The original Jurassic Park movie was released in 1993, based on Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel (you should read it if you haven’t, it’s great – just like most of his novels). The plot was fairly simple: “During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.” What elevated the movie to an event, and easily one of the best movies ever made, is the incredible effects, fantastic cast, and the spectacular directing of Steven Spielberg. Since then, we received two direct sequels, The Lost World, and Jurassic Park 3; as well as a reboot/sequel, Jurassic World. In Jurassic World, the park was finally up and running, and we got to see exactly what John Hammond’s vision realized would look like – until, of course, everything went wrong.
Now, four years after the disaster at the park (the disaster being that a genetically engineered super-dino got loose and the military wanted to weaponized raptors), a volcano is about to erupt on Isla Nublar, threatening to wipe out all the remaining dinosaurs – who have presumably been wandering around the island for the last four years, all carefree.
This results in a conundrum. Do we as humans jump into action to rescue these very endangered dinos, now that they are threatened with extinction from this volcano? Or, do we simply let them perish, as they weren’t really supposed to exist at this time in the first place?
Claire Dearing, one of the forgettable human characters from the previous flick who was all about profiting off genetically engineered monsters, has now had a change of heart. She is doing her best to find funding to rescue the animals from the island, since it’s not their fault they were created, and they now deserve to be saved. She gets a mysterious call from a representative from the Lockwood estate. Benjamin Lockwood used to be John Hammond’s business partner when he first started InGen, but then they had a falling out over something that is an interesting plot point that gets unfortunately glossed over later on in the story. In any case, Eli Mills, who works for Lockwood, tells Claire they have a sanctuary, but they need her help in rounding up and transporting the animals off the island. He tells her they need Blue (the hero raptor, and easily best character from the previous movie), as she is the last of her kind. He tells her to go get Owen Brady and head to the island to get Blue.
Since Owen helped raise and train Blue, the thought is he will be able to convince her to leave the island. Or at least not kill everyone who tries to capture her. This does allow us to some amazing flashbacks to Blue as a youngster when Owen was training her, and my goodness was she cute.
Owen (annoyed that he was interrupted from building his own house) and Claire head to the island with Franklin Webb (tech guy) and Zia Rodriguez (paleo-vet). Once on the island, they meet military asshole Ken Wheatley who says he’s there to help, but is waving every villain red flag he can find. After being amazed by the magnificence of a Brachiosaur that is walking past, Franklin gets the tracking system working, and Zia goes with Owen to get Blue.
Shockingly, our folks are double crossed by Wheatley and team, and Mills’s team snags as many dinos as possible to take to the Lockwood estate for a private auction to sell them to the highest bidder to do with them what they please. The issue is that Dr. Henry Wu is still around, hanging out at the estate and has created another Frankenstein’s Monster style dinosaur – the IndoRaptor, combining the Indominus Rex from the previous movie with a velociraptor. This ‘prototype’ gets loose, and all hell breaks loose.
Taking over from Colin Trevorrow, director J.A. Bayona comes from doing mostly horror movies before taking on this story. I have to say, I feel this was a mistake. The movie has more frightening and haunting images than previous installments, and there were many kids in my showing who seemed unhappy. The scenes of the dinosaurs running in terror as the volcano explodes are not just horrifying, but traumatizing. The scenes of dinosaurs about to die from poison gas in the Lockwood mansion are equally upsetting. There are moments that his particular style works – for example, as a Baryonyx comes toward Claire and Franklin down a pipe, the flashes of light that reveal it moving ever closer are great.
The ‘haunted mansion’ style cat and mouse scenes between the Indoraptor and the humans is also pretty good, but for me, there were just way too many scenes of animals in pain or peril – and yes, I know they’re not real. Which brings me to another positive mention – Industrial Light and Magic has one again outdone themselves on the dinosaurs. They look amazing. There are also some amazing animatronics in this piece, so they are not all CGI, and they are fantastic. The human cast is equally as forgettable here as they were in the previous movie – not necessarily their fault, but the cast in the original is so iconic, it’s tough to live up to that lineage.
- Chris Pratt plays Owen Grady, who is interrupted from building a house to go save Blue. Pratt is still incredibly likeable, especially when hand feeding baby raptors.
- Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire Dearing who gets to wear boots this time around. Her character is trying to redeem her corporate greed sensibilities from the previous story to her new conservatism.
- Rafe Spall plays Eli Mills, who oozes sleeze and untrustworthiness through the entire piece. He cares nothing about the animals or the people helping them, he just wants to turn a profit.
- Justice Smith plays Franklin Webb, who is there to punch buttons on a computer keyboard and scream in fear.
- Daniella Pineda plays Zia Rodriguez, who is there to help save Blue when an idiot shoots her.
- James Cromwell plays Benjamin Lockwood, right up until Mills has had enough of him.
- Toby Jones plays Mr. Eversol the auctioneer. He doesn’t much care what he’s auctioning off, even if it is capable of eating him.
- Ted Levine plays Ken Wheatley, a military-type villain who is hired by Mills to help capture dinosaurs. He has a extra-villainy trademark of collecting teeth from the dinos he captures as trophies for a necklace, in case you didn’t already find him distasteful. His comeuppance is glorious.
- Jeff Goldblum briefly appears as Dr. Ian Malcolm, who basically shows up to remind everyone that he was right about Chaos theory, and now everything is worse.
- BD Wong returns as the sneaky god-playing villain Dr. Henry Wu – he’s still building dinosaurs, and compiling new creatures. He does hesitate when Mills attempts to sell his prototype Indoraptor, as it’s not “perfected” yet – but not out of kindness or empathy, mainly because he thinks it’s not yet ready.
- Geraldine Chaplin plays Iris, the woman who is helping to raise Lockwood’s granddaughter. She knows all the family secrets, but again – that doesn’t really come into play.
- Isabella Sermon plays Maisie Lockwood, the granddaughter, because these movies always have to have kids in them for some reason. Actually, her backstory was interesting, and could have used some more development, but there just wasn’t enough time for it. Perhaps it will come up in the next movie?
And now on to the true stars of this movie, as with the last one;
- The Baryonyx makes her first appearance, with her fish-eating crocodile-like snout. She stalks Claire and Franklin down the aforementioned tunnel in a fantastic sequence, all while dealing with lava dripping from the ceiling.
- Stiggy the stygimoloch is given some feature time in this one as she helps Owen and Claire escape from a cage in the estate, and then tosses some auction attendees back and forth.
- The Mosasaur returns, she features in the cold open as Wu’s team is looking for an I-Rex bone from the bottom of her lagoon. Then of course, she gets out for that cameo you’ve seen in the trailers where she’s after the surfers. But that’s about all she gets.
- Rexy returns, and again – this is the same Tyrannosaur from the original movie, so she’s got to be fed up with humans at this point, especially since in this one they tranquilize her after she helps save Owen and crew from a Carnotaurus. She does get a hero shot at the end roaring at a lion.
- The IndoRaptor is an interesting add, smaller than the I-Rex, but larger than a raptor, clever, vicious, and hunting based on laser and audio triggers. He’s got a brilliant yellow stripe down his side, and I will say that I really did like the final sequence of him chasing the folks through the house, and then battling Blue.
- Blue is again the best character in the movie, and this one gives her even more backstory as it reveals how Owen trained her as a baby, how she grew to lead the group of raptors, and how she developed empathy.
- Owen does ask her to come with him at the end (spoiler alert, she makes it through okay –thank goodness, I could not have handled her not making it!), but she decides she’s been caged enough, and heads off to her next adventure – which seems to be ruling over a small California town.
Trevorrow wrote some of this one, working with Bayona and stated that this movie is “really is about the ethical treatment of animals in the world and our responsibility to the living creatures that we share the planet with, alongside our responsibilities to the planet itself.” An interesting take, which makes the scenes where the dinosaurs are in mortal peril even worse. This movie is absolutely missing the sense of fun that most of the other movies in the franchise have had. There are scenes that are downright disturbing, and the comic moments feel odd in a story that is so dark. It’s not nearly as kid-friendly as some of the others. Again, the dinosaurs look amazing, which just makes anything bad that happens to them harder to take: the volcanic explosion, the capturing, the torturing, the selling, and the gassing. Overall, there were parts that were interesting, some scenes that were great – but there was so much in between that was hard to watch, it tainted the whole movie.
5 out of 10 – I really wanted to love it, and I couldn’t - but I did love the dinosaurs.