Like its scaly, pointy-toothed subject matter, “Jurassic World” is a feat of modern engineering.
Although specifically tailored to meet both audience and investor expectations, it’s still a marvel to behold, delivering B-movie fun on an A-movie budget.
Like its creature-feature ancestors, “Jurassic World” is an exceptionally self-aware sequel.
For a film so laden with product placement that it could easily be called “Mercedes-Benz presents Samsung’s Jurassic World, featuring Starbucks,” it gruesomely condemns the folly of corporate greed.
And in a story where the public has grown weary of dinosaurs and wants something bigger, badder and “with more teeth,” the filmmakers are practically calling out their own franchise.
Is director Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) making the best of corporate meddling, while sticking it to creatively bankrupt studio execs? Maybe so, but he’s also delivering a pretty entertaining movie in the process.
Make no doubt, “Jurassic World” is big, dumb summer fun, and yes, as its characters are wont to point out, it has more teeth. It doesn’t live up to the original, although it’s probably the best sequel in the series’ stable, despite the noted absence of Jeff Goldblum and his peculiar laugh (www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBxgAmdPQWg).
In “Jurassic World,” we find Jurassic Park founder John Hammond’s dream ultimately realized — a theme park where guests of all ages can observe living, breathing dinosaurs in all of their genetically crafted splendor.
The park boasts attractions aplenty, from a baby triceratops petting zoo to a T. rex feeding demonstration to a Sea World-esque mosasaurus tank. And let’s not forget the gyroscope ride, complete with a teenage caring-is-above-my-pay-grade operator and safety video hosted by a bumbling Jimmy Fallon.
But what starts as a typical day for harried executive Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard, “The Village”) turns into anything but. Her nephews, Zack (Nick Robinson, “The Kings of Summer”) and Gray (Ty Simpkins, “Insidious”), have arrived for vacation, just as she’s making a sales pitch to some potential investors.
Consumers are bored with plain old dinosaurs, Claire explains, and, as such, corporate has mandated that the park’s geneticists create something new — a hybrid dinosaur that’s bigger, deadlier and toothier than the other prehistoric denizens.
The creator of the what-could-possibly-go-wrong-asaurus is Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong, TV’s “Law and Order: SVU”), geneticist and only returning character from the first film, who’s devolved into a corporate mad scientist of sorts, wearing black and refusing to tell anyone what species were used to cook up the new dino.
Corporate names it Indominus rex, which even the characters poke fun at, and it takes barely any time for this pale, ginormous and camouflaged abomination to escape its paddock and wreak Jurassic havoc.
Needless to say, management tries to keep this hush-hush, as to not disrupt business at the Samsung Innovation Center, Starbucks or Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, but when Claire realizes her nephews — who she simply forgot about — are in grave danger, she enlists velociraptor wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, TV’s “Parks and Recreation”).
Although he’s employed by the smarmy Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio, “Men in Black”), who imprudently hopes to weaponize the raptors for the corporate-military-industrial complex, Grady is ardently opposed to this concept — because, hey, common sense — and instead sees the dinosaurs for what they are: living creatures.
He’ll need this insightful perspective if he’s to help Claire navigate the chaos and rescue her nephews, along with the thousands of innocent bystanders being preyed upon by dinos run amok.
The plot is a practically a genetically enhanced rehash of the original, and although its characters are cookie-cutter, standard-issue, “Jurassic World” lives up to its meta “more teeth” mantra.
For better or worse, that includes blatant product placement, which, let’s face it, is something you’d find in abundance at a theme park. The most glaring offender, though, is Mercedes, as every scene featuring a vehicle literally plays like a commercial — something even Trevorrow’s otherwise tactful maneuvering couldn’t seem to avoid.
“Jurassic World” is at its best when it harkens back to the wonder of the original, showcasing the pure majesty of this fictitious wonderland through sweeping shots, swelling music — John Williams’s unforgettable theme makes a welcome return — and, of course, special effects.
The original is one of cinema’s quintessential special effects films, having ushered in the era of computer-generated imagery, while still boasting top-tier and incredibly realistic practical effects. “Jurassic World” leans a little too heavily on CGI, but the design work of the late, great visual effects guru, Stan Winston, is still front and center.
This, of course, lends itself to dino-centric action sequences aplenty, but at the cost of the quieter, more wondrous spectacles that made the first film so magnificent. That said, there are plenty of fun throwbacks to the original, including the illustrious Mr. DNA, whose pronunciation of “dinosaur” (dye-knows-ow-er) knows no rival.
But despite the misguided ethos of management (fictitious and otherwise), the dinosaurs and that same sense of wonder — albeit fleeting — are still worth the price of admission.
“Jurassic World” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.