Saturday, June 13, 2015

Chris Pratt and Third Act Elevates 'Jurassic World'

When I was a kid, there was a time in which I obsess about dinosaurs.  I would read or watch everything that had dinosaurs in it.  There are three properties I can remember that incited that fascination back then.  First is The Land Before Time (I still get chills whenever I hear “If We Hold On Together”).  Second is the Dino-Riders animated series.  And the third is Jurassic Park.  I was still a toddler when I saw this movie for the first time, and I was simultaneously awed and terrified.  But I loved it.  Then The Lost World came later and I loved that as well.  Growing up during the 90’s and early 2000’s, Jurassic Park and The Lost World are among those movies I would always watch whenever they were on cable.  I probably have seen those two movies a couple of dozens of times each.  As for Jurassic Park 3, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the previous two since it wasn’t particularly good, but I probably have seen it thrice.  When I was in high school, I began reading books written by Michael Crichton, author of the Jurassic Park novel the movie was based on; he became one of my most favorite writers ever, and the Jurassic Park book became one of my most favorite science fiction books ever.

So based on what was revealed above, I can really say that I’m a big Jurassic Park fan.  Understandably, Jurassic World is one of the 2015 movies I was looking forward to the most.  Coming into the movie, I wasn’t expecting it to match the greatness of the original Jurassic Park.  But I was nevertheless hoping it would be, at least, a good movie and significantly better than Jurassic Park 3.  Fortunately, Jurassic World is exactly that.

The story takes place two decades after the events of the first Jurassic Park movie.  A functioning dinosaur theme park/resort now exists, named “Jurassic World” and located in Isla Nublar, the same island Jurassic Park was on.  To increase attendance, a new attraction is created: a genetically-made dinosaur called the Indominus rex, a product of splicing various genes, including that of the Tyrannosaurus rex and another dinosaur whose identity the narrative tries to keep a secret until its “big reveal” in the third act (but it’s quite obvious what, really).  The Indominus rex is meaner and highly more intelligent than other dinosaurs, and possesses characteristics that aren’t inherent in dinosaurs due to the genetic modifications it got from other animal genes.  As to be expected, this deadly dinosaur escapes and sends the island into chaos.

Chris Pratt plays the main protagonist, Owen Grady, a former Navy man now working as a raptor trainer.  And he’s really great.  His character is easily the most likable, sensible, and kickass character in this movie.  Chris Pratt simply enforces the case he started when he played Star-Lord in last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy – that he really has what it takes to be a legitimate go-to star for dashing action-adventure hero roles.  He totally has that same roguish charm that Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson had in their heyday.  So if ever Chris Pratt turns out to be the choice for the next Indiana Jones, then I’m comfortable about it.

Jurassic World doesn’t incite that sense of wonder that the first movie had.  Worse, there were some things done in this movie that were obvious attempts to imitate that said sense of wonder that the first movie had, but didn’t hit the mark.  Most of the dinosaur scenes were already seen in the trailer.  CGI is obvious and a bit distracting at times.  The plot isn’t quite thoughtful, which reduces any thrill that the movie produces to that derived from a common monster thriller.  It has a couple of unnecessary subplots and stupid plot elements.  In fact, two-thirds into the movie, aside from Chris Pratt, I thought that Jurassic World is pretty mediocre in quality.

Then came the final third.  And it. Was. Awesome!  It really lifted the movie considerably.  Bryce Dallas Howard’s character, Claire Dearing, significantly improved at that point (prior that, she has an irritating presence).  The narrative gelled – making more sense.  The action sequences became more imaginative.  And that fantastic climax (more about this on my miscellaneous musings below) literally made me grip the arm bars of my seat and exclaim “Whoa!” in excitement.

Jurassic World has several flaws, but it’s amply entertaining to be considered one of 2015’s most must-watch movies.

Miscellaneous musings – WITH SPOILERS:
  • The scene with the black crow at the beginning was cleverly done.
  • Throughout this movie, amidst all the running and action, Bryce Dallas Howard’s character, Claire Dearing, remained on heels.   It was both dumb and funny.
  • Claire did this GIF-worthy smile when her nephew mentioned to her, “Your boyfriend’s a badass.”
  • If I remember it right, the nature of the Indominus rex being a combination of T-rex and Velociraptor genes was already revealed in early plot synopses or teasers about this movie.  But, apparently, based on its treatment by the narrative, it was as if it was intended to be a plot twist, as if the raptor nature of Indominus rex was supposed to be a secret. 
  • I like the usage of the raptors for this story.  They were trained by Chris Pratt’s character, Owen Grady, and the established relationship between him and the raptors was not done in a dumb way.  I love the scene wherein he introduced the raptors – Echo, Delta, Charlie, and Blue (Beta) – and he was asked who’s the Alpha, and his reply was, “You’re looking at him.”  Awesome. 
  • However, despite being trained, these raptors weren’t necessarily tamed or neutered.  They were still these terrifyingly intelligent killing machines as with the previous movies.  In fact, at some point in the movie, the Indominus rex became their new Alpha which led to them turning against the humans.
  • They eventually switched back though, validating that their bond with Owen is stronger than anything.  It was really a heartfelt detail.  I was actually sad that only one of the raptors survived. 
  • The peak of this movie was when Claire released and led the T-rex to fight the Indominus rex.  The latter took the upper hand, and seemed to be on its way for the kill.  But the last of Owen’s raptors joined the fray and attacked the Indominus rex.  The T-rex and the raptor double-teamed the Indominus rex and their combined strikes pushed it at the edge of the Jurassic World Lagoon.  Before the Indominus rex can recover, the Lagoon’s Mosasaurus lunged at it and dragged it in the water.  Before the start of this movie, I did hypothesize that the Mosasaurus will have a part in bringing the Indominus rex’s demise.  However, I didn’t expect that it was going to be that awesome.  Seriously, that epic sequence was worth the price of admission.
  • Apparently, the director mentioned in an interview that the T-rex in Jurassic World is the same one from the first Jurassic Park movie.  I was unaware of this fact when I watched Jurassic World and only learned of this afterwards.  This was, to my puzzlement, never mentioned in the movie.  The connection would have provided a bit more impact.   
  • In the next Jurassic movie, I would like to see a feathered rendition of the Velociraptor, which is supposedly more scientifically accurate.

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