“These people never learn.” Jurassic World’s sermon on the mount is spoken as almost an afterthought by a helpless supporting character frustrated by the chaos and idiocy that surrounds him. No one hears his words (except the knowing audience), and this is exactly the point. In a series of films about the horrors of gene splicing and human ego, why would common sense be relevant now?
Director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) understands how sequels work. It’s not about reinventing the wheel but watching the wheel careen through familiar narrative territory, this time on fire. With Jurassic World, he manipulates such a framework to casually expose Hollywood’s ham-fisted and exploitative tactics toward audience development. Much like the denizens of the super-successful theme park in this latest Jurassic entry, we sit in Plato’s cave with a barbaric need to see something bigger and longer, with more cutting.
The film’s opening hour unfolds in ridiculously convenient fashion, with human error and arrogance trumping logic to create another epic dino disaster. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire, a workaholic executive leading all operations on Isla Nublar, where the newly designed Jurassic World attracts over 20,000 people a day. She has invited her two nephews Zach and Gray (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) to visit for the weekend in hopes of establishing a familial reconnection. Contracted from the Navy to do research on training velociraptors, Owen (Chris Pratt) comes in handy when things go south, providing a spark of old-school heroism. Parent company InGen waits in the wings to see if his work can be utilized on the battlefield.
The skeletons of John Hammond’s Jurassic Park have been pushed to the periphery, referenced fondly by discarded signs and Jake Johnson’s morbid fan t-shirt. Twenty years later, Jurassic World has a reputation for staying ahead of the curve with edgy and unnatural attractions; its new owner (Irrfan Kahn) has tasked his R&D department to create a fresh hybrid dinosaur named Indominus Rex that’s part T-Rex, part Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Bad idea.
It’s not a matter of if the shit will hit the fan, but when. That Jurassic World constructs genuinely thrilling chase sequences out of Spielberg’s spare parts is refreshing. Putting body cams on distrusting raptors turns one violent onslaught into a horrific bloodbath seen from multiple first-person vantage points. Even more visceral is the brutal winged assault by pterodactyls on thousands of park residents. Finally, the sequence involving Zach and Gray’s close call with Indominus Rex while inside a purportedly impenetrable gyrosphere furthers the argument that we are never truly safe from the monsters of our own making.
At 124 minutes, Jurassic World feels overstuffed despite having multiple sequences that are surprisingly precise. This has to do with Trevorrow’s unfortunate desire to shore up each plot line with emotional closure, a process that includes enough final standoffs and farewells to qualify as a fourth Lord of the Rings film. Still, Jurassic World is smart enough to register as one of the few pleasurable summer entries with half a brain. It rather carefully suggests that in today’s age, there’s no longer good and bad, but old greed and new greed. The former has risen from the grave of villainy to become a new species of hero.