22 years after the events of Jurassic Park, an even bigger and enormously popular attraction has risen on Isla Nubar: Jurassic World. To keep attendance high, the park operators introduce a new, genetically modified hybrid creature called Indominus Rex. Bigger, stronger and far more intelligent than any dinosaur that ever walked the earth; the secretive new breed also proves more dangerous than anyone ever anticipated. When the massive creature escapes, chaos erupts across the island. Now it's up to Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) to save the park's tourists from an all-out prehistoric assault.
'Jurassic World' is the epitome of the summer popcorn blockbuster event. The sort sometimes referred to — and not necessarily in a demeaning or cheapening way — as the "check your brain at the door" entertainment, a conventional mainstream product manufactured for the sole purpose of attracting the widest possible audience wanting thrills and excitement. But not much else. Its massive, record-breaking box-office success clearly attests to that. The plot is straightforward and uncomplicated: Dinosaurs run amok in a theme park! Pointing out these obvious aspects and traits of the movie is not meant to find fault with the production or gearing up to lambast it. There are many great pieces of entertainment that have been produced much in similar fashion, such as the original 'Jurassic Park.' And for the most part, the movie succeeds at delivering easy entertainment. It's a feast for the eyes, ears and all the senses, if we're so inclined to summarize it in a simple quote.
With several moments early on and throughout the rest of the movie, director Colin Trevorrow, working from a script that took three others to complete, hints at being aware of this very fact — the film is nothing more than trivial consumerism at its finest — in a few of the character exchanges. As the new park's operations manager Claire Dearing, Bryce Dallas "I'm not Jessica Chastian" Howard convinces a small group of possible investors on the latest attraction because it complies with public demands of more thrills: "Consumers want them bigger, louder, more teeth." And that, the movie definitely does, upping the wow factor with a genetically modified hybrid dinosaur called Indominus rex. As if almost aware of its own synthetic and artificial creation, made from the best parts of what is known to work in order to fill theater seats, Trevorrow later has Howard's austere, number-crunching Claire bickering with a control-room operator (Jake Johnson) on corporate involvement while essentially lauding Spielberg's sci-fi fantasy classic. The scenes are peeks into boardroom meetings with studio heads, Howard standing in for the director, all-business and professional, while Johnson exposes his true feelings and grumbles.
In such moments, and several more like them, we're made to wonder if Trevorrow, despite clearly enjoying his involvement in this production, isn't also commenting on the irony of it all. When cleverly sneaking in bits of dialogue that interestingly transcend the actual conversation at hand, there's a sense of snide cynicism that apparently went undetected. Like tiny breadcrumbs strewn about, the seemingly wily comments — they could just as likely be pure coincidence, of course —sometime reach the level of self-awareness, little postmodern observations for the more astute moviegoers but not so esoteric as to scare away the general public. It hints at a possible deliberateness and intelligence beneath the façade of the thunderous bombast, the dazzling spectacle and the heart-pounding enormity of dino action, promising a deeper, stimulating layer. But for every time we imagine such a prospect, folly intervenes to remind us we forgot our brains at the door. When determined to search for her two lost nephews (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson), a suddenly spunky Claire unbuttons her blouse, implying her toughness, yet she's seen running through a jungle in high heels. One can imagine Trevorrow waving his index finger disapprovingly and saying, "Don't overthink it."
And still, he injects other ideas of smart forethought. Knowingly capitalizing on an established and very popular franchise, the plot picks up twenty years after the events of Michael Crichton's first story, in effect erasing the previous two sequels from memory, when John Hammond's dream of a theme park with living dinosaurs has become a lucrative reality. The movie is about a business practice that rehashes products of the past for a new generation while itself being the product of such practices. Throughout, the original film is either directly referenced or talked about, some of which comes from new owner Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) or simply every time B. D. Wong, reprising his role as Dr. Henry Wu, appears on screen. At one point, Claire's nephews even stumble upon the visitor center of Hammond's park while trying to make their way back to the new facility, finding a pair of night-vision goggles and the original jeeps, like the one where an injured Jeff Goldblum nervously yelled, "Must go faster." Speaking of the two boys, their backstory of being sent away to Aunt Claire's theme park while mom and dad finalize their divorce is perfectly in tune to Spielberg themes of fractured families.
This aspect itself falls in line with the rest of 'Jurassic World,' as a product of easy consumerism. However, Trevorrow lacks the craftsmanship and simplistic elegance of Spielberg in order to surpass it, to be more than a fancy-looking package. There isn't that sense of childlike wonder when coming face to face with Earth's prehistoric monsters. Much of his camerawork is pushed in so close that it cuts the top off the heads of many dinos bigger than velociraptors or so far away in high-angle to confuse one of the proper emotional reaction, effectively ruining some of the suspense because we can't properly scale the size of the supposedly terrifying Indominus Rex. Also, Chris Pratt has basically been neutered of his natural comedic charisma, the smart-alecky, wittily sarcastic persona that makes him a hilarious joy to watch. As the Navy veteran turned raptor trainer Owen Grady, he appears so intent and focused on seeming the sternly serious hero that he's never more than the conventional, one-dimensional archetype. Admittedly, the sci-fi fantasy adventure still manages a few good chuckles — the funniest moment surprisingly comes from Johnson's final goodbye to Lauren Lapkus — and delivers on its promise.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment opens the doors of 'Jurassic World' with a three-disc 3D Blu-ray combo package that includes a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. The DVD-9 and a BD-50 discs sit comfortably on either side of a center panel while a separate BD-50 disc containing the 3D version of the movie waits on the final panel. The two Blu-rays are also Region Free, and all three discs are housed inside a blue eco-elite keepcase with a glossy, lenticular slipcover. The package also includes promotional material for collectible merchandise, videogames and the theme park ride. After several skippable 2D trailers and promo videos, the 3D disc takes viewers to a 3D menu screen with the usual options along the left side, full-motion clips highlighting the action and music playing in the background.
The dinosaurs are unleashed and run rampant on 3D Blu-ray with a fearsomely awesome 1080p/MVC MPEG-4 encode that nicely adds to the movie's wow factor. Although shot with a combination of 35mm, System 65 and digital cameras, the elements terrifically lend themselves to the format.
Separation between the foreground and background objects is excellent, often creating a realistic 3D world with a great sense of distance and space, especially during the many sunny exterior shots. In a few scenes, however, the illusion isn't quite as effective, such as when the two nephews roam the visitor center where we see more of a layered, pop-up book effect, as if some of the kids were paper cutouts. It's also worth mentioning that a couple other moments can fall a bit on the flat side, such as when Claire and Owen sit with a dying brachiosaurus or when Claire watches the action from a tablet while inside an emergency vehicle. Thankfully, these moments are far and few, showing a great deal of depth and dimensionality throughout, with the best sequences taking place outdoors in the park where trees and mountains in the far distance penetrate deep into the screen. The faces and shoulders of human characters have believable roundness to them while the snout of the dinos can occasionally feel as though protruding from the screen. Although not quite at reference quality, the overall results are nonetheless impressive.
Given that most of the movie was shot on traditional film, the freshly-minted transfer is at its demo-worthy best on 2D, boasting stunning, razor-sharp clarity and details in every scene, including the fast-paced action moments, such as the now-infamous Owen riding with the raptors at night sequence. Individual hairs are distinct, and the textures of the fabric in the clothes are very well-defined and lifelike. Every little knobs and blinking light inside the control room is plainly visible while every leaf on trees, every blade of grass and every pebble on the jungle floor can practically be counted and discrete from the rest of the surrounding foliage. Facial complexions are highly revealing as well, showing every wrinkle and pore in the faces of the cast. Most impressive is the CG work done on each dinosaur because the video exposes the tiniest scar, blemish and fold on their rough reptilian skin, allowing the viewer to fully appreciate the amount of work and effort that went bringing these creatures to life.
Presented in its original and very uncommon 2.00:1 aspect ratio, the video is energized by a wide, sumptuous array of colors. Primaries lavish every frame with bold vivacity while a varied assortment of secondary hues provides warmth and animation. A crisp, brilliant contrast allows for extraordinary visibility in the distance, exposing the tops of trees along the hills and the fine lines of the various buildings scattered throughout the amusement park. From beginning to end, the image is awash with inky rich blacks, and delineation remains perceptible within the darkest portions of the frame. It's also worth mentioning I detected a couple instances of very trivial aliasing along the finest metallic lines on the exterior of buildings, but thankfully, it's nothing too egregious to completely ruin the film's enjoyment. In the end, John Schwartzman's photography simply looks stunning in nearly every scene, serving as a textbook example that reminds viewers of the possibilities of Blu-ray.
On a side note, the 2.00:1 aspect ratio, a format originally proposed by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro as a universal standard, which he coined as "Univisium," is an image size director Colin Trevorrow and Schwartzman believed as the most effective for creating the desired wow factor on all available screen types, from the home standard of 1.78:1 to the IMAX. For CIH enthusiasts, this means having to make a few adjustments that remove the top and bottom black bars, and after making such alterations on my system, which ended up with small black bars on the left and right of the screen, I was able to fully enjoy the movie as the filmmaker's intended.
The massive summer blockbuster also stomps and roars its way to Blu-ray with a monstrously spectacular DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that will leave your house trembling in fear of the Jurassic battle. Simply put, the track easily ranks as one of the best audio presentations of the year, along with the hands-down winner 'Mad Max: Fury Road.'
The sound designer, mixer and the entire department should be commended for their work, because the lossless mix is phenomenal, offering distinct clarity and superb definition in the mid-range, generating a brilliantly wide and engaging soundstage. The tiniest popping crunch of bone, the snapping crack of tree branches and the rustling of leaves is distinctly heard while the sharp stomping sounds of dinosaur claws on dirt and concrete is extraordinarily detailed, sometimes echoing throughout the room. The upper ranges during human versus dino battle or the climatic fight with Indominus versus the T-rex never falter but cleanly precise without a hint of distortion, allowing for every scream, wail and thunderous roar to be heard above the chaos while the dialogue remains intelligible throughout. I particularly enjoyed the amazing clarity in the raptor calls and every time Blue tapped its extra-long nail on the ground.
Along with a fantastic, spacious soundstage, bass astounds with deep, unrestrained palpability, adding tremendous depth and weight to Indominus Rex's every stomp, the explosive action and the final clash for the king of the dinosaurs. The low end awesomely jolts the senses by digging into the ultra-low depths, incredibly powerful and robust enough to rattle walls, rumble the couch and really test the capabilities of your subwoofer (bass chart). As would be expected from an actioner of this magnitude, rear activity satisfies on every level. Surrounding the listener with fluid movement and panning, the lossless mix delivers a variety of subtle ambient effects in every scene with the hybrid dino stealthily moving among the trees and the eventual mayhem it wreaks, such as the pterodactyls descending upon unsuspecting visitors, creating a stunningly immersive 360° soundfield. Again, this latest entry in the 'Jurassic' franchise arrives with a marvelous, reference-quality soundtrack that's sure to please.
The epitome of the summer popcorn blockbuster event, 'Jurassic World' delivers on its promise of satisfying "leave your brain at the door" consumer product with larger-than-life spectacle and CG razzle-dazzle. Starring Christ Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and a herd of wild dinosaurs, the movie offers easy, uncomplicated entertainment with hints of self-awareness, adding a bit of tongue-in-cheek comedy. The 3D Blu-ray arrives as a three-disc set with fantastic three-dimensional video and reference-quality lossless audio that's sure to make owners feel like they're in the middle of the action. With a small but decently informative collection of assortments, the overall package is recommended.