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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Friday, June 12, 2015

Jurassic World review

Warning: Some basic spoilers

It's been a long time since the last Jurassic Park movie, as this one was stuck in development hell for years. As usual when I review new movies, what follows will not reveal much in the way of plot twists, etc., but nor will it be entirely clear of spoilers.

What you most need to know is that Jurassic World is fun, exciting, and scary. The special effects are, as we were promised, a level above those in its predecessors - and at one point they made me jump out of my seat. There's a slightly old-fashioned aspect to the general tone and feeling, and not least to the movie's family, gender, and sexual politics. At one level it's an unabashed paean of praise to competent, rugged, under-appreciated he-men - to the sort of bloke who can ride a motorbike, shoot a gun, and wrangle a velociraptor.

That aside, it sticks closely to the formula I described in my previous post, though with a few noteworthy tweaks. The events take place twenty-something years after those shown in the original Jurassic Park, and the new owners of Isla Nublar and its inventory have finally managed to establish a huge theme park stocked with scientifically recreated dinosaurs. Inevitably - given the Murphy's-law logic of the Jurassic Park franchise - all hell breaks loose.

The big, scary monster of Jurassic World - "Indominus rex" - is not a genetically reconstructed beast from the Mesozoic era, such as we saw in the earlier movies, but an engineered monstrosity based primarily on T-Rex DNA... with additions to its genome to make it even more impressive (and hence dangerous). Thus, Jurassic World adds an additional coating of unnatural evil to its representation of genetic technology. While the more authentic (within the movie's reality) dinosaurs are amazing, wonderful, even sublime, Indominus rex is depicted as something closer to pure evil: a product of science gone mad, of human ingenuity corrupted by greed and hubris. Indominus rex is cunning, calculating, sinister, uncannily stealthy, and just plain cruel; she sets traps for human prey, and she kills other dinosaurs for sport even when she's not hungry.

The morality-play element is familiar, with some characters acting more or less as dinosaur fodder, some suffering fates that look exactly like karmic punishments, some enduring stoically, and one or two obtaining wisdom and redemption. As usual, there are children (a teenage boy and his younger brother) placed in harm's way, and (surprise!) these youngsters show moments of unexpected courage and ingenuity.

If you're a big kid at heart, love monster movies, or are any sort of fan of the franchise, do go and see Jurassic World, and don't forget your popcorn! Sure, it's formulaic. It won't change your life, and it has some hokey aspects. In other ways, though, it's the most frightening and creative instalment of the franchise since the 1993 original. Indominus rex is terrifying. You're in for a wild ride, and the two hours will rush past on a wave of adrenaline.

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