Overview: Jaws 3 but good. Universal Pictures; PG-13; 2015; 123 minutes.

Jurassic Expectations: As a lifelong Jurassic Park fan (it’s the #1 reason I love movies as much as I do), I had high hopes and expectations for this sequel. Jurassic World is not as good as Jurassic Park. That’s an issue every sequel in this franchise will have to contend with from now until the end of time. Jurassic Park was a personal movie about nature, control/power, family, and crafting a sentimental movie experience; it’s one of the quintessential blockbuster films and a perfect capsulation of movie magic. So no, there was no chance in hell Jurassic World was even going to be in the same league as the original. But few things are.

I don’t want to use that as an excuse and give the movie a pass on its various shortcomings. Just make sure you have realistic expectations going into a movie that doesn’t redefine cinema. Got it? Good.

Life Finds a Way (to Make a Good Movie): Jurassic World is the cinematic equivalent of a Universal theme park ride. Opting to entertain with spectacle and excitement rather than recreate the Spielberg sentimentality with awe inspiring visuals, there’s not much beneath the surface of the movie since the thematics are all spoken aloud by characters. Heavy-handed doesn’t suit director Colin Trevorrow’s shoddy script (please see his previous work: Safety Not Guaranteed).

And while I enjoyed watching the park open to the public for the first time, the touch and go motion of the plot momentum and pacing was a bit jarring. We follow several character stories simultaneously but at times feel entirely separate if not for taking place in the same movie. By the middle portion, everything began firing on the right cylinders. Characters that seemed extraneous were entertaining to watch as they clashed over ham-fisted ideologies and how to fight the newest clever girl in the park’s itinerary.

Indominus Rex (iRex or I-Rex) is a Godzilla movie villain on a smaller scale. It’s bioengineered to be an efficient killing machine and all around crowd pleaser (they never explain how the two are NOT mutually exclusive). So naturally it breaks out and starts killing everyone. At times the intelligence feels too convenient, but it makes for thrilling attack sequences.

While the iRex is a clever girl, it’s natural to ask: “Are the human characters clever girls?” Not quite.

Jurassic World is a loud, dumb blockbuster with hints and flourishes of the original idea that “life finds a way.” It’s mostly effective. Where the action and set pieces are good fun, filled with plenty of thrilling cheer-worthy moments, the script doesn’t allow characters to tread any new ground.

There are surface level textures that heighten the core cast beyond the baseline characterizations.

Bryce Dallas Howard, in particular, gets the standout arc to contrast the movie’s bigger ideas regarding control. The seemingly stock-frigid-business woman seen in the trailers had me worried. Several moments of her character, Claire, seems heavily inspired by Ellen Ripley style action. It’s nice when trailer fears are proven to be unfounded.

Jake Johnson wows with his spot on comedic timing. How has he not been cast in multiple high-profile blockbusters as comedic relief?

Chris Pratt took up the dominant spots in marketing, which makes sense given that he’s the biggest star in the movie, but less sense because Bryce Dallas Howard is the protagonist.

Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson play a few kids who have the worst luck possible, hopping from one dinosaur chase scene to the next. I don’t know where Simpkins got started or where Robinson is from but I hope they’re here to stay. After the less-than-appealing kids in Jurassic Park sequels, these two are welcome additions.

But we all know the real reason we go to watch these movies now. We want the wow factor in cool dinosaur action scenes. And it’s there, but mostly unimpressive as 90-95% of the dino shots are straight CGI. The CGI is almost too well textured as it stands out from the real world a bit too much.

And then the final half of the movie kicks off. Specific dinosaurs are let out of their cages. People start getting carried away by Pterodactyls. A giant dinosaur eats a smaller dinosaur. A showdown that had the audience I was with cheering so loudly my ears were ringing. The final act of Jurassic World is a grade A example of why we go to the summer movies. Imaginative dinosaur action. There’s not nearly enough of it in Hollywood.

Minor Notes:

  • As I walked out of the theater, head lifted high, I heard the dozens of children tell their parents about their favorite parts of the film. I lost the sense of awe the original Jurassic Park had, but this franchise was only beginning to make its imprint on a younger generation. That alone is worth appreciating.
  • B.D. Wong and Irrfan Khan share a scene together that inspires some of the original idea on whether just because you could, doesn’t mean you should. It’s also a scene where men of Asian ancestry discuss differing ideologies about dinosaurs in an American blockbuster. That’s just fucking awesome.
  • Bryce Dallas Howard wore high heels the entire movie while fighting dinosaurs. Make her president of the Jurassic World with our new dinosaur overlords. All hail the Bryce-a-saurus Rex.

Final Thoughts: Jurassic World fails with its attempt at criticizing the wave of reboots while gleefully partaking in the very thing it strives to critique. It’s also one of the more entertaining blockbusters of any recent summer, and by far the best Jurassic Park sequel. They spared no expense.

Grade: B+