Lawrence Toppman

‘Jurassic World’ soars when it roars. The rest? Not dino-mite.

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard stumble upon the unthinkable in "Jurassic World". Steven Spielberg returns to executive produce the long-awaited next installment of his groundbreaking "Jurassic Park" series.
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard stumble upon the unthinkable in "Jurassic World". Steven Spielberg returns to executive produce the long-awaited next installment of his groundbreaking "Jurassic Park" series. Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc.

“Jurassic Park,” a simple masterpiece of excitement, yielded “Jaws”-like shocks in 1993. The aftershocks in 1997 (“The Lost World: Jurassic Park”) and 2001 (“Jurassic Park III”) had considerably less impact.

The last three years have brought us “Jurassic Shark,” “Jurassic City,” “Jurassic Park: Operation Rebirth” and “Jurassic Prey.” So one might be forgiven for thinking there’s no need whatever for “Jurassic World,” other than to see how well new CGI imagery can jolt us with close-ups of enormous teeth or flailing claws.

The answer: Very well indeed. But did it have to be allied to a story made up completely of stale parts?

The team of four writers supplies one surprise, and you’ll wait 90 minutes to see it. Before and afterward, stereotypical genre characters get trotted out. To wit:

The strong, silent dinosaur whisperer (Chris Pratt) who bonds even with velociraptors and utters wryly humorous remarks;

The amoral scientist who insists that the knowledge gained from research justifies dangerous actions (B.D. Wong, returning to the franchise for the first time since the original film);

A sarcastic, unshaven technician speaking truth to power (Jake Johnson);

A naive entrepreneur who wants to bring joy to people regardless of the cost but meddles with fire by transgressing against nature (Irrfan Khan).

Bickering siblings who bond through narrow escapes (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson), though – with Steven Spielberg one of the producers – they’re in about as much jeopardy as rhinos in a petting zoo.

Yes, the writers have essentially copied the characters from “Jurassic Park,” throwing in two variants: 1) The rabid black-ops guy who believes dinosaurs can be turned into super-soldiers and can’t wait to test his theory with raptors (Vincent D’Onofrio) and 2) The frosty executive who has a crush on the dino whisperer but doesn’t realize it and gets in touch with her nurturing/heroic sides (Bryce Dallas Howard).

The action begins with her character telling investors, “No one’s impressed by a dinosaur any more. Kids look at a stegosaurus like an elephant in a zoo.”

That’s absurd, especially as we see the park crammed to capacity, but it’s only the third dumbest thing in the film. No. 2: Howard, wearing high heels, outruns a Tyrannosaurus rex. No. 1: A jeep that has sat idle more than two decades still has plenty of gas and a working battery.

So her technicians create a supersaur that’s a genetic hybrid: Indominus rex, a 50-footer who’s larger than a T. rex, hunts for sport and can adapt to its environment with extraordinary speed and intelligence. (It’s no less considerate than the other dinos, however. All of them eat only despicable or unimportant characters.)

Early on – spoiler alert – Indominus gets out of its enclosure. Mayhem ensues. And frightening as the dinos were in “Jurassic Park,” this one’s a shade scarier.

Velociraptors get used sparingly but cleverly, and there’s one battle between titans that reminded me fondly of “Godzilla” movies. Director Colin Trevorrow carefully sets up one visual cue early that pays off excitingly at a crucial time.

The script hints that gene splicing will be part of the inevitable sequel, too. May I suggest a plot in which a velociraptor gets crossed with a razorback hog, creating a creature of extreme ferocity and savage cunning? I’m pretty sure “Jurassic Pork” would make a fortune.

Toppman: 704-358-5232


‘Jurassic World’

The dinosaur attraction, now fully operational 22 years after “Jurassic Park,” creates a super-dangerous hybrid. Oops.

C STARS: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins.

DIRECTOR: Colin Trevorrow.

RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes.

RATING: PG-13 (intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril).