‘Jurassic World’ (2015) review: The destructive power of DNA (and dinosaurs)

‘Jurassic World’ doesn’t quite match the original, but still entertaining fare

“Jurassic Park” has a special place in my heart. You see, it’s one of my mother’s favorite movies. She’d watch her VHS copy so many times she would need to replace it because she’d ruin the film. After so many years, it’s basically just white noise now.

Still, that movie, with all the cool dinosaurs and jungle chases and close encounters, remains on a pedestal as far as I’m concerned. So, you can imagine my trepidation when I learned of the sequel, “Jurassic World.” More than two decades after the original Steven Spielberg creation caused terror throughout the nation, someone decided it was time to try to recreate that toothy, deadly menace for a more modern crowd.

For all its effort, “Jurassic World” only halfheartedly hits it mark. Even with its likable leads and nonstop action sequences, “Jurassic World” never quite lives up to the original film, managing to be entertaining enough while reminding us how much better “Jurassic Park” was and continues to be.

This time around, 22 years (the same amount of years between the first movie and “World”) after the tragic hubris that befell John Hammond and InGen’s genetically engineered dino park on Isla Nubar, the company has succeeded in creating a theme park filled to the brink with creatures from the distant past. But, because of a lack of new attractions, the park’s attendance is sagging, and the corporation is working on a way to bring in more customers. Which, you can imagine, leads to nothing good.

We’re quickly introduced to our principal characters: one woman who tries too hard, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard); one guy who doesn’t have to try at all, Owen (Chris Pratt); and two kid brothers, 11-year-old Gray (Ty Simkins) and 16-year-old Zach (Nick Robinson), who simply happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time while visiting aunt Claire. Oh, and a pack of velociraptors who accomplish quite the feat later on in the film.

Directed by Colin Trevorrow (best known for his only other feature film, the quirky but well-received “Safety Not Guaranteed”), “World” starts off simply enough: The two young brothers have traveled to this island not far from Costa Rica to visit their aunt Claire, the head of operations at Jurassic World. However, though she’s there in body, if only for a brief time, it’s clear Claire has other things on her mind, so she sends the boys off into the park to enjoy themselves.

Claire, now free to refocus her attention, shows us the heart of the terrible drama about to erupt on this idyllic island: a genetically modified dinosaur, one that never before existed. Created by Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong, returning from the original film), the creature serves only to reinvigorate the ticket-paying audience. Hence, the creation of Indominus rex.

The secondary plot line centers on Pratt’s Owen Grady, an animal trainer extraordinaire capable of soothing the ever-violent hearts of velociraptors. His skill, as renowned as it seems to be, tracks the unwanted attention of Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), the military aspect of this “World.” Instead of attractions, he sees the animals as weapons to use in combat. Grady disagrees, but that’s beside the point.

Surely you can imagine what happens next: Our lovely Indominus rex, the genetic terror that it is, manages to escape confinement, wreaking destruction in its wake as it makes its way toward the island’s harbor, where all the attendees happen to be. But that’s not all. Because it wouldn’t be a “Jurassic Park” movie without some children doing something stupid — say, entering restricted areas and finding themselves up close and personal with a viscous, cunning predator. With the young ones in trouble, it’s up to Claire and Owen to figure out to survive long enough to save them from the dangers lurking seemingly around every corner.

It goes without saying Pratt got the easy part here. He’s already proved to be charismatic and physically believable in a leading role (“Guardians of the Galaxy”), so it wasn’t much of a stretch to see him train dinosaurs and face off against the Indominus rex. Howard, however, had a much tougher assignment: Simply because she’s a woman, she has to balance the competing realities of showing that she’s capable of defending herself (even in inappropriate high heels) while serving as a damsel in distress for Pratt to rescue. The current shifting between those two paradigms is obvious, but Howard deserves credit for a solid performance.

In the end, “Jurassic World” isn’t quite as colossal as the original film, but it does provide its own sort of entertainment. With Pratt and Howard zipping along on motorcycles and in helicopters, all the while trying to save two brothers from becoming dinner, you’d be hard-pressed not t enjoy yourself. Thrills and chills are aplenty, and the sense of continuity between “World” and the first film adds a nice touch (even if it can be a bit heavy-handed at times). But the strongest takeaway from “Jurassic World” is simple: If something chases you, run.

Three “You should probably run now” stars out of five.

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