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Jurassic World knows it isn’t Jurassic Park. That’s what makes it so good.

Jurassic World.
Jurassic World.
Universal Pictures

"More teeth."

That's the motto of Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World: when the story begins to fray or the acting starts to split, just add teeth and everything will sort itself out in the end. Indeed, it's a universal truth that all people want out of a Jurassic Park movie is to see dinosaurs do cool shit, fight, and eventually eat each other. And in that regard, Trevorrow has created a film for the people.

"They're dinosaurs. Wow enough," says Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), raptor trainer and dino whisperer, in the film's silky opening scene. Grady has the right idea.

Rating


4

Jurassic World's naked ambition to sideline its humans and just give us dinosaurs on top of dinosaurs is nothing short of refreshing. The dinos are bigger, badder, smarter, toothier, and more illogical than any of the ones in previous films. There's no finesse, no technical nuance in this bulging, burly, film. It isn't interested in lessons of human perspective or scale. It's just a 130-minute romp about ridiculous dinosaurs, standing in front of an audience, asking them to love it.

In short, Jurassic World is an exercise in reptilian obliteration, where the only solution is more dinosaur. The only way out? Dinosaur. The movie's unstoppable villain? Dinosaur. The hero we deserve? Dinosaur. The secret to a fulfilling life? Dinosaur.

By adopting this worldview, Trevorrow has provided this summer's clear-cut guilty pleasure. The movie's dialogue, actors, and larger plots and themes exist only to flee from dinosaurs. Jurassic World is not going to win Oscars in any acclaimed categories. But Jurassic World is the fantastic summer film we deserve — a dazzling amalgam that's part horror flick and part superhero movie, punctuated by shattering screams, broken glass, guttural roars, and one absolute bastard of a dinosaur that's designed purely for our entertainment.

Jurassic World is the reason summer movies exist.

Jurassic World is in on the joke

This is a man riding with raptors (Universal Pictures)

This is a man riding with raptors. (Universal Pictures)

There are a lot of references to seminal movies in Jurassic World. One scene evokes Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, another scene borrows heavily from Alien, and there are flourishes from Lassie and Jaws thrown in for effect. But Jurassic World doesn't want to be those films. Rather, its homages are intended to make sure you know and respect the classics, and understand that Jurassic World is not one of them.

This is a movie about dinosaurs killing things. While Jurassic World could, if it wanted to, try to serve you something intellectual — as it does with its allusions to iconic cinema — it really just wants to entertain you. The film is more concerned with showing you a good time than it is with pleasing critics. There's value in that.

And when fun is the only thing you're trying to achieve, Chris Pratt is your smoking gun. Pratt plays Owen Grady, a former serviceman who is adept at communicating with Velociraptors. He employs a clicker, the kind used to train wayward puppies, to teach the Velociraptors not to eat him.

"I imprint on them," he tells his superior, Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio), explaining why he's the only man who can talk to these beasts.

The last time the word "imprint" was seriously used in a major motion picture was in Twilight, when the werewolf boy fell in love with the baby. I'm not sure if Grady is imprinting in the same way, as Jurassic World doesn't really explain the science behind his technique, but Pratt is believable and goofy enough in his role that it doesn't matter. Also, regarding the realism of "imprinting" or clicker training or whatnot, everyone is here to watch this man hang out with his dino pets. So, fine, "imprint" training it is.

Grady's inexplicable raptor-taming is just one example of the weird science that permeates Jurassic World. The villain of the movie is a dinosaur whose DNA has been spliced with that of other badass animals (not just dinosaurs), including at least one rad sea creature, to create the perfect interspecies killing machine. We meet this genetically modified spectacle through a fairly simple premise: ticket sales at the titular theme park have plateaued, and while most amusement parks would start charging more for sodas and raising admission prices, the management of Jurassic World is convinced that the only way to increase revenue is to invest in the invention of a new dinosaur. But God bless those idiots and the park's insurers for not thinking small, because now we get to see this monster — Indominus rex, it's called — eat things.

Impressively, none of this magnificence upstages the actual place that is Jurassic World. The movie spends a lot of time showcasing the expensive aesthetics and technology of the park, which looks like the Las Vegas version of Kauai. With features like a Sea World-esque stadium that can be lowered underground to offer an underwater view, as well as a lazy river where you can kayak next to a Stegosaurus, it provides a breathtaking backdrop that evokes the joy of the original Jurassic Park. And its beauty makes the carnage feel that much more gruesome.

With this trifecta — a killer dinosaur, a man and his raptor pals, and a gorgeous park that's certain to be trashed — the film becomes a kinetic, caloric, disaster-porn binge, and in its most glorious sequence its three main forces combine in a moment that involves a Velociraptor, the killer Indominus rex, explosions, a ramp, and one spectacular jump.

But the movie isn't totally devoid of more highbrow leanings

Universal Pictures

(Universal Pictures)

Jurassic World's loftier mantras don't earn much screen time, but they're there if you look hard enough.

In one sense, the movie is essentially the big-budget blockbuster version of the acclaimed documentary Blackfish.

"You can see it in their eyes," Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) says in reference to the dinosaurs' happiness, after asking the park's operations manager, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), about the mental state of the animals on display in Jurassic World's main attractions.

But the film makes it very clear that dinosaurs, like Blackfish's killer whales, aren't meant to be held in captivity. The big difference is that Jurassic World can dole out the sweet, primal vindication that Blackfish cannot, by making everyone who wrongs these dinosaurs pay for their transgressions with their lives.

Meanwhile, one of the movie's more peculiar undertones delivers a murky message about women.

As the park's operations manager, Howard's Dearing is in charge of hammering out business deals with big corporations, supervising the park's (subpar) security and operations team, and keeping tabs on the Indominus rex. That's a lot of responsibility for one person; her work ethic is admirable.

And yet, she's portrayed as a bit of a villain because she can't take a day off to hang out with her nephews, who were ostensibly shipped off on a trip to Jurassic World so their parents could legalize a divorce. Dearing's sister Karen (Judy Greer) reminds her that having kids will change her life, and that she'll "understand" when that time comes.

Jurassic World believes women should really care about children, and the fact that Dearing is employed by a place where beings are brought to life without mothers serves to drive this argument further. At one point, her assistant is even punished, by way of a Pterodactyl, for being a bad babysitter.

But then there are moments when the film obviously wants to highlight just how fearsome women and the female species can be. Dearing occasionally saves the day, and thankfully isn't rushed off to motherhood at the end of the film. Blue, a female Velociraptor and the loyal lead in Grady's gang, does her fair share of day-saving. And the Indominus rex, also a female, is so ferocious that she'll eat her own sibling.

What Jurassic World wants to say about women or the pressure women feel to have children isn't as fully realized or as simple as its Blackfish parallels. Its approach to the topic is complicated and confusing. And that's a shame, because this stumble is a rare imperfection in what's otherwise as exciting a movie as any you'll see this year.

Ultimately, Jurassic World is best when it gets out of its own way, when it allows the dinosaurs to do whatever they please and invites us to watch. There's something admirable in letting our hearts soar, dive, and zip along with these fantastic beasts and realizing how fun movies can be if we let them.

Jurassic World is playing in theaters throughout the country.