'Jurassic World' is dumb dino-fun, but not such a clever girl (spoiler-free review)

The new sequel to Steven Spielberg's beloved blockbuster is all-out dinosaur war. Read on for our thoughts.

Luke Westaway Senior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
3 min read

Watch this: 'Jurassic World' review: Big dino fun, but not such a clever girl

Forget genetics. The field that InGen -- the fictional corporation that built Jurassic Park -- really excels in is PR. Two decades after its deadly theme park claimed the lives of several of its first visitors, the dinosaur-filled island has been successfully converted into a thriving family attraction. And they didn't even have to change the logo.

That attraction is Jurassic World, the setting of Colin Trevorrow's sequel to Steven Spielberg's 1993 classic. Think Disneyland, but more educational, more expensive and with a marginally higher risk of being eaten alive. There's only one problem in this leafy, money-spinning island paradise -- dinosaurs are old-hat these days. Young park attendee Zach (Nick Robinson), who's visiting Jurassic World with his little brother Gray (Ty Simpkins), would rather stare at his smartphone than watch a mosasaurus devour a shark. As the kids' hyper-organised aunt, park manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) explains, consumers want "bigger, louder. More teeth."

As such, while infants ride baby triceratops and parents guzzle Starbucks, behind the scenes the park's boffins have cooked up something that's certain to sell tickets -- a genetically warped, all-new dinosaur that's entirely too big, too loud and too toothy for anyone's good. Raptor trainer and all-around man-of-action Owen (Chris Pratt) can only shake his head at his paymasters' hubris, then hop on his motorbike and try to save some lives as the inevitable carnage unfolds.

If your mind starts to wander during one of the quieter moments in "Jurassic World," you'll realise that the movie is trying to have its cake and eat it, wagging a disapproving finger at our consumer lust for bigger, better, glossier attractions through the medium of a blockbuster sequel that draws you in with the promise of exactly that -- a beast bigger, toothier and possessing of more deadly cunning than any dinosaur you've seen on-screen before.

Similarly, while there's plenty of pleasure to be had from seeing frame-filling dinosaurs lunging through scenery, diehard fans of the original movie might be dismayed at the film's treatment of its scaly stars. The dinos in "Jurassic Park" were portrayed as a force of nature, akin to an earthquake or a tsunami -- something to be escaped or survived rather than defeated. "Jurassic World," on the other hand, is all-out dinosaur war, with more blood, bullets and all manner of outlandish cross-species brawls. It's entertaining viewing, but it never feels remotely as smart as its source material.

There are a few imperfections on the surface level, too. A total devotion to occasionally underwhelming CGI, rampant product placement (a trip to the Samsung Innovation Lab, anyone?) and an ill-judged, leery early scene between Pratt and Howard combine to ensure you'll never quite relax and lose yourself in the action.

These gripes are balanced by some extremely tense and frightening scenes, moments of real levity and a stand-out performance from Bryce Dallas Howard, who emerges as the real star of the show. There's also Michael Giacchino's swelling score that lends dino encounters an appropriate sense of gravitas, and plenty of nods to the first movie, some subtle, some not so much. "Jurassic World" is certainly an enjoyable, adrenalised romp then, but for all the rowboat-sized jaws on show, it's a little lacking in bite.

"Jurassic World" launches in the UK and Australia on Thursday, followed by the US on Friday.

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