There’s a moment where Isla Nublar sinks as a volcano destroys what was once Jurassic World — no real spoiler, the film’s tagline is “The island is gone” — and a brontosaurus stands in the smoke, unable to escape, where real emotion came out of me. It’s like that moment when I was a child, when we went to a Mystery Spot near Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. They had a dino tour that had statues of different creatures and sound effects, acting like they were real and at one point of the tour, encouraged you to shoot at them with fake M16 machine guns. I ran up and down our little train and begged everyone to please stop shooting the dinosaurs.
I have a troubled relationship with Jurassic Park. This film makes the same mistakes as nearly every other in the series. One, never go back to the island. Two, every kindly inventor of the park has a younger successor who only cares about making money and has hired mercenaries who are never there to help. Third, BD Wong is always up to no good.
Yet I found myself really enjoying this movie much more than previous films in the series. Maybe it’s because so many of this iterations set pieces play out more like a horror or disaster movie than a blockbuster, starting with an attempt to retrieve the DNA of Indominus Rex from what is left of Jurassic World, which ends with a spectacular attack by the Mosasaurus.
Throughout the film, the question is often posed — should these creatures live or die? During a Senate hearing, Dr. Ian Malcolm (a welcome Jeff Goldblum) opines that they should go extinct again to make up for the mistakes of John Hammond. Meanwhile, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) from the last film has started a group to save them. Late in the film, it’s posed that she — by authorizing Idominus Rex in the first place — is just as responsible for where the world is as the bad guys. Malcolm may have said the same if asked — he feels that mankind cannot handle the power of evolution, a trait that holds true to his character in the original film.
Of course, we have to go back to the island. And Claire is lured, just as everyone has been, by the chance to fix her mistakes and save the creatures that are left. She’s contacted by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), Hammond’s original partner, and asked to help save what’s left of the species on the island. There’s another reason to go back — a chance to see her one-time (twice now?) boyfriend Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, making a very real run for man of summer between this and Infinity War) and rescue his dino daughter, Blue the raptor.
There are secrets, though. Eli Mills, Lockwood’s aide, has a secret agenda. If this seems like a rerun of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, well, it totally is. And if Ken Wheatley (Silence of the Lamb‘s Ted Levine) is the same merc as every other merc in the series, so be it, although his trait of taking teeth from every dinosaur is a neat character tic.
That said, there are some thrilling moments here, such as the aforementioned destruction of the island, an auction where the viewer cannot wait for the chaos that the dinosaurs will eventually cause and a horrific sequence where the new Indoraptor stalks Maisie, Lockwood’s granddaughter (kinda sorta — there’s a reveal here). There’s some fun character interplay between techie Franklin Webb and Dr. Zia Rodriguez, a paleoveterinarian who has never seen a dinosaur for real. And the end — where the question is asked once again if these creatures should live or die — hit all my emotional buttons.
Look — it’s a big dumb summer blockbuster. Sometimes, that’s all you need on a Friday night after a long week of work. Sure, we’ve seen everything before in this series, but the end of this film, which finally takes the dinosaurs away from the park and loose in the world for the final part of this trilogy cycle, sets up something brand new. And that’s actually the most exciting part of this film.