Ever since the first Jurassic Park debuted in the Summer of 1993 I have been a sucker for this series, no matter how much it required me to ignore the fairly obvious decline in quality with each installment. What the first movie understood, and what makes it so easy to love, is that the sight of dinosaurs living amongst humans should invoke a sense of awe. Yes, they can be frightening, but above all else they are incredible. Additionally, that movie at least made an attempt to ensure that the whole thing seemed possible, both scientifically and in the way the characters behaved. As the years and the franchise went on, those moments of wonder and anything resembling logic were gradually excised until we got to this, the sixth in the series, and for about the first hour or so, easily the dumbest.
The movie opens with a lengthy bit of exposition, filling us in on what the world is like now that dinosaurs are loose and living among the general population. We then see Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), Zia (Daniella Pineda), and Franklin (Justice Smith) sneaking into an illegal dinosaur breeding site to capture evidence against it when Claire takes it upon herself to rescue an ailing infant triceratops. Her partner, Owen (Chris Pratt) is back at their cabin in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where he works capturing and relocating stray dinosaurs, while also allowing his “pet” velociraptor Blue and her child to roam free in the surrounding woods (hypocritical much?) and raising 14-year-old Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), whom you may remember is a clone of billionaire Benjamin Lockwood’s deceased daughter. Poachers are after the animals that Owen is trying to protect however, and when one of them notices the missing girl living with the couple, they report the sighting and are immediately assigned with kidnapping her along with Blue’s offspring.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and her team are investigating a rapidly growing swarm of giant locusts that have been terrorizing the American midwest. While at one attack site she notices that the neighboring farm’s crops grown with seed from tech conglomerate Biosyn have been left untouched, she begins to become suspicious of their involvement with the mysterious appearance of the insects. So she heads off to find Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) at his dig site to recruit him to help her gather evidence from Biosyn’s headquarters. After some hesitation he agrees, and they are off at the invitation of fellow Jurassic Park disaster survivor Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who has taken a job working for Biosyn.
If all of that seems like a lot (and this is with me leaving out quite a bit), that’s because it is, and as a result the first half of the movie spends a lot of time hopping from place to place trying to pack in as much information as possible while the 2 separate plot threads head towards their inevitable convergence. The problems with this are made even worse by how utterly ludicrous some of the developments are, with some moments feeling more like something from Universal’s other money-vacuuming franchise The Fast and the Furious than this one. That being said, once everyone winds up in the same general area things shift gears to become more of an homage to the original movie, replete with references of varying subtlety. While not exactly an original idea in this age of rebootquels like Halloween and Scream, it does become a more enjoyable experience after the shift. Watching people get chased through a jungle by massive creatures brought back from extinction is a surefire way to generate excitement, and so I was jumping around in my seat during much of the greatly improved (though still imperfect) second half.
Aside from the series’ usual anti-corporate messaging, the movie doesn’t have very much to say, which is probably to be expected from the sixth installment of a science fiction action franchise. The cast seem happy enough to be collecting their paychecks if not exactly giving it their all and director Colin Trevorrow continues to prove adept at handling the big setpieces. While many fan-favorite beasts get screentime they continue to trot out new dinosaurs, including the particularly nightmarish Therizinosaurus which ultimately feels underutilized. There are moments here that remind viewers of what makes these movies so special so it is a shame that you have to sit through a lot of nonsense to get to them. Since those moments are so back-loaded, one does come away feeling like it was a good time, but if only watching the first half it would be hard not to think that perhaps the series needs to go extinct. ★★★
RATED PG-13 for intense sequences of action, some violence, and language.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor