacre of pterodactyls released into a body of tourists?
No, but you’re not meant to pay attention to them while the (PG-13) carnage unfolds: you’re looking at the pterodactyls. Studio pressure for the familiar won out where it matters the least, as director Colin Trevorrow (whose credits include 2012’s criminally underrated Safety Not Guaranteed) hammers out a solid blockbuster out of the parts of the film fans of the original cared about most. The creation and execution of the “Indominous Rex” is as ridiculous and exciting as it sounds: the smarter of the characters in the film may question the ethics of artificially breeding a more dangerous, hybrid dinosaur that ravages anything with a pulse and camouflages itself, but for the audience, it’s pure fun.
The film incorporates elements of original film to great effect—the dynamic of the velociraptors has shifted, and some other fan favorites make an appearance. As the film escalates into its third act, it’s all visceral energy. Trevorrow and co-screenwriter Amanda Silver attempt to cram as much dinosaur terror in as the film can feasibly get away with; it’s commendable that the paradigm of the dinosaur and human characters shifts as much as it does, with a reasonable degree of logic to the execution.
Although the bones of the film beg to be museum-bound, the team behind the reboot knows what the appeal of this franchise is—and maximizes it to full, carnivorous effect.