They key to creative success among modern summer blockbusters can be found in the way these grandly scaled, big-budget movies choose to treat their audiences. It’s possible to strike box-office gold through star power, special effects or (especially) beloved source material, but blockbusters only become classics of their type when they entertain large audiences without pandering or condescending. There’s no worse experience at the multiplex than that provided by a lavish film designed to deliver only what the creative team thinks people want.
Director Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World is the third sequel to Steven Spielberg’s 1992 effects-driven behemoth Jurassic Park, and it manages to treat fans of the original film with appropriate respect. It’s thoughtfully constructed, briskly paced and presents its non-stop thrill-ride as something to be savored — but not taken too seriously. Jurassic World has more than its share of surprises, even as it squanders much of its creative juice on finding new ways for minor characters to be devoured by dinosaurs. It’s not original enough to qualify as a summer classic or win over many new fans for the franchise, but it won’t disappoint anyone who’s looking forward to this movie.
Jurassic World brings Jurassic Park’s story full circle by realizing a fully operational, dinosaur-filled theme park as almost achieved in the earlier film. It wastes no time in getting to the fun. The film quickly introduces its protagonist siblings, 11-year-old Grey (Ty Simpkins) and 17-year-old Zach (Nick Robinson) as they head out for a parents-free trip to the Jurassic World theme park, where their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) serves as operations manager. The park has been running smoothly for years, but corporate management is concerned about maintaining its appeal — living dinosaurs made from prehistoric DNA just aren’t as exciting as they used to be. So why not use genetic engineering to create a dinosaur even more fierce than the originals? Don’t ask.
Apart from computer-generated dinosaurs, the real star of Jurassic World is Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, TV’s Parks and Recreation) who plays Owen, a former military expert and current raptor-whisperer for the park. Owen loves his test-tube dinosaurs and rails against both corporate profiteering and the military’s interest in raptors as weapons of war — the latter of which presents huge plausibility issues but works beautifully as satire. With his made-to-order heroics and easygoing charm, Owen is clearly intended as a star-making vehicle for Pratt, and it works. Jurassic World instantly makes Pratt an A-list Hollywood actor.
The theme park’s Main Street was constructed and shot at the abandoned Six Flags in New Orleans East (including scenes with 800 locals serving as extras), and large-scale interiors like the park’s control room were built at Big Easy Studios in the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility. It’s no surprise that New Orleans is hard to place in Jurassic World, but doubling up on the movie’s theme-park mojo probably didn’t hurt. A roller coaster ride is exactly what the Jurassic franchise has to offer, and there’s nothing wrong with that on a hot summer day.
Jurassic World opens at theaters everywhere today, June 12.