Triassic Trouble

Directed by J. A. Bayona

Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeff Goldblum

Released June 22nd, 2018

Rated PG-13


How much would you pay for a dinosaur? A real, living, breathing, terrible lizard? I don’t think I’d pay that much. I don’t have anywhere practical to keep one and I don’t have the resources to feed them. Plus, I already dislike cleaning out the litter boxes for my cats. I don’t want to imagine what it takes to deal with dino droppings. A dinosaur auction takes place in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and auctioneer Gunnar Eversol (Toby Jones) is excited to see how much each thunder lizard goes for. I bet he’s also excited he won’t have to clean out their litter boxes.

Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park is of course one of the all-time great adventure movies, full of memorable characters and crowd-pleasing spectacle. His follow up, The Lost World, was leaner and meaner, with a goofy Godzilla-inspired ending that still brings a smile to my face. Joe Johnston’s Jurassic Park III gets a lot of trouble from the internet, but let me remind millenials that there is a place for B-movies and that place is on my Blu-ray shelf. Even Colin Trevorrow’s horribly nostalgia-ridden Jurassic World has its pleasures, from the instantly-iconic motorcycle ride through the jungle with Chris Pratt’s raptor pals to the final dinosaur battle royale.

In Fallen Kingdom, Pratt is back as the still manly yet now unemployed raptor expert Owen Grady, who is lured back to dinosaur island Isla Nublar by the no-nonsense business professional former ice queen and high heel aficionado turned sympathetic animal rights activist Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who explains that they must go back to the island to save the dino inhabitants from a now-active volcano.

The Jurassic World theme park has been closed since the events of the last film and, understandably, a lot of humans don’t care that the dinosaurs may become extinct for the second time. This sentiment is vocalized in Senate hearings by Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who is somewhat of an authority of the dangers of scientists doing things they could, rather than should. Even so, Grady and Dearing travel back to the island to rescue velociraptor Blue and the other living fossils, before finding themselves double-crossed and back on the mainland in an even more precarious situation.

B.D. Wong returns as Dr. Henry Wu, and although it’s not entirely clear what the genetic artist is up to this time, I bet he’s starting to wish he would have become a sandwich artist at Subway instead. Sure, creating the Indominus Rex and the new Indoraptor is cool, but creating the perfect turkey sandwich has its pleasures too. The Indoraptor lurches through Fallen Kingdom like Frankenstein’s monster, not sure why it was created and uncomfortable with existing. This, coupled with its strange, elongated appearance, makes it a much more interesting villain than the Indominus Rex (A.K.A. plot-o-saurus) of the previous film.

Both Pratt and Howard’s characters are much more likable this time around and the supporting cast (including Rafe Spall and James Cromwell) turn in quality work. There is a revelation at the end of Fallen Kingdom that sets up the next chapter of this series in a surprising way. This reveal may be too ‘out there’ for some audiences, but I love the audacity of the idea and its implications for the next film.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a better film than Jurassic World in every respect, from the way it handles its characters and dinosaurs, to the story, setting, and thrills. Much of this improvement must be thanks to director J. A. Bayona, the talented filmmaker who gave us The Orphanage, The Impossible, and A Monster Calls. Those films all feature horror movie elements, kids in peril, very sad scenes, exciting moments, and great special effects, which makes him an inspired choice to lend his talents to this Jurassicfranchise.

Cinematographer Óscar Faura creates many beautiful shots throughout, including a brachiosaur perishing as the volcano overtakes the island and the long clawed fingers of the Indoraptor stretching out to terrorize a young girl as she hides under her bed covers. Bayona and Faura bring an effective darkness to the series, culminating in an extended haunted house sequence wherein dinosaurs instead of ghosts haunt and hunt the inhabitants of an old mansion. I suppose you could say the genetically revived and altered dinosaurs are ghosts themselves, displaced in time and quite angry about it.