Intentional or not, things get meta quick in “Jurassic World.”
Early scenes hint at a franchise on the brink of an existential crisis. Dinosaur theme park manager Claire (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) guides prospective investors through the park’s research corridors, where lab coats have been pipetting with a reckless disregard for the natural order of things. She explains that every few years, the general public needs its attention snapped back to the park, so the suits in charge have started experimenting with genetic modification to craft a beast cobbled from assumed expectations as to what it takes to be entertained.
I half expected everyone on screen to turn and blow a large collective kiss through the fourth wall.
“Jurassic World” is big, and it is dumb, and it is calculated to be that way. It doesn’t feel so much like a new installment in the established series as it does an animatronic built from the corpse of past accomplishments, recycled into a lumbering machine of box-office bank. It follows a strict formula of field-tested characters and occurrences to deliver exactly on expectations of what a summer blockbuster should be.
To the credit of director Colin Trevorrow and executive producer Steven Spielberg, who first birthed the movie’s pedigree back in 1993, the formula was spot-on; “Jurassic World” took a giant dino-shit on opening weekend records, drawing in more than $500 million worldwide.
The movie also seems to confuse the concepts of foreshadowing and predictability. Fighting for screen time with dinosaurs are leads Chris Pratt (playing hunky raptor trainer Owen Grady) and Howard, relegating most side characters short windows of time to filter into view. These are usually just long enough to croak out a few lines of exposition that give the audience a general idea of where to place them on the sliding scale of “how long will it take for this person to get eaten.” It’s not particularly hard to pitch a perfect game here.
There are also two child leads to round out the familial bonding side of the equation, the nephews of Howard’s character Claire. They also serve as a weird way to seemingly guilt-trip her character into reconsidering her choice to not have kids, a really weird message to loop into a movie primarily about dinosaurs running amok.
It’s probably best to abandon terms like “unrealistic” upon purchasing a ticket to most summer blockbusters, but I can’t see how two teenage boys given backstage access to the most unique attraction on earth would take time to pout about not getting to hang out with their workaholic aunt.
“Jurassic World” does all it can to twist the nostalgia teat until it’s purple and raw, then winds up one last slap for good measure. It’s a popcorn movie to the bone, and many will find it delivers a comfortably predictable spectacle that gives them exactly what they want on a summer evening, and even has the courtesy to exit your mind completely within 45 minutes of leaving the theater.