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22 years after John Hammond’s dream of a dinosaur-themed amusement park ended in death and mayhem, an even bigger and enormously popular attraction has risen on Isla Nubar: Jurassic World. To keep attendance high, the park operators introduce a new, genetically modified hybrid creature called Indominus Rex. Bigger, stronger and far more intelligent than any dinosaur that ever walked the earth; the secretive new breed also proves more dangerous than anyone ever anticipated. (From Universal’s official synopsis)

 Jurassic World
Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World, the new third highest grossing blockbuster of all time (not adjusted for inflation; otherwise its station plummets well below its earliest forebearer), is not a very good movie. In fact, I probably wouldn’t argue with anyone that insisted on calling it a ‘bad’ movie, despite finding myself entertained by it in parts. The most common criticism of this money-making machine is that the screenplay (credited to Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly, and Trevorrow himself, though there were likely a half-dozen script doctors working behind the scenes as well) is an inconsistent, unruly tangle of mollifying set-pieces, narrative holes, and convenient coincidences. All of this is absolutely applicable (and I’m sure that the curious can find a long list of plot holes somewhere on the internet), but I’d like to submit the theory that all of the movies in the Jurassic Park series are inconsistent, unruly tangles of mollifying set-pieces, narrative holes, and convenient coincidences. A key difference between Steven Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park and the movies that followed (besides the fact that the first movie was so unique) – specifically Joe Johnston’s third movie and this most recent incarnation – is that the audience’s pacification tended to revolve around monster action and conjuring fond memories of the first movie. The nostalgia factor is big lately (it’s very likely that the two biggest box office draws this year will be a Jurassic Park sequel and a Star Wars sequel) and Jurassic World’s blatant attempts at stoking nostalgia are almost as obnoxious as its silly, tone-deaf anti-corporate moral (the characters are awful fond of making comments about the dangers of corporate greed just before taking a swig from a predominantly displayed Coca-Cola bottle).

Moreover, I believe it is the hopes of conjuring Jurassic Park’s flawed formula that really holds Trevorrow’s movie back. It’s no surprise that the middle section, which sags under the weight of yet another story about career-driven adults finding their courage and nurturing instincts while trying to find/save rogue children during a tragic dino-event. Almost an hour of bland wandering and repetitive scenes of characters cowering from growling creatures is made all the more tedious with exposition scenes that awkwardly maintain thematic continuity with the rest series. At one point, the younger of the two boys breaks down crying as he suddenly reveals to his brother that their parents are getting a divorce. This moment is almost immediately forgotten and appears to exist only because the other three Jurassic Park movies, like many, many Steven Spielberg movies, have divorce subplots. The whole screenplay is similarly patchworked between set-pieces, which, again, isn’t unusual for the series, but the sheer quantity of narrative dead-ends is enough to induce a migraine. Time after time, an exciting or at least unique idea is introduced, then dumped in order to recreate more memories from the original movie. I’d say the most egregious offense is spending two-thirds of the movie setting up a human/raptor alliance only to immediately ditch the concept to make time for a throw-back to the scene in The Lost World where raptors slaughter people in high grass. Sure, the concept is re-visited later, but the effect is yet another sequence that seems like it probably should’ve been massaged out of the script during pre-production meetings.

 Jurassic World
Refusal to grow has always been a problem for these sequels. The concept of mad scientists bringing dinosaurs back from extinction to chase and kill modern humans is ripe for expanded levels of wackiness that filmmakers refuse to explore. And it almost was! Some time shortly after the release of Joe Johnston’s Jurassic Park III (itself a blander, but more consistent movie than Jurassic World), Lone Star (1996) writer/director John Sayles was tapped to write a fourth movie in the series, not for his arthouse prowess, but because he was also the pen behind Joe Dante’s Piranha (1978) and The Howling (1981), as well as Lewis Teague’s Alligator (1980). Sayles script broke away from the ‘small band of humans running from dinosaurs on a Costa Rican island’ formula. He moved the story away from the theme park and introduced military interests in the possibilities of a dino/human hybrid. Elements of that screenplay found their way into Trevorrow’s movie, but these are just more noise in a script that manages to be overstuffed and malnourished at the same time. I will admit that, even when they’re losing momentum and defaulting to familiar territory, Trevorrow and company manage to eke out some very amusing set-pieces. Many of the choppily edited and frenetic setups end in disappointment (for instance, only the bird dinosaurs attack the park-goers and the death toll appears to number in the single digits), but the kitchen sink climax and its anthropomorphized battling monsters is exactly the sort of goofy spectacle I want from this series on the eve of its fifth entry.

 Jurassic World

Video


Jurassic World was shot using a mix of 65mm and 35mm sources with digital HD inserts and post-converted into 3D. The intended aspect ratio is a somewhat unusual 2.00:1, which is reproduced here on this 2D, 1080p Blu-ray. Dino headroom is sometimes at a premium, but I remember thinking the same thing when I saw the film in theaters (it must’ve looked terrible in 3D). Trevorrow and cinematographer John Schwartzman claimed that they used film stock in an effort to create fidelity between their film and Spielberg’s original, which is sort of funny, considering the extensive digital grading and number of shots that are entirely created in a computer. Oh, and the fact that the other three Jurassic Park movies were 1.85:1, but I digress. The image quality here is expectedly sharp, clean, and, despite all of those digital augmentations and inserts, pretty filmic. A relatively consistent sheen of fine grain sits over the transfer creating a nice sense of texture beyond the already complex shapes and patterns. The daylight scenes and fluorescent interiors are a bit overloaded and generally softened, which makes some of the whites bloom and some of the supporting shadows pool. The dark sequences have a harsher contrast, leading to some minor haloes and shiny hotspots, but all of these artefacts are inkeeping with a 35mm source. The blue and teal tinting overwhelms some of the overhues, but skin tones are relatively natural and the lush rainforest greens cut nicely against the tans and browns. During the night-set climax, the pervasive darkness, which leads to some upticks in grain, is mitigated by vivid reds and lavenders.

 Jurassic World

Audio


I had guessed that Jurassic World would be Universal’s first Atmos or DTS:X release (recall that Jurassic Park was the first DTS-infused theatrical release), but this disc comes fitted with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack, instead. It’s not a problem, though, because eight uncompressed discreet channels are enough to get the point across. And that point is something along the lines of ‘growl, scream, roar, and stomp.’ The entire track is brimming with stuff, from amplified environmental ambience (wind in the trees, the bustle of park patrons, humming machinery, et cetera), to aggressive action cues (screaming humans, screaming dinosaurs, exploding helicopters, shattering glass domes, et cetera). There are two firmly established aural elements that make a Jurassic Park movie – Gary Rydstrom’s intricate creature noises and John Williams’ rousing musical score. Rydstrom is credited as ‘consulting sound designer’ here, having otherwise passed off the baton to Al Nelson and Pete Horner, who appropriately recycle the sounds of returning series dinos and add a few of their own that fit the mould. Meanwhile, Williams was busy revisiting his Star Wars cues for The Force Awakens, so the composing duties went to friend of J.J. Abrams and Pixar, Michael Giacchino. Dare I say that Giacchino’s mix of old and new themes actually fits this film better than Williams’ music fit Jurassic Park? Not to imply that Williams’ themes weren’t great, but they were distributed/edited into Spielberg’s film in oddly distracting ways. Here, Giacchino’s work flows and blends beautifully into the chaos.

 Jurassic World

Extras


  • Chris & Colin Take on the World (9:00, HD) – Trevorrow and star Chris Pratt jokingly interview each other, including video of a younger, non-famous Pratt jokingly pretending to be cast in a then nonexistent Jurassic Park IV.
  • Welcome to Jurassic World (29:50, HD) – A general look at the making-of Jurassic World and its connections to Jurassic Park. The on-set footage is framed by EPK-style interviews with Trevorrow, Spielberg, and members of the cast & crew.
  • Jurassic World: All-Access Pass (10:10, HD) – I get the feeling that this mix of production art, commentary, VFX breakdowns, and behind-the-scenes information, which is hosted by Trevorrow and Pratt, was planned as a PiP extra. Something similar popped up on Universal’s Furious 7 disc. Separated from any interactivity, it is a little awkward, but, given the lack of an actual commentary track, the information is still valuable.
  • Dinosaurs Roam Once Again (16:30, HD) – This featurette covers the various special effects processes, including technological improvements made since the last movie, previs, physical elements, actors/extras/stunt people pretending to see dinosaurs, on-set references (which are all hilarious), and the long, arduous process of animating the creatures.
  • Innovation Center Tour with Chris Pratt (2:00, HD) – A very brief tour of the new visitor center set, including design discussion from the filmmakers.
  • Jurassic's Closest Shaves (3:00, HD) – Clips from the franchise presented by Barbasol® brand shaving cream. Because, remember kids, corporate greed is evil.
  • Deleted/extended scenes (6:10, HD)


 Jurassic World

Overall


In one of Jurassic World’s more endearing moments, B.D. Wong (stealing the entire film as the morally ambiguous genetic scientist, Dr. Henry Wu) admits to the audience that the dinosaurs in these movies aren’t scientifically accurate; that they are designed to represent the public’s perception of terrible prehistoric lizards. This is a relief for the little boy inside my brain shouting “Real dinosaurs would look like giant birds” and opens the door to a bigger and better sequel that isn’t encumbered under the flag of ‘scientific accuracy.’ Despite generally not liking Jurassic World, I do hold out hope for the inevitable follow-ups movies that embrace the elevated insanity of Sayles’ unrealized script for Jurassic Park IV. The millions of people that enjoyed this current entry have a good-looking HD transfer and explosive DTS-HD MA soundtrack to look forward to, but the extras are pretty disappointing (seeing that my review copy arrived after the release date, I suppose most of you already knew this, though).

 Jurassic World

 Jurassic World

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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