‘Jurassic World’ is fun, but ultimately disappoints

I have generally found that films which get off to a bumpy start have a knack for picking up speed in the second and third acts. Unfortunately, this is not the case with “Jurassic World,” the fourth installment in the “Jurassic Park” franchise

Sure, the premise certainly seems promising enough: a new and improved dinosaur theme park uses state of the art science and technology to create a hybrid dinosaur called the Indominus Rex to increase park attendance. In dramatic fashion, the freak of nature escapes its confines and all hell breaks loose as park guests are terrorized by man-eating dinosaurs. This premise sounds both familiar and difficult to mess up, doesn’t it? Well it should because it’s nearly a carbon copy of the original 1993 Steven Spielberg classic. However, this Colin Trevorrow-directed dino disaster ends up falling flat on its face.

The film loses any sense of originality by trying to pander to long time fans of the series by working in sights, sounds and other Easter eggs that are there solely for nostalgia value. “Jurassic World” becomes so involved with trying to remind us how great the original “Jurassic Park” movie is that it fails to focus on giving us interesting characters and worthwhile stakes.

Early in the film, Claire, the cold and calculating park administrator who is portrayed by Bryce Dallas Howard, knowingly mentions that “people aren’t wowed by dinosaurs anymore.” I wish the writing of “Jurassic World” had reflected this sentiment a little more. While yes, it’s obvious that audiences are flocking out to see this movie primarily for the dinosaurs, the fact remains that this concept is nothing new and could have benefited from some reinvention if it wanted a chance of standing alongside its older brother.

Where the movie suffers most is with the paper-thin characterization. I failed to mention that Claire is the aunt of Zach and Gray, two brothers who serve only as replacements for the young duo in the original “Jurassic Park.” Their presence is unnecessary to the narrative’s momentum which made me care little for the pathetic attempts at back story that was supposed to make me connect with these kids.

Claire herself is devoid of basic human empathy and seems to lack the ability to connect with other people. She is motivated only by numbers and factual information and remains relatively static and detached until the concluding act. Most disappointing of all is the director’s decision to make Claire a helpless pawn in situations where she could have otherwise been a welcome asset to the male dominated conflict.

Despite the film’s shortcomings, there are some well-crafted moments such as the velociraptor taming scene, where we first get a glimpse of Chris Pratt’s on-screen dominance, not just over the raptors but over the audience. Pratt plays raptor-expert Owen Grady and certainly does prove his value once again when it comes to filling the archetype of the action hero rouge once occupied by Harrison Ford. Despite the film’s poor attempts at characterization, Pratt manages to do the best he can with the material that he is given.

Another great moment, and perhaps my favorite scene in the film, is the obvious homage to Hitchcock’s “The Birds” in which the Indominus Rex breaks into the aviary, releasing scores of pterodactyls which then terrorize and attack park guests in a sequence that is both chaotic and exhilarating.

I wish I didn’t have to be so harsh on “Jurassic World” and that I was able to find more elements to praise. I will say that the CGI was much better than expected. There were thankfully very few moments that were artificial looking enough to jar me from the fantasy; in fact, most of the dinosaurs appeared so life-like that they made me experience some of the original awe I felt while watching the first “Jurassic Park.

Unfortunately, these moments of greatness are overshadowed by uninteresting characters, action that is too often reminiscent of a monster movie and a rushed and inconclusive ending which I’m sure will lead to another sequel. If the film had paid more attention to the human relationships and curbed its tendency to praise its source material, “Jurassic World” could have had the heart and the artistic value to warrant the price of park admission.