Saturday, June 13, 2015

I saw Jurassic World...

May I be frank with you, folks? When it comes to an impeccable dinosaur trilogy, I find Eugene Lourie's "Beast from 20,000 Fathoms," "The Giant Behemoth" and "Gorgo" to be as good as it gets. Yep, I'm that kind of old-school guy. 

Now, with that being said, I can still admit to appreciating the three, prior "Jurassic Park" movies (and Michael Crichton's original novel), except that...well, unlike other dino flicks of past, the "Jurassic" movies are bogged down with loads of kid-filler: that is, whiny children who get in the way of what should be exclusive, adult-vs-dino turmoil. As such, of the original three, I'm more at ease with Joe Johnston's "Jurassic III", since its youthful distraction is limited, the story tighter, and yeah, I realize I'm the odd-man-out there, but it is what it is. 

So, what's my take on director Colin Trevorrow's "Jurassic World"? I'm cool with fact, more than cool. Like the third chapter, this one's free of superfluous, kiddie shenanigans, even though youngsters do appear. There are two, in fact: brothers Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) Mitchell. 

It's Chris ("Guardians of the Galaxy") Pratt, however, as raptor-trainer Owen Grady, an ex-Naval officer, who keeps them in check, his focus (and the story's) falling upon his creatures: Blue, Charlie, Delta and Echo. Grady's intrepid presence is a big reason why this chapter clicks, and once the movie gets rolling (and boy, does it ever when Grady finally seized the spotlight), it's rather like "Indy Jones on Dino Island": a pretty inspired idea, if I may say so myself.  

To further truncate any whiny interference, supporting come-and-go characters nicely fill the gaps, without ever clouding matters with garrulous tangents, with Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) acting a prevailing presence among them. She's both park manager and aunt to the Mitchell boys, initially a staunch supporter of the attraction, but becomes as frightened and disenchanted by the dinosaur mayhem as her nephews. Fortunately, she never turns into a screaming ninny in the process.

"Jurassic World" also presents a solid, human antagonist: security-head Vic Hoskins, portrayed by Vincent D'Onofrio, who just scored high as Kingpin in Netflix's "Daredevil". Alas, Hoskins motive is annoyingly predictable: to analyze the park specimens for possible military possibilities ( least "Godzilla '14" put a positive spin on our Navy). Nevertheless, Hoskins' myopic view of the dinosaurs contrasts well with Grady's Tarzan-tinged persona. 

The real reason the film succeeds, however, is Trevorrow, whose direction isn't only snappy, but he deserves a big pat on the back for contributing to the unpretentious script (co-written with Rick Jaffe, Derek Connolly and Amanda Silver). Its overall execution smoothly extrapolates the other sequels and even probes a tad deeper into the consequences of specialized genetics and its resulting calamity. 

The sharp-witted Indominus Rex, for example, perfectly embodies that age-old idea of "man should not tamper with what he does not understand", but wisely keeps the ferocity and fun upfront, as opposed to layering it with unnecessary, environmental gibberish. 

For what it's worth, "Jurassic IV" was to have dealt with genetically engineered saurian soldiers: a clever concept that would have taken the franchise in a most refreshing direction. It makes one wonder if this film isn't a warm up for such reconsideration (as Hoskins presence insinuates), or if we can expect a similar take a couple years down the line. Only time will tell. Still, the reptiles' sharpened wit makes their rampages all the more nail-biting, particularly when the Indominus Rex enters the park structures, touching upon the prehistoric-vs-modern-world tradition. (In the end, though, the moment pales in comparison to any Kong city spree.)

Though "Jurassic World" is certainly fulfilling in its progressive momentum, I'm still be more inclined to choose "Valley of Gwangi" or "Land Unknown" for some future rainy afternoon. Sorry, but even the best CGI (and this one's a veritable stand-out, in that regard) will never capture the sense of wonder I find in my childhood favorites. All the same, I give this latest effort credit for at least making a valiant attempt at recapturing that good ol' joy. This make "Jurassic World" the closest in the franchise yet to hit such sentimental rekindling. 

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