Jurassic World brings the franchise roaring back

In the first half hour of Jurassic World, I thought I was going to have a déjà vu experience from the previous 2 dino-sequels – idiotic woman allows maternal instincts to supersede common sense and puts her entire group in harm’s way. In 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park (which I watched again on TV last night), Julianne Moore’s character coos and frets over an injured T. Rex infant and brings two very unhappy parents calling on their trailer, just so that director Spielberg could give us one of his nail-biting action set ups. Four years later in Jurassic Park III, Téa Leoni’s character uses a bullhorn to call out for her missing son, thereby attracting the unwelcome attention of a Spinosaurus, which then leads to their plane crashing and mayhem in the jungle. Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) had plenty of maternal instincts in Jurassic Park but that didn’t stop her from being one of the smartest, bravest, feistiest people in the movie. Somehow scriptwriters have struggled to write sensible characters and believable plot mechanics for the 2 sequels.

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In this latest installment however, it’s not Claire Dearing’s maternal instincts that cause the trouble…she initially appears to have none whatsoever, avoiding her two nephews who have come to spend the weekend with her and palming them off to her assistant instead. Nevertheless the scriptwriting misogyny continues as Claire (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) doggedly ignores common sense and endangers lives in the pursuit of profits and sucking up to her boss. It’s been 22 years since the events of the first movie and now Isla Nubar has been tamed and converted into a sprawling theme park with real live dinosaurs. It is visited by millions every year and is generating huge profits for Masrani Global, the corporation which acquired InGen and perfected its dinosaur DNA technology. Dr. Henry Wu from the first film is still around; he is now the chief geneticist for the park, responsible for creating the most optimum mix of dinosaurs to maximize the experience for all the different demographics that visit the park – families with little kids, bored teenagers and thrill-seeking adults (yes, that’s corporate speak for let’s do whatever it takes to make lots of money!). BD Wong who plays Dr. Wu looks very dapper with his black turtleneck and slick hair, and you could imagine a backstory where the good doctor may be using some genetic technology on himself!

Driven by greed, hubris and customers’ demands for bigger thrills, Dr. Wu breeds an experimental dinosaur named Indominus Rex, created from a cocktail of genes from various reptiles. They end up with a dangerous, cunning animal and it’s not difficult to imagine what happens next; the trailers have been pretty explicit with scenes of dinos on the loose and park visitors getting attacked.

I really enjoyed the way we are introduced to the features of the park and a whole new cast of characters. The ensemble cast of Jurassic Park was a wonderful mix – the two smart and conscientious paleontologists (Sam Neill and Laura Dern), the cocky chaos theorist (Jeff Goldblum), the intense chain-smoking park engineer (Samuel L. Jackson), the greedy computer systems manager (Wayne Knight), the visionary but naïve billionaire (Richard Attenborough) and his two grandchildren. The next 2 movies tried different combinations of the same formula but as I mentioned at the start, they didn’t get the female characters right and the other people were rather forgettable. In Jurassic World, the ensemble is smaller, but comes close to replicating the chemistry from the first movie – besides Dr. Wu, Claire and her two nephews, we also have her boss Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) who’s dropped in for a visit, Vic Hoskins the head of security operations for InGen (played by Vincent D’Onofrio) and last but not least, Owen Grady, an ex-Navy man who is working on an InGen side project to tame and control Velociraptors. Grady is played by red hot actor Chris Pratt and is the ‘macho man’ around whom all the action coalesces. Pratt is coming off the success of Guardians of the Galaxy last year and has been rumored as the front runner to play Indiana Jones if Spielberg decides to reboot that franchise. He certainly has the chops of a big screen leading man, in the same mould as Harrison Ford; he is equally at ease with humor and action, has good chemistry with leading ladies and is good looking in an unconventional way.

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Besides the cast, the film is as expected, technically excellent in every way. The 3D really works and this is one film that is worth the premium for IMAX 3D. The dinosaurs look more real than ever and this was especially apparent as I watched the 2nd movie last night which dates back to 1997. Nothing can beat the original John Williams score and it was good to see it make an appearance every now and then as part of Oscar winning composer Michael Giacchino’s score.

Well, eventually Claire turns out not to be so dumb, the kids get chased by dinosaurs as usual, a bunch of people get their comeuppance (which means they get eaten), lots of other people get eaten as well, the bad ‘guys’ from an earlier movie become the good ‘guys’ (kinda like Arnie in the Terminator franchise), a familiar ‘character’ makes a reappearance and at the end of two hours, all’s well that ends well.

For someone directing his first big scale Hollywood action movie (and only his 2nd movie ever) 39-year-old Colin Trevorrow has done an amazing job. The film is rushing towards a June record opening weekend in the US and looks set to hit USD 1 billion worldwide by the end of the summer. What a great year for Universal Pictures: with Furious 7, Fifty Shades of Grey and Pitch Perfect 2 already minting money, the studio has hit the USD 2 billion mark worldwide on the day Jurassic World opened, the fastest that any studio has reached this milestone in history. Get set to put on your seatbelts for the inevitable sequel in a couple of years’ time and keep an eye out for Trevorrow’s next directing job; bound to be something big!

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