If Hollywood is going to hit us round the head with all the continuing reboots and sequels and the like, at least let them all be of the calibre of the recent Mad Max reboot - or, at the very least, of this return to Michael Crichton's ressuscitated dinosaur park, personally handed by benign overlord Steven Spielberg to sophomore director Colin Trevorrow. Jurassic World is nothing so much as a super-sized variation on Jurassic Park, only set not in a private preview visit but on a fully-fledged park, an interactive dinosaur zoo, that has been functioning for a while now (one of the nicest tricks on the new film is a scene set in the remainder of the original 1993 park), and with the kids in danger (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) being the teenage nephews of Claire (a perky Bryce Dallas Howard), the park's number-crunching manager. The problems arise once the higher-ups unveil a new attraction, the Indominus rex, a genetically-engineered super-predator part T-Rex and part "classified species" who turns out to be a dysfunctional, blood-thirsty beast.
No prizes for originality in the screenplay (allegedly heavily rewritten by Mr. Trevorrow and his writing partner Derek Connolly from an original script by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who helped reboot Planet of the Apes), but then originality was never the point, taking a backseat to efficiency and effectiveness. It's clear that Mr. Spielberg, credited as executive producer, maintained a strong hand on the tiller in the finished film, and that Mr. Trevorrow was selected for his ability to turn out a well-crafted, old-fashioned monster movie with enough attention to character development to raise it above the current cookie-cutter assembly-line blockbusters.
That is actually the most striking of Jurassic World's achievements: it exists on its own continuum with classic Hollywood adventures rather than with modern-day frenzied action spectacle, taking almost an hour to build up plot and character before unleashing the action. Ms. Howard and Chris Pratt as the park's "velociraptor ranger" are a well-matched pair that enliven their stock characters with some sassy repartee straight out from 1940s Hollywood, and Mr. Trevorrow shoots the action sequences in a clear-sighted, exceedingly viewer-friendly style (look at the final dino blowout, shot with flowing, sweeping long pans instead of the almost abstract quick-cut preferred of contemporary directors). And it's interesting that the film's classic qualities dovetail neatly with its implied critique of entertainment for entertainment's sake, of bottom-line-mandated Barnum & Bailey eating its own young that was never the idea when Mr. Spielberg introduced the modern blockbuster 40 years ago with Jaws.
For all that, you can't really underline just how much Jurassic World remains "just" a popcorn summer sequel, but if all popcorn summer sequels were this solid we'd be better off.
USA, Japan, 2015
Cast Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent d'Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, B. D. Wong, Judy Greer, Irrfan Khan
Director Colin Trevorrow; screenwriters Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly and Mr. Trevorrow; based upon a story by Mr. Jaffa and Ms. Silver and characters from the book Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton; cinematographer John Schwartzman (colour, widescreen); composer Michael Giacchino; designer Edward Verreaux; costumes Daniel Orlandi; editor Kevin Stitt; effects supervisors Tim Alexander and Glen McIntosh; producers Frank Marshall and Patrick Crowley; production companies Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment in association with Legendary Pictures, Dentsu and Fuji Television Network
screened June 9th 2015, NOS Colombo IMAX, Lisbon, distributor press screening