Sequels have always been a tough market. Even as far back as the classic Universal Monster movies, filmmakers were struggling to come up with new and inventive concepts in order to keep franchises alive and kickin'. Once a World War had ended and the Atomic Age came to pass, man-made legends such as vampires or the Frankenstein monster took a backseat to reawakened prehistoric beasts. One such devil was the Gill Man from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, whose brief trilogy of films went through as diverse of a storytelling process as could be, having been discovered in the first film, captured (and escaping) in the second, and eventually being "domesticated" in the final installment.
Alas, budgetary restrictions and the fact that these were mere B movies manufactured to take advantage of the three-dimensional movie craze of the time resulted in the sequel films not being quite as refined as they could have been. But it's interesting to note that the very premise of those tales - which, granted, can extend back to King Kong and even earlier yarns from fantasy writers - are still alive and kickin' today. In 1983, Jaws 3-D presented viewers with an updated version of Revenge of the Creature (the second Gill Man movie, also in 3D), with a captured great white shark becoming the main attraction at a theme park, only to have all hell break loose once the man eater's mother comes calling.
Does any of this sounds familiar, kids? If so, it's because we've seen a lot of it before (and since) in the Jurassic Park series. Jurassic World - the recently released fourth film in yet another Steven Spielberg-created franchise, which has exceeded all box office expectations within just 24-hours of its release, setting a new global record in the process - is of course no exception to the formula. Except for the fact that the 3D is better, the budget is as monstrous as some of its characters (beast and man alike), and the brand name is something everyone has had implanted into their heads like a dinosaur's tracking device at this point in time. The story? Well, not so much, no - it's just about as formulaic as you can get. But this is 2015, and CGI is more important.
Also, timing. Timing is everything. And Jurassic World could probably have not come at a better time than this. While this is most assuredly the film The Lost World: Jurassic Park (which, admit it, was bad) should have been, it would never have succeeded in a pre-9/11, pre-modern war world (and the reasons behind that will become clear in a bit). Had they made this instead of that really disappointing Jurassic World III, people would probably have said "Hey, this is just Jaws 3-D all over again!" (which it is, essentially, even with the "domestication" aspects of the third and final Gill Man movie, The Creature Walks Among Us thrown in for good measure).
Originally, Jurassic World was supposed to have been made a decade ago. I needn't remind you that this was the mid 2000s: a precarious period in cinematic history wherein movies like The Rundown were being released every week, only to be completely forgotten once they debuted on home video. It's completely feasible (and entirely possible) Jurassic World - or whatever it would have been called then - would not have made much of an impact, especially following that disappointing third act. Fortunately, both CGI and 3D have improved since then, and - if nothing else - add to this fourth flick's appeal (though I am not condoning the implementation of either one in lieu of actual storytelling or acting).
Anyway, the plot for this installment basically overlooks the events of the second and third films, returning us to Isla Nublar, the now-legendary location of the first feature. The original theme park scrapped (naturally) after the events of Jurassic Park - its remnants left to become relics themselves - a new resort, Jurassic World, has opened and thrived in its stead. And business has been quite good, even following the death of its creator, InGen CEO John Hammond (played by the late Richard Attenborough in the first two films). However, it's 2015 now: the one thing more important than CGI in movies is advertising, corporate sponsorship and ownership, and of course, keeping the easily bored people of the (mostly rich) world content.
So, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), the current owner of the theme park, has made it a habit to add a new critter to Jurassic World every couple of years, just to recapture the attention and money of those who have probably just managed to scrape up enough to re-visit the park turn around and re-visit it. (Wait, did that make sense?) To this end, he had asked for something newer, cooler, and creepier to be put on the inventory of extinct exhibits. Sadly for the 21,000+ visitors and thousands of employees on the island, this has paved the way for a genetically-modified creation, dubbed the Indominus rex, which - just like the dreaded velociraptors of the first movie - is a creature whose intelligence and behavior has been greatly underestimated.
Speaking of those darling little raptors, Chris Pratt (looking more like Arnold Schwarzenegger than ever before) stars here as the ex-Navy man in the process of training the deadly creatures (remember Cindy and Sandy from Jaws 3-D?), which InGen security head Vincent D'Onofrio (looking more like Orson Welles than ever before) hopes to use in warfare. And therein is another item that requires timing: had they tried that before 9/11, it would have seemed farfetched - even for even a fantasy film. Were they to have incorporated it into the film when the movie was originally supposed to have been made in 2004 or 2005, when the average American wasn't entirely opposed to the war, it most likely would have come across as being in poor taste.
But I digress. Now then, while Chris Pratt is off being rugged and handsome, taking lizards out for a walk, his one-time date - super-organized park operations manager Bryce Dallas Howard - is busy trying to keep the island afloat, sell the Indominus to Verizon Wireless, and make sure her personal assistant is keeping tabs on her two mischievous nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins, who are pretty much the same characters as the kids from the first film). Naturally, the kids land up right in the thick of it once the Indominus makes her great escape early on in the film, giving director Colin Trevorrow a chance to perfect his "Steven Spielberg's Paint a Movie by Numbers" book.
We've seen it all before, really, right down to one very familiar deus ex machina moment. But at least Jurassic World was allowed to simmer on the back burner just long enough that audiences not only welcomed another installment in the series (as well as possibly beginning its own), but its producers were confident enough in sinking enough dough into making it. Plus, we finally get to see Jurassic Park co-star B.D. Wong onscreen once again - something I thought would never happen ever again, especially after the poor guy signed that contract to star in Slappy and the Stinkers. In fact, Mr. Wong is the only actor from the original series to appear here (which must have made Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill very happy).
Omar Sy is the token black guy (whom I think survived, as they just sort of forget about him if I recall correctly), Jake Johnson is the token nerd/geek/hipster douchebag control operator (although, to be fair, he's much more devoted to his job than a hipster could ever be), and Judy Greer also has a small part as the two lost boys' mum. Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Buffett make cameo appearances in the tale, too, though their inclusions - especially that of the latter, which is so brief that I missed it - add nothing fresh to the story. Of course, there's really nothing completely fresh to the world of filmmaking to be found anywhere here. Jurassic Worldis pretty routine, pretty cliché, but it's also pretty fun overall.
I'd give it a good three out of five if I used that sort of a rating system. But I don't, so I'll just conclude with this: They could have done much worse. And they have in the past. So enjoy this one before they do again.