OK, so I want to talk at length about this movie because I feel like everyone who wants to see it has probably seen it and I can get into spoilers and such. But first: it’s not as good as the first one, but it’s far better than the other two sequels. I really, really like this movie. There, that’s done.
The movie has some big problems. The two kids aren’t particularly good; I liked Simpkins a lot in Iron Man 3 (though a lot of people didn’t), but I found most of their personal drama to be really forced. The monorail divorce scene is just really, really bad. Now, I couldn’t help but contrast this with the way the original Jurassic Park dealt with the issue of divorce and fatherhood. In a way that entire movie was about Alan Grant becoming a surrogate father figure to Tim & Lex; this was a significant relationship for all three of them. But think about that “He left us!” moment in the first film and that moment of the three of them asleep in the helicopter (or maybe a jeep, I don’t recall for sure) and how those small moments like that were weighted with real emotional heft. And all of that without anyone ever having to sit down and actually have a conversation about what it means to be a father and what it means to be a child of divorce. This is how you do things like this with grace and real emotion and not with a sledgehammer. Once the trouble starts, the kids become tolerable (I really liked the gyroball sequence actually). Irrfan Kahn, an actor I’ve really liked, particular in The Lunchbox where he gives a genuinely great & transformative performance, doesn’t really work here because the scripting on him is so inconsistent. So, that was a problem. I was, I should say, briefly annoyed by all the product placement until I got that it was a joke on Trevorrow’s part.
But, by and large, I liked the characters and thought they worked. Bryce Dallas Howard gives a genuinely great performance here; I’d forgotten both how good she is and how charismatic she is. There’s a great moment with a dying dinosaur where she just sells everything the scene is about without saying a single word. It’s just great acting. Pratt is everything he was hired to be and that’s not a slam. D’Onofrio is fun (and, by the way, made a surprising amount of sense for a villain; just sayin’).
The things that the trailers had me worried about were handled more subtly and realistically than I feared they would be. The Pratt’s Amazing Raptors bit was less about them being trained and more about him having a very loose relationship of trust with them. It never made the raptors feel less dangerous. The I. Rex was substantially less stupid than he could have been as well. The whole “killing for sport” thing sounded dumb, but it was more indicative of a sort of “killing through conditioning;” like Pratt says, the I. Rex has been trained through isolation to see everything else in its environment as a piece of meat. And the whole I. Rex communicating with Pterodactyls/Pteranodons/whatever was just something that wasn’t actually in the movie; it just appeared that way from the trailer. The I. Rex communicating with the raptors wasn’t a problem for me. I did like JPIII after all. And, by the by, I had no idea Lauren Lapkus, who played the main female tech in the control room, was in this movie; she’s probably the single funniest comedian on the planet (check out her podcast appearances on Scott Aukerman’s Comedy Bang Bang if you need proof) and I had no idea she was in this so, despite the fact that she wasn’t really used for comic purposes here, it was still fantastic to see her turn up. That was another jaw-drop moment, I guess; “Holy **** that’s not . . . THAT IS SO LAUREN LAPKUS!!”
But onto the stuff I just really loved. The movie did have a really great “Wow” moment of the kind I thought I was over after the first Jurassic Park and that was the moment the I. Rex reveals its camouflage ability; the way it just moves and you suddenly realize that you’ve actually been looking at it was a genuine jaw-drop moment. And the movie isn’t just an action flick; like the original, it’s also interested in being scary. Does it live up to the raptors in the kitchen? No. But it’s clearly working toward the same kind of frisson with two great scenes: the water drop by the pterodactyl, which was genuinely horrifying to me, and the “new alpha” moment, when the four raptors, having just faced down the I. Rex, just all slowly turn and look toward the humans arrayed behind them. That was a genuine “oh, ****” moment of the kind that this franchise, at its best, has been capable of (even the dreadful Lost World managed one of these, the raptors in the tall grass). That whole sequence of the raptors turning back into villains was just amazing. The film had certainly kept them threatening, but it did a good job carefully keeping them from being too threatening so that when they turned, it was a moment of real panic. They’d made me forget just what good villains the raptors really are. To the characters, I really liked both Pratt & Howard and I liked them as a couple and, once the running and screaming starts, they just keep developing (the moment when Howard pumps three shots into the pterodactyl attacking Pratt was fantastic). And the kids stop being as annoying too; the argument over how many dinosaurs the kids are looking at was an awesome bit. The entire pterodactyl attack was great and, unfortunately, one of the only times the fact that the park was actually functional really played into the movie. And speaking of that park . . . I would attend the **** out of that park.
But, come on, we all know why we’re here and I cannot oversell you on the intense emotions I experienced during that climax. From the moment Howard lights that red flare to the moment that raptor stares Pratt down and then sprints off into the park, I was just in a sort of nostalgic haze of pure pleasure. When the two Rexes first face each other, I suddenly realized that I had a huge smile on my face and tears (******* TEARS) had actually come into my eyes. This was what I wanted; that damned T. Rex that saved the day in the first movie, still carrying those scars, to just stomp the everloving **** out of that damned I. Rex. I didn’t mind the raptor getting involved; it didn’t cheapen the moment for the T. Rex. I did not care for the sudden appearance of the “new dinosaur” on the block and the way it actually finished off the I. Rex. I wish that moment had been left to the T. Rex. At that moment in the film, I was feeling this insane emotional connection to the T. Rex & the raptor; I had no such connection to the mosasaur or whatever the heck. But that’s a small quibble when it comes to a climax this satisfying.
In short (lol), I loved this movie. It was certainly flawed, as I’ve talked about, and not a patch on the original. But when it comes to my emotional experience of the film, I just went with the movie and loved the experience of it. I was originally going to give this 3 ½ stars because of the flaws I talked about above. But the more I think about the way this movie made me feel in the aggregate, I just find I can’t quibble with pure pleasure. Why be a dick about it? 4 stars.
tl;dr – film is flawed and not nearly as good as the original, but it’s the best of the sequels by far and the emotional experience of it is absolutely breathtaking. 4 stars