Jurassic Park is a great movie. More than that, it is one of my favourite movies. You can debate its quality if you like –I know that plenty of people rank it in the middle of Spielberg’s filmography– but for me it is the film that made me believe in movie magic. I feel it’s important that you know this going into this review, and that you also know that none of the films in the rest of the franchise come close to recapturing that original magic, and that includes this one.
This one at least tries to do something new and different, so that’s something.
The film opens well after the dust has settled from the last film. The island is abandoned, Claire and Owen (Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt) have moved on to dinosaur activism and off the grid respectively, but now the volcano at the heart of the island is about explode and they need someone to go back and save the dinosaurs.
It sounds like this movie is going to do all the same stuff over again and for a full act, it does. They go to the island with two younger newcomers, Justice Smith as a computer tech named Franklin and Daniella Pineda as a dinosaur vet named Zia. It plays out like you expect: they go, the men with guns there to capture the dinosaurs are the bad guys, the rich people who put them up to it turn out to be bad guys, and dinosaurs kill some people, but ultimately the main dinosaurs (including the T-Rex and Blue the Raptor) are saved and the hero barely escape. But then the island blows up and the rest of the movie happens, and that’s when things get interesting.
The rest of the movie plays out in the mansion of the other guy who helped John Hammond build the first park, where Rafe Spall has inherited the everything and has started working to make new weaponized dinosaurs and sell them off to the highest bidders (who are all action movie bad guy stereotypes) with the help of a Donald Trump styled Toby Jones. The dinosaurs, including the shiny new hybrid weapon one, get out and all hell breaks loose. Lots of people die and then the film takes a sharp left turn into a gothic horror story as a monster stalks the good guys through the giant mansion.
Seriously, the only thing this movie lacks is a shot of a row of gargoyles where you realize one of them is the new bad dinosaur only when the lightning flashes, and honestly I kind of wish that shot was in the movie.
I can’t quite bring myself to tell you that this is a good movie but if you can’t tell from everything above, it does at least do some new stuff and that’s enough for me to say that if you love dinosaurs then this might be worth a look.
I can tell you that it is a better movie than Jurassic World. J.A. Bayona is a horror director and he has a better sense for how to light and shoot monsters. That is to say: he knows it should be night-time and preferably raining. There are a lot of scenes where the imagery parallels the original movie too, to mixed effect. Most of the instances of this work but they also overstayed their welcome to me as they were still happening when I wanted the film to be more firmly rooted in its own identity.
So there it is. This movie doesn’t 100% work, but it might work enough for you to be worth seeing. It’s the first one to try something actually new with the franchise and the ending opens things up for all kinds of new possibilities. It’s a schlocky b-movie but honestly at this point that’s sort of what this franchise should be. Let this be the franchise Fast Five moment where it stops taking itself seriously, makes a hard left turn into new territory, and lays the groundwork for more fun stuff.
Then again, Colin Trevorrow is returning to direct the next one so don’t get your hopes up too much. This one though, this one might be worth your time.