Does anyone recall anything more than generalities about Jurassic World? I know Chris Pratt trained raptors at a park run by Bryce Dallas Howard, who was not happy about chaperoning her nephews around said park right as it went nuts courtesy of a bad dinosaur she should not have had designed by original InGen geneticist Henry Wu (B.D. Wong, who returns to maniacally manipulate more genes). Viewing the sequel may have strengthened the Dr. Wu recollections, as I could not even remember the last name of Pratt’s character before last Thursday.
My strongest memory of Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic Park reboot involves enjoying it, so my expectations of Fallen Kingdom were less negatively emboldened. I anticipate remembering more from director J.A. Bayona’s sequel, which embraces the concept’s inner horror movie in its effective last act, during which the most menacing hybrid dino yet, the Indoraptor, hunts our heroes in a haunted mansion/underground laboratory redolent of a pre-outbreak Resident Evil.
In the return visit to Jurassic World, Howard and Pratt’s on-again, off-again couple and two new faces who probably will not show up in JW3 (don’t worry, that’s a prediction, not a spoiler) run afoul of some nasty rich people who want to profit off Isla Nublar’s dinosaurs being threatened by an imminent volcanic eruption. Thankfully, the movie breezes through its setup, getting to and leaving the island quicker than expected, as if the filmmakers knew what awaited its characters and audience was the good stuff.
Half the scripting team of Jurassic World, Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, go in an unexpected direction—evil auction in a gothic mansion—that makes the title more promise than threat. Horror has always been in Jurassic Park’s DNA; leave it to the director of The Orphanage to hone in on that oft-forgotten aspect of dinosaurs running amok. From its opening to that extended climactic sequence, Fallen Kingdom is the scariest entry in a franchise that remains family-friendly in the manner of executive producer Steven Spielberg.
While comparisons to Jaws—Spielberg’s master class in terror—are trendy, if apropos, what gives Fallen Kingdom an advantage over its fellow dino-sequels is how much of an adventure vibe it cribs from another Spielberg classic. Even with Pratt puzzlingly dialing down his puppy-dog charm in his second outing as Owen Grady, the island and shipbound set pieces play like Indiana Jones-dinosaur fanfic. (Raiders of Jurassic Park?) The mission to emancipate caged dinosaurs even evokes Temple of Dino Doom.
With the fun of Jurassic World invested in the opportunity to visit an up-and-running version of the theme park experience promised by John Hammond way back in 1993, the entertainment value of seeing it destroyed may have been overvalued. Apparently, Trevorrow anticipated that development and knew dinosaurs on the mainland was the inevitable next step in the franchise evolution. (Not that such a plot development is ultra-creative; even the mostly extinct Lost World, whose best sequence is the T. Rex terrorizing San Diego, got that much right.) Though the JP franchise could have gotten to this global disaster in less than three sequels, Fallen Kingdom is a fun last stop before finally reaching that long-expected destination.