Jurassic World: Come to be eaten

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3 out of 4 stars

When an amusement park wants to spike attendance, a faster, more imposing roller coaster is built.
When an automobile company wants to boost lagging sales, a sleeker, shinier car is produced.
And when a stripper wants more tips, she gets larger, curvier, well, you know what.
The customer always demands the next big thing, dinosaur-themed parks included.
The Tyrannosaurus Rex? He was soooo 1993, when Jurassic Park roared its way to more than $1 billion at the box office worldwide.

Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) trains Velociraptors like they are man's best friend in Jurassic World. (Universal Pictures)
Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) trains Velociraptors like they are man’s best friend. (Universal Pictures)

The Velociraptor? They were soooo 1997 and 2001, when The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III combined to take home more than $985 million at the box office.

It’s 2015 and business at Jurassic World is good, but not great. But instead of building the world’s scariest ride, the park’s geneticists created the scariest monster the world has ever seen — a hybrid dinosaur known as Indominus Rex, the result of mixing the DNA of several dinosaurs to make the park’s next cash cow.

What could possibly go wrong? Everything of course, which is the premise behind Jurassic World, the fourth installment of the franchise based on Michael Crichton’s bestsellers that Steven Spielberg turned into box office beasts.

Much has changed at Isla Nublar, an island off Costa Rica’s coast that doubles as a dinosaur theme park. The number of species and size of the dinosaurs have increased since Jurassic Park III, making for some pretty terrific scenes. The attention to detail in these prehistoric powerhouses is noteworthy, as is the park itself. It’s like strolling down Main Street at Disney World, except the dude in the Goofy suit doesn’t want to eat you.

But deep in the jungle, beyond the attractions and the walls of fences that keep visitors safe, are two giant compounds. The first houses Indominus Rex. The other is where Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) works training Velociraptors named Blue, Charlie, Delta and Echo as if they were dogs. Sound too far-fetched? Maybe. But not off-the-wall crazy as when Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) tells Grady the U.S. military plans to substitute Velociraptors for soldiers in combat.

The dinosaurs, including the Mosasaurus, are the stars of Jurassic World. (Universal Pictures)
The dinosaurs, including the Mosasaurus, are the stars of Jurassic World. (Universal Pictures)

Timeout here. Could you imagine if the U.S. military would have arrived at Osama bin Laden’s compound, let Velociraptors smell his boxers and said “Go get ‘em, boys!”? Who comes up with this stuff? Imagine this note to the Navy: “Dear Admiral, the S.E.A.L.S. have been replaced by Velociraptors. They are faster, stronger, and have you seen how sharp their teeth and claws are? And if they die, who cares. They’ve already been extinct once! Meantime, maybe your boys could call up Demi Moore and see if she wants to film G.I. Jane II. Sincerely, Obama.”

In Jurassic World, there’s always been one golden rule: No matter how high the wall, no matter how tall the electrical fence and no matter how many armed men are nearby, a dinosaur will escape and start playing it’s own game of Hungry Hungry Hippo with spectators. Fact.

Which dinosaur you think escapes this time? Some fat herbivore? Yeah, right. The movie isn’t called Barney’s World.

Indominus Rex is on the loose and he’s a magnificent creature to watch, especially in 3D. Whether it’s her steely-eyed look while she methodically searches for a hiding human who might as well be wearing a shirt that says “dinosaur dinner” or if she’s in full “I’m going to kill you mode” against guys with guns, Indominus Rex would make Godzilla extinct if they met in a dark jungle.

It's all fun at Jurassic Park until, of course, all hell breaks loose. (Universal Pictures)
It’s all fun at Jurassic Park until, of course, all hell breaks loose. (Universal Pictures)

Jurassic World’s plot is as simple as its predecessors. A dinosaur is on the loose and wants to feast on a human buffet. Two siblings — played by Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson — are lost in the jungle, so Grady and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) — the park’s operations manager and the boys’ aunt — set off to rescue them. More dinosaurs escape from their cages. Visitors run for their lives, but many die, often violently. The park’s geneticists want to save their work. Yep, it’s just another day in the park.

But what sets Jurassic World apart from the past two sequels is the characters’ chemistry. Robinson and Simpkins are totally believable as an older brother who thinks he’s took cool to listen to authority and as a younger brother who thinks dinosaurs are the coolest things ever. Owen and Claire have a playful relationship that hints of romance, which provides moments of levity when they’re not running for their lives.

But the movie’s biggest mistake failing to delve deeper inside the relationship between Hoskins and Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong), the head geneticist who has brought all the dinosaurs to life since the park opened. Wu is the only character from any of the franchise’s films to appear in Jurassic World, yet the motives behind his character are as blurred as they were in Jurassic Park in 1993. This time around, he’s in cahoots with Hoskins, who wants dinosaurs to supplant soldiers, which he can’t do without Wu’s help.

Could this be the bridge to a fifth film?
Remember: This is Hollywood.
And anything that makes money never becomes extinct.