When I was a kid, I wanted to be a paleontologist. Trips to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia were the stuff dreams are made of and there was no shortage of plastic T-rexes, velociraptors, and pterosaurs in my toy bin. It was all thanks to Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park,” a movie that instilled a love and appreciation of the giant lizards in ‘90s kids such as me.
While it came out a year before I was born, the “Jurassic Park” franchise was extremely influential in my upbringing with its groundbreaking computer-generated effects and its idea that (in the infamous words of Carl Denham), “there’s still a bit of mystery left in this world and we call all have a piece of it for the price of an admission ticket.”
That being said…Chris Pratt rides on a motorcycle alongside velociraptors! That’s just one of the scenes that will make your inner child squeal with delight after seeing “Jurassic World,” which was released June 12. Being the fourth installment in the franchise, it takes place 20 years after the first movie in the fully functional theme park/zoo originally envisioned by John Hammond and his company InGen. It’s a park for a new age when corporations can sponsor attractions, the operation is now run by something a little more advanced than a Unix system: Jimmy Fallon narrates the tour instead of Richard Kylie and you can just cook up a brand new animal with cuttlefish DNA.
That’s exactly what the park’s scientists do in the form of the Indominus Rex (presented by Verizon Wireless, by the way), a terrifyingly smart new dinosaur meant to drum up more publicity for a place full of extinct creatures! “They’re dinosaurs, wow enough,” Owen Grady, the movie’s hero who couldn’t be portrayed any better by Pratt’s mixture of seriousness and humor, remarked. Seriously, if they cast Star Lord as the new Indiana Jones, you’ll hear no ill will from me.
As with any of the “Jurassic Park” movies, control is the main theme in which ambitious people learn the hard that way that if you mess with forces outside your control, it’ll end up biting you — quite literally — in the end. “The key to a happy life is accepting that you’re never in control,” the wise park’s owner Simon Masrani said. Of course, the dinosaurs escape and, of course, people are eaten and, of course, it’s up to our heroes to stop the reptilian killing machines.
It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but it’s the references to the 1993 original — little nostalgic whispers from the past — that make the movie so great for fans of the series. One standout gag early on involves control room tech Lowery Cruthers (Jake Johnson from “New Girl” in great comedic form) being scolded for buying a shirt from the original park on eBay. “It was horrible, people died, but that original park was legit,” he exclaimed after being told that wearing the shirt is in poor taste.
The park is something that we could only dream of as kids. Today’s generation can experience what we did 20 years ago, making it great for newcomers to the series. There’s now a petting zoo of baby dinosaurs, a mosasaur (a big prehistoric fish that would make Shamu homeless) and a gyroscopic ride next to herbivores. And hey, why not stop off at Starbucks or Jimmy Buffet’s Margaretville during your breaks from the attractions?
“Jurassic World” was directed by Colin Trevorrow, a neophyte filmmaker with only an indie film under his belt (“Safety Not Guaranteed”). Nevertheless, he has no trouble handling a massive summer blockbuster for one of the most lucrative brands ever, not to mention Spielberg acting as an executive producer.
While not directed by the cinematic maestro himself, it has all the “Spielbergisms” one has come to expect from his work, such as themes of broken families (some emotional moments seem too forced and the human villains seem a little half-assed, but these elements don’t overpower the final product) and a childlike sense of wonder. The children in question are Gray and Zach, two brothers who visit the park where their aunt Clare (Bryce Dallas Howard) oversees operations. The boys serve as the Lex and Tim of the movie because it wouldn’t be “Jurassic Park” without kids in danger, now would it?
Michael Giacchino’s (“Star Trek,” “Super 8,” “Up”) score isn’t on the same level as John Williams’, but it comes damn close with a B-movie combination of ominous horns and strings that mimics the music master. There’s even a lovely piccolo-ish “Peter and the Wolf” moment when flying dinosaurs come into the mix. When Williams’ iconic theme comes on for the first time you’ll have no choice but to tear up. No, I’m not crying, a velociraptor just took a chunk of my leg! Speaking of raptors, Owen’s encounter with them is one of the coolest and most badass parts of the entire series. Did I mention that motorcycle bit already?
More movies have been announced and I must admit that I’m excited, especially because it’s been 14 years since the last movie. Author Michael Crichton only wrote two books (“Jurassic Park” and “The Lost World”), which sparked the phenomenon. After a while, you’d think that it would be like beating a dead horse, or rather, a dead tyrannosaurus.
All in all, “Jurassic World” cannot match the sheer ingenuity and surprise of the first movie. The technology that brought dinosaurs to the screen in the ‘90s has become commonplace in Hollywood. Just like people in the movie are jaded by the actual existence of them, we too have become too used to special effects. For the first time, the dinosaurs are brought to life more through computer-generated imagery than by Stan Winston puppetry (they look more realistic than ever!). With that in mind, the movie is thrilling, touching and just plain entertaining. They hit all the right notes for your brain’s taste buds, and if I had to choose one movie you should see this summer, this would be it. You’ll be on the edge of your seat up until the final moment of the climax, which brings back an old friend. In other words, you’ll have to hold on to your butts.
This newest installment proves you don’t need Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill or Laura Dern to make a successful dinosaur pic. The movie’s already had the biggest opening of all time (beating “The Avengers”) and made $1 billion in just 13 days. Even when books like “Jurassic Park” or “The Boys from Brazil” warn about the dangers of overstepping boundaries with genetic experiments, these ignorant people in movie land are still doing them with impunity and paying the price. But you can be sure that when they do it, they’ll spare no expense.