So this weekend the park finally opened for real, with Jurassic World looking to make itself a stellar attraction in a franchise whose sequels to date have been less than amusing.  It’s also been accused of sexism and dinoism for its portrayal of all these female dinosaurs as mindless killing machines.

For starters, as usual the accusations of sexism are just ridiculous.  Unfortunately so too is the why and how of everything going completely awry this time. Whereas the original film has the park undergoing a test run with a tiny staff such that a little malfeasance combined with having unpredictable giant creatures around could easily lead to the nightmare scenario it presented, Jurassic World has state-of-the-art everything, tons of employees, and tens of thousands of attendees.  This new park has gotten so safe that they’ll let two kids get in a plastic bubble and drive it anywhere they want without any direct supervision or apparent ability to override the thing and bring it back.

Now that still could work if, like the first film, the park went into some kind of increasingly terrifying cascade failure, but that doesn’t really happen here.  Rather than nature finding a way, the humans have to make increasingly stupid and irrational decisions in order to ensure things keep going downhill, which is of course what the token greedy military industrialist wants so he can justify his own stupid new weapon idea.  Not only is that trope unbelievably boring to see again, but it wastes screen time that could have been better spent fleshing out the main characters or checking in with all these tourists that are promptly ignored whenever it’s convenient to forget about them.

Chris Pratt‘s character gets the best of it since he’s the linchpin between the two main plot threads.  He’s a former military guy who has managed to more or less tame some raptors, and he’s asked by the park’s owner to come assess the strength of the defenses surrounding the park’s latest attraction, a new dinosaur called Indominus Rex (sponsored by Verizon Wireless), which was created by splicing a bunch of other stuff together.  Somehow the scientists are allowed to keep which animals’ DNA they used for this thing a secret from the people who are in charge of keeping it from eating everything else on the island.  That ends up making it much easier for this smarter than average dino to outwit these nitwits.

Unlike the heroic T-Rex of Jurassic Park, Indominus apparently kills for fun and is revealed pretty early on without much teasing or fanfare. It’s also very plainly computer generated.  For all the talk of the motion capture work making these CG dinosaurs look more convincing, most of the time it’s pretty obvious they are not in the same space as the actors.

On the plus side, Jurassic World can be quite funny at times (on purpose.)  Chris Pratt’s interactions with Bryce Dallas Howard‘s character are often rather charming, and despite Joss Whedon’s whining, her being uptight and him being relaxed works really well, and it makes perfect sense since she’s essentially the person in charge of keeping the place running.  The two kids in the film (Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins) are entirely forgettable and thus don’t end up killing the movie either. They’re neither irritating enough to hope they get eaten nor endearing enough to care if they do.  Frankly taking them out entirely would’ve made for a more coherent story overall.

Another thing Jurassic World has going for it that the last two didn’t is the fully realized park. It really looks like an awesome place that would make for an epic vacation destination.  Not sure if there’s a liability waver ironclad enough to let a kid ride a baby triceratops though.

Director Colin Trevorrow is no Spielberg, but he does a fine job of showing off all the attractions they created and giving the action some room to breathe without the usual modern directing tropes.  Sadly Jurassic World just doesn’t have a particularly good story driving the action, or even a full John Williams score to maybe elevate things a bit, though Michael Giacchino does work in some of the classic JP themes.

It’s certainly better than the last two entries in the franchise, but it fails to capture on the potential of its premise. On Ed Morrissey’s Hot Air scale, Jurassic World gets at best a four:

  • 5 – Full price ticket
  • 4 – Matinee only
  • 3 – Wait for Blu-Ray/DVD/PPV rental or purchase
  • 2 – Watch it when it hits Netflix/cable
  • 1 – Avoid at all costs

Like most big summer flicks, seeing it on a big screen is preferable, but it won’t really change the experience all that much and you’ve seen this movie before.

Jurassic World is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.