October 27, 2015

Blu-ray Review: Jurassic World

Well, a few months ago, Jurassic World took the world by storm and is one of the biggest box office smashes of all time. It is an entertaining movie that seemed to connect immediately with all audiences of all ages. Yes, I was entertained, yes I can saw that I liked it, but still, I find it surprising that it has done as well as it has. Is it the nostalgia factor? The Chris Pratt factor? I am not sure I can really tell. Sure, I loved Jurassic Park back in the day and the way it brought together CG and practical effects, but while I looked forward to this, I did not have the same anticipation as those around me.

Needless to say, when I approached the idea of sitting down in the theater to watch it, I had a hard time getting all that excited. Could this live up to the original? Could it at least be an entertaining romp? After passing through hands of the likes of Joe Johnston, the director's chair fell to Colin Trevorrow. Even with only one other feature to his name (the very good Safety Not Guaranteed), I felt it had a touch more promise than a Johnston film would have had. Writing duties were handled by the teams of Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, and Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.

Jurassic World gets off to a rough start as it tries to force an identification with a couple of annoying kids as we follow them on their journey to the fully operational dinosaur amusement park, along with the repeated use of the classic theme. It strikes me as trying way too hard to replicate the magic of the original and the revelation of the island and the first dinosaurs. It is not something that can be recreated. It is during this early chunk that I thought I was going to be in for a long time in the dark. Then something happened. I am not quite sure exactly, but it felt like something clicking into place and the whole movie was launched and the experience turned around.

While the movie features throwback elements and callbacks to the first film, it is far from the same film. This one feels a bit darker, a bit more cynical, but still with a touch of hope. Well, hope may not be the right word, but it does some interesting things with the relationship between man and beast. There is something about how to interact with nature and where everyone belongs in relation to one another. Still, this is all background stuff as what we end up watching is a dinosaur attack movie on a scale I do not believe we have seen this side of Carnosaur.

The story follows a couple of threads. The primary one is that of Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), a straitlaced executive for the theme park and her attempts to get her visiting nephews (those annoying kids mentioned earlier) to safety following their rebellious attempt at going rogue. There to help facilitate the action is Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who acts as the resident expert. On the other side of the coin is unscrupulous Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio), who is looking for a way to weaponize the dinosaur creating technology.

As expected, everything goes sideways as the park's first attempt at creating a new dinosaur turns out to be a rather nasty tempered beastie that gets loose and causes havoc around the park with the obvious notes that we should not be messing with nature. Honestly, the plot threads do not really mean much more than a way to move the pieces around the board and get from point A to point B. All that really matters is the dinosaur action and the little people trying to get out of the way.

Here is the surprising thing, I really liked the movie. I thought the action was quite well done and I was taken on a ride. I got swept up in the chases, the fights, everything. It was not quite the sandbox toy smashing feeling I had with Pacific Rim, but this is no slouch. I liked the dinosaur stuff, how the dinos interacted with each other, how the humans interacted with them, it was just a lot of fun. I think the biggest influence I could see would be from Aliens. There seems to be some Aliens DNA spliced into that of the original Jurassic Park. No, this is not nearly as good as either of those, but the entertainment factor cannot be ignored.

Jurassic World is a popcorn movie that has no intention greater than to entertain. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Not every movie has to transcend, sometimes all that matters is executing within your realm. This movie does that. It is ridiculous, it is silly, but it wants to be. That's good enough for me.

Watching it now on Blu-ray, I am struck by how good it looks in some aspects and how bad it does in others. A lot of effort was put into making it have a similar look and feel to the original, and in that regard it is a success with some very nice looking shots. The problem is when you go to the special effects. They seem to stand out more while watching at home. they do not quite have the magic of the original, and in many cases they stand out as being separate from the real elements in the film. At times they appear to exist on different layers that have been squashed together rather than existing on the same plane.

Still, the transfer does look pretty snazzy, with plenty of solid detail and great looking colors. If not for the effects issues I had, it may be reference quality. The audio is also up to the task with some great sounding roars, crashes, and snapping tree limbs. It is a DTS Master Audio 7.1 track that delivers the goods and will have you immersed in the land of the dinosaurs in no time.

On the extras side of the coin:

  • Deleted Scenes (6:08): Several scenes, that cannot be selected individually.
  • Chris and Colin Take on the World (8:57): Actor Chris Pratt and Director Colin Trevorrow interview each other and talk about memories from the first film, creating suspense, big moments on set, and the visual effects.
  • Welcome to Jurassic World (29:52): A piece in which cast and crew look back on story ideas and themes, photography, costumes and design, casting and performances, sets and shooting locations, working with an animatronic dinosaur prop, and the importance of extras.
  • Dinosaurs Roam Once Again (16:29): A look at the visual effects, the importance of the actors in selling the illusion, new technologies, real people standing in for dinosaurs on the set, motion capture, new dinosaur designs, and more.
  • Jurassic World: All-Access Pass (10:11): Chris Pratt and Colin Trevorrow take a look at several key points in the movie, including the gyrosphere, and motorcycle riding.
  • Innovation Center Tour with Chris Pratt (2:01): A short tour of set highlights that reveal some of the fun details that viewers might not catch on a first watch.
  • Jurassic's Closest Shaves -- Presented by Barbasol (1080p, 3:00): A montage featuring some of the most dangerous moments from the series.


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