Dramatic, I know. But if you've heard or read anything I've said about the modern state of Star Trek, Mega Man, Metroid, or any of my other favorite entertainment franchises, you know I've become bitter. Like I'm the only fan who cares about integrity, continuity, coherence. We can't just make sequels and prequels and interquels anymore. Everything has to be a reboot, even if it isn't technically a reboot. Everyone has to tell a story on their own terms, even if that means tearing down the foundations that have held a series together. Modern entertainment is selfish, nearsighted, and usually terribly written, but that didn't stop me from getting excited about Jurassic World when I saw the first advertisement for it.
Jurassic Park is my favorite movie of all time. It's been my favorite movie since I first saw it in the theater with my mother back in 1993. I've written about why I love it, but in short: Dinosaurs! As any child will tell you, dinosaurs (if not ninjas or robots) are the coolest thing in the world. Jurassic Park perfectly evokes those childlike feelings of awe and wonder, followed by utter horror and helplessness as things spiral out of control, which ultimately gives way to a mature admiration and respect for these fearsome creatures. No matter how old I get, the movie never fails to make me feel like a kid again, and by the end of it, I've grown up a little more, just as the characters have.
The sequels don't come close to duplicating the quality of the first movie, but they're at least reasonable continuations of the story. Despite some moments where I find it difficult to suspend my disbelief, I like Jurassic Park III (William H. Macy and Téa Leoni go a long way in improving my opinion of any movie). I tolerate The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Jeff Goldblum and a rampaging T. rex go a long way in improving my opinion of any movie). With nearly 15 years' distance from the last installment and a two-sequel precedent of "generic action movie" to follow from, Jurassic World had every excuse to be a disappointment.
I left the theater in tears. But for the first time since maybe 2009, when a layer of ice shaped like J.J. Abrams started to cover my heart, those were tears of joy. Jurassic Park was the one thing—and I mean the one thing—left in the entertainment world that I held dear that nobody had messed with, and Jurassic World brought it back with the kind of care and dignity that, pardon the irresistibly obvious pun, I thought were extinct.
Jurassic World remembers where it came from. It understands what makes the first movie so much more popular than the next two. It caters to a new generation of fans without leaving the old ones behind, also capitalizing on the current popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Chris "Star-Lord" Pratt and Vincent "Kingpin" D'Onofrio playing key roles. Touchstones to the first movie are everywhere, and they're not just there for the audience; they play an important role in the story—a story that recaptures that childlike wonder, offers up some fresh scares, and thoughtfully explores the possibilities of a successful park filled with dinosaurs. Jurassic World reboots the franchise without severing ties to continuity, and it clearly has a plan for where it wants to go from here...but if this is the last Jurassic film we ever get, it's not a bad stopping point, either.
That's not to say I wouldn't change some things. The film is about 10 minutes too slow, getting hung up in the beginning on multiple introductions that could have been condensed or conveyed through other means. There's a hint of romance that doesn't necessarily take away from the movie, but that could have been excised for the welcome novelty of having a male and female character not end up together after spending a whole 90 minutes with each other. One character gets killed off in a particularly gratuitous fashion that befits an especially vile villain, but not an unassuming person just trying to help. John Williams' unforgettable Jurassic Park score is back in full force, but the new music tends to meander, and the score as a whole sometimes overshoots or undershoots the tone of a scene.
Still, these are shortcomings I can live with. Changing them wouldn't change the fundamental character of the film. Jurassic World breaks new ground without desecrating the old, and it does so with style and love. That's what I want out of a sequel. I sat through the whole credits with a grin on my face, wiping the joyful tears from my eyes, remembering just how good it feels for one of my favorite things in the entertainment world to make me happy for a change.