Wednesday, October 7, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: JURASSIC WORLD


The Lost Wonderland

Rolling back extinction has its moments.

22 years ago, ‘Jurassic Park’ made landfall in Pakistan nearly a year after official release, back when multiplexes were a myth and 3D - a distant dream. Ground breaking tech, enlisted to salvage relics of the past was counted upon to cast a spell. A couple of decades later, the big screen extravaganza stopped by for an encore. The enchantment hadn’t worn off.

The arrival of ‘Jurassic World’, in not so glorious 3D, aims to reignite the passion, on the same day, and in superior cinemascope. It also ups the ante and the filmmakers slyly refer to the sky high expectations and shrinking attention spans as they, along with the corporate machine in charge of the imaginary realm fret about the complexities of cloning the shock & awe-factor.

This version comes with a brand new director at the helm and has been set in the same universe as the first installment. ‘Jurassic World’ has widened the playing field by developing the animal reserve and opening the grounds to visitors. The cast features Chris Pratt as the resident wildlife trainer with Bryce Dallas Howard as the stiff corporate exec / frosty aunt trying to juggle work, dinosaurs and her visiting nephews – all in one go. Irfan Khan is the man in charge who wants to up the stakes by cooking up more fearsome monsters in the lab to keep visitor interest from flagging. Chaos comes a calling when their short sighted approach misfires and the animals turn the tables on their creators as they are wont to do.

Wooing a pack of jaded audience members back to a prehistoric ecosystem can be tricky. Bigger, better, more bite is the revised motto leading to amped up mayhem and madness. The bold looking premise strives to keep its thriving amusement park relevant; the meta-commentary underscores the creative vision chosen to jumpstart the franchise.

The latest offering pays homage to the original and recycles the iconic score, John Hammond’s jeep and BD Wong as the mad scientist. Those who answer the summons for a chance to indulge in fossil sightings, stumble across charismatic leading men, and oodles of hubris strewn among the debris of gene splicing. It makes for a compelling arc and offers incentive to glide over memory lane for a panoramic view of Hammond’s failed enterprise. While the previous occupants of the ill-fated mission gave up the notion of taming nature – their modern day counterparts dusted off the beautiful illusion of control for a closer look. The CGI behemoth is expected to slake mankind’s insatiable thirst for spectacle. To that end, it unveils unholy alliances forged between man and beast, as a pair of uninteresting kids in peril vies for sympathy. It delivers on the action / adventure front, complete with the requisite carnage to bolster the cautionary tale aspect.

Unleashing centuries old primal instinct upon the world may be a trusty hook but it still needs to be wielded with caution. When Spielberg first opened the gateway of his one of a kind wildlife preserve, he dazzled his fictional team of expert witnesses and green viewers in one masterstroke and let them relish the wonders of the lost world before survival became the dominant theme. Both experienced the heady rush of excitement amid numbing waves of crippling fear and came away moved by the event. The element of surprise may be gone but the very idea of a fully functional park held great promise for moviegoers. Instead it was introduced through the eyes of a bored teen and consequently lost much of its impact.

Colin Trevorrow’s slick looking flight of fantasy grounds to a halt by failing to harvest the emotional core central to its success. That lack of investment robs the narrative of its soul. Also, the suspension of disbelief required is jaw-dropping. Ms. Howard’s unwieldy high heels are the foot-ware of choice in a park overrun by super-charged predators. Moody lab specimens are impervious to deadly firepower. And special effect wizardry takes precedence over character development. One stops to marvel at the NASA-esque mission control and then searches for the mislaid contingency plans to evacuate the hordes of tourists and save them from becoming appetizers should things go South. A few anxiety filled moments stand in for simmering tension and creeping dread. Tropes run amok. Damsels look distressed.

One is then tempted to write this off as an ungainly beast living off the glory of yesteryears. But some of the magic survived the journey. Raptors get a delightful makeover that allows them to scale the evolutionary ladder, adding to their mystique. Stocking the playground with fresh attractions that recast the pecking order never fails to amuse. And the idea of reality playing catch up with Sci-Fi adds a cozy new dimension to the experience.

Despite all its failings ‘Jurassic World’ is a box-office juggernaut and now reigns comfortably at the top as the 3rd highest grossing movie of all time. Nostalgia is its biggest ally; the monster themed catwalk remains its greatest asset. Now with a sequel in the works, it intends to extend its hold to 2018 and beyond.

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