Review: Familiar 'Jurassic World' offers more of same

Tom Long
The Detroit News

If you've seen one giant dinosaur fight, you've seen them all.

That's the sad truth about "Jurassic World," a far-too-familiar sequel that seems to think bigger is necessarily better. The film's frankenscript — cobbled together by four different writers — closely follows the formula laid out by the original "Jurassic Park": sweeping shots of landscape and dino porn, a self-sure and essentially kind leader, a couple of terrified/brave kids, order crumbling into chaos.

But the sense of wonder is missing and everyone, audience included, just seems to be going through the standard summer movie motions. Yes, those are some really big dinosaurs up there on the screen. Yawn. Has anyone seen the Hulk lately? He'd be fun in a dinosaur movie.

Alas, he must not have been available. Instead we're given Chris Pratt, who does his best with the over-worn surroundings even if his trademark sense of humor is somewhat suppressed. Yin to his yang, uptight to his casual, delicate to his brawn is Bryce Dallas Howard, a woman so steely she keeps her high heels on even when running for her life.

Howard plays Claire, the chief administrator of "Jurassic World," now a thriving island theme park some 20 years after the tumult of "Jurassic Park" (the franchise's other two sequels seem, just as in real life, forgotten). The park is as stuffed with tourists as Disneyland, key among them being Claire's nephews, young Gray (Ty Simpkins) and teen Zach (Nick Robinson).

Claire hasn't seen the boys in seven years, and she doesn't see much of them after they arrive, either. The park's billionaire owner (Irrfan Khan) has landed and wants to see his latest investment. Amusement parks need to keep offering new attractions, so scientists have spliced together all sorts of dinosaur genes and come up with a super-colossal new breed. What a great idea. How could anything go wrong?

Meanwhile, a former Navy man, Owen (Pratt), has been working on training dangerous velociraptors (who knew the Navy had a dinosaur-training program?). An obnoxious fellow named Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio), who may as well have Bad Guy tattooed on his forehead, wants to use the raptors as soldiers. Another great idea.

There's also a Sea World-like attraction, a gargantuan mega-whale, living in a man-made lake. It swallows large sharks whole for the amusement of the crowds. Sooo many good ideas in one place.

Anyway, the obvious happens. The super-colossal hybrid breaks free and starts eating people. It chases the boys, it chases Owen and Claire, it murders peaceful dinosaurs just for the fun of it. Tourists panic, other dinosaurs run wild, movie mayhem ensues.

The bold-faced theme — science has run amok, don't mess with mother nature — mirrors "Jurassic Park" (and so many other modern films, even as science continues to run amok) without expanding on it. "Park" director Steven Spielberg executive-produced this film and his sensibility is all over "World" director Colin Trevorrow's work; unfortunately that sensibility is now decades old, and that which was once fresh and amazing feels commonplace and overly tired.

Look, "Jurassic World" still delivers big, dumb cheap summer thrills. But extinction may be the kindest thing that can happen to this franchise.

tlong@detroitnews.com

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'Jurassic World'

GRADE: C

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril

Running time: 124 minutes