Movie Beat: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard entertaining in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”
By Jenniffer Wardell
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril
Written by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, based on characters created by Michael Crichton
Directed by J.A. Bayona
Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell and more
Grade: Three and a half stars
Sometimes, the sequel is better than the original.
That’s the case with “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” a rousing, fast-paced adventure movie that has some of the excitement and awe its immediate predecessor lacked. It’s surprisingly fun, though there are a few emotional moments for animal lovers, and the characters have grown up and rounded out into much more engaging people. If you’re into dinosaur-related mayhem and plucky people saving the day, it’s a great way to spend two hours.
The movie starts three years after the original “Jurassic World,” with news reports that the island the dinosaurs are all still on is about to get wiped out by a volcano. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) finds some help in saving at least some of the dinosaurs from the island, getting Owen (Chris Pratt) to come along so they can find Blue the Velociraptor. When things take a dangerous unexpected turn, however, Claire, Owen and their friends have to figure out a way to save the dinosaurs and themselves at the same time.
Though the movie tries to lightly touch on some sci-fi issues – they brought Jeff Goldblum back to monologue for that exact purpose – it’s at its best as an animal-based adventure movie. Unlike the “Jurassic Park” trilogy, where the heroes were paleontologists, here the relationship between dinos and the “good” humans are more like wild, endangered animals and the people working to save them. The villains are clearly animal traffickers, and though there’s hints of “bad” science they’re mostly just accents rather than the central plot.
(For fans of the original “Jurassic Park,” there’s also plenty of deeply satisfying revenge eatings of the movie’s villains.)
On an interpersonal note, the movie also navigates the romantic tension between Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard far more successfully (in that it was able to convince me it actually existed). We get very little of what happened to them in the three years since we last saw them, but there’s an actual sense of tenderness and partnership between them that absolutely didn’t exist in the first film. When they kiss here, the gesture feels like it has some meaning beyond a note from a studio executive.
My one real issue is that they’ve shoved an entire character deep into the universe’s backstory, someone who was supposedly involved in the entire concept of dinosaur creation since before the original “Jurassic Park.” They do a good job of integrating him here – I spent most of the movie wondering if they’d introduced him in either of the “Jurassic Park” sequels and I’d somehow forgotten about it – but his sudden presence in the larger universe is jarring. I’m certain they could have used a character that actually existed in a previous “Jurassic Park” property to fill the same role in the story, though it admittedly wouldn’t have let them squeeze James Cromwell onscreen for five minutes.
The ending is a little bit of a surprise, actually taking the “Jurassic” universe in a slightly new direction for the first time since the movie series started. It won’t really be explored until the inevitable sequel, but if it’s anything like “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” I’ll definitely be in the theater when it happens.