- - Thursday, June 11, 2015

The movie poster tagline for the original “Jurassic Park” described it as an “adventure 65 million years in the making.” The latest sequel, “Jurassic World,” feels more like the product of 65 million writers.

The film credits just four scribes for the screenplay, two of whom also get credit for the story, which is probably the film’s best joke: There isn’t really a story here. It’s just one event after another on a theme park island filled with tourists and genetically modified dino-monsters. Computer-generated dinosaurs roar their computer-generated roars and show off their computer-generated teeth; people run and shoot and scream; a few of the more indispensable types get tossed around and chewed up; and then, after a few minutes of expository babble, you get to do it all over again. Gnash, stomp, repeat.

The GMO beasties are the movie’s big hook, its reason for being. Why would anyone want genetically modified superdinosaurs? A better question, the movie seems to retort, is why wouldn’t anyone? Sure, people love dinosaurs, but an expensive and fully operational theme park like Jurassic World, the setting for the latest installment, needs to keep the public’s attention with new attractions.

The same logic, of course, applies to the franchise itself. Basic dinosaurs won’t do anymore, so the science wizards at the franchise’s genetics corporation, InGen, have, like the writers on the film, cooked up a bigger, badder strain of snarling prehistoric menace: the Indominus Rex, a 50-foot-tall creature made up of Tyrannosaurus DNA and a sprinkling of whatever other lizard genes were lying around the lab. It can fake out heat-signature detectors and alter its skin color like a cuttlefish. What else can it do? Don’t worry — you’ll find out.

Similarly, the screenplay seems to have been generated by scientific committee from the DNA strands of other, better blockbusters. There’s a midfilm sequence in which a heavily armed park security force encounters the Indominus that’s ripped directly from “Aliens” and a second-act finale involving flying Pteranodons that lamely mimics “The Birds.”

But just as the Indominus was created largely from the genetic algorithms of the T. rex, the raw material from “Jurassic World” comes mostly from the original “Jurassic Park.”

As in the original, there’s a billionaire park owner (Irrfan Khan), and a pair of kid siblings, brothers Gray and Zach (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson, respectively), one of whom is a cute little dinosaur nut who can conveniently provide science-y details about the movie’s cold-blooded creatures as they lumber across the screen. The kids have a familial connection to a senior park official, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who has a fraught relationship with the story’s action hero, raptor trainer Owen Grady (a typically charming Chris Pratt), a relationship that’s tested when the pair sets out to rescue the kids after the Indominus breaks predictably loose.

There’s even a talkative, heavyset InGen employee, a la the original’s Dennis Nedry, in the form of Vic Hoskins (a blustery, scenery-chewing Vincent D’Onofrio), with nefarious plans: Instead of a competing corporation, he wants to sell the wondrous theme park attractions to the military.

Perhaps the biggest problem with all this rehash is that director Colin Trevorrow, whose only other feature is the slight indie sci-fi comedy “Safety Not Guaranteed,” is no Steven Spielberg. The original “Jurassic Park” was built on a series of escalating, perfectly executed set pieces, each a memorable minimasterpiece. Mr. Trevorrow’s action scenes, in contrast, are muddled and poorly paced. Where Mr. Spielberg picked the perfect shot every time, Mr. Trevorrow’s camera is in constant, anxious motion, as if hunting for the right place to put the camera but never finding it. Even the digital dino effects somehow look worse here.

But I’ll give the movie credit for its ironic self-awareness. Not only is the oversize Indominus itself a comment on the way blockbuster franchises inevitably mutate into bloated, freakish monsters their creators can’t control, the movie ends with a showdown between the Indominus and a raptor and Tyrannosaur, the two prehistoric stars of the film that started the franchise. The true hero of this uninspired sequel, in other words, turns out to be the film it desperately wants to be: the original “Jurassic Park.”


TITLE: “Jurassic World”

CREDITS: Directed by Colin Trevorrow; written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly and Mr. Trevorrow

RATING: PG-13 for dino-action, gore

RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes

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