There are two questions everyone is going to have after seeing Jurassic World, the fourth installment in the story of the ill-fated amusement park where dinosaurs are brought roaring back to life. Considering the place’s blood-spattered track record, what insurance company and/or government would let this place operate? And who in their right mind would go?
But it’s best not to be concerned about such practicalities during Jurassic World, a mixed bag of a movie that only really comes alive when the dinos are brawling with each other or snacking on humans like it’s lunchtime at Whataburger. Because it’s at these moments — and there are a lot of them — that the audience will be most thankful for lax regulations and gullible patrons.
Set 22 years after the horrific events of Jurassic Park — in which the Central American tropical island of Nublar is turned into a theme park showcasing reconstituted dinosaurs — Jurassic World starts off looking a bit like Tomorrowland. The park is now a shiny, sprawling tourist mecca full of compliant dinosaurs, and it seems no more dangerous than a petting zoo.
Overseeing it is Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), a bureaucratic, corporate functionary who refers to the animals as “assets” and is mandated to implement the vision of CEO Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) and Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong), the scientist responsible for this new generation of dinosaurs and a holdover from Jurassic Park.
Desperate to keep attendance levels up, they want attractions with “more teeth” — literally and metaphorically — to keep audiences interested. It’s not enough just to have a dinosaur these days; they need one that’s going to get people talking. It’s profits before paleontology.
They think they’ve struck gold with Indominus Rex, a giant, lethal combo of genetically modified teeth and claws cooked up by Dr. Wu in his lab. The problem is that they can’t keep this new creature contained — big surprise — and it starts rampaging across the island.
Of course, this just happens to be the day that Claire’s nephews — sullen teen Zach (Nick Robinson, The Kings of Summer) and dino-crazy younger brother Gray (Ty Simpkins, Iron Man 3) — are visiting. And when boo-hiss bad guy Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), who wants to use raptors in the armed forces, is making his power play.
The only one who can save them is Owen (Chris Pratt), a dinosaur lover and Jurassic World trainer who, along with his assistant Barry (Omar Sy, X-Men: Days of Future Past), has been working with the raptors, getting them to obey some basic commands.
But even he has his beefy hands full when going up against ol’ Indominus. (Though, despite the dinosaur apocalypse, there’s enough time for sparks to reignite between Owen and Claire.)
In his first big-budget project, director Colin Trevorrow — best known for the indie Safety Not Guaranteed — has made an efficient film that relies on the dinosaurs for its distinction. There are some showstopping sequences like the impressive flying pterosaur attack that sends crowds screaming for cover.
Though when they’re not screaming, the humans in Jurassic World are lifeless and featureless, as is much of the humor. The give-and-take between Claire and Owen — which has sparked some online uproar about sexism after the trailers hit the Net — is flat. If it’s supposed to be a sendup of traditional hero roles, it misses the mark.
But nobody goes to a movie like this for a treatise on male-female relationships, while Pratt proves to be capable of being the jut-jawed hero who can take on the fiercest monsters CGI can muster.
Yet, for those who remember both the sheer terror and humor of Steven Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park, Jurassic World -- much like the dinosaurs these scientists create -- proves once again that some things are best left alone.
Cary Darling, 817-390-7571
MORE: Check out our interactive dinosaur graphic at http://media.star-telegram.com/static/labs/DinosTX/index.html
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard
Rated: PG-13 (intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril)
Running time: 124 min.