“Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur? First time you see them, it's like... a miracle.” – Claire Dearing
That quote comes from Bryce Dallas Howard’s character, returning alongside Chris Pratt as Owen Grady in this sequel to Jurassic World. And to answer her question, I remember the first time I really felt like I saw a dinosaur very well. I’ll never forget it. It was a Thursday night sneak preview screening of Jurassic Park in the long-gone days of pre-internet and its spoilers. Twenty-five years ago. The film stunned me. The first time I saw that brontosaur get up on his hind legs and pick food from the top of a tree? I was hooked.
Dinosaurs had come a long, long way from Irwin Allen’s photographically enlarged iguanas in The Lost World, or even Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion creations in One Million Years BC, or Valley of Gwangi. Now, they seemed real, imposing, threatening – they breathed, they drooled, even the pupils of their eyes could be seen to dilate. As the Jurassic Park films have now reached their fifth entry in total, they too have evolved. I guess they’ve had to – otherwise they’d just be the same story, over and over.
This, I suppose, is the most radically different of the franchise so far. I’ve seen it twice, and that was worth doing because on second viewing, I altered my opinion about it slightly. Not quite as distracted by the special effects, which are as astoundingly good as ever, or the 3D – which I still see as a needless novelty, I enjoyed the 2D viewing far more and saw the whole thing as more of a morality play than the out and out horror movie with dinosaurs that I first labelled the film as.
There are some truly amazing set pieces in the film. As much as I love tidal waves in movies, I also like a damn good volcanic eruption. And we have a killer one here. Sadly, no tsunami, but wow, does that mountain explode.
But, of course we all knew that from the trailer. The trailer essentially shows a lot of what happens in the first part of the movie, so we know that the set up is that it’s a few years after the tragic events that happened in Jurassic World. Isla Nublar is now abandoned but being volcanic in nature – the long dormant volcano is ready to blow and those dinosaurs need saving – so our heroes from the previous film are sent on a mission to do just that.
My first impression of the movie was that it looked and felt like something I had seen before, namely Jurassic Park: The Lost World. Rescue mission, deceit, nefarious plan under the table, rampage. And looking at it like that, there really are some very broad similarities. I think that this is inevitable because Jurassic Park had the “WOW” factor of showing us all these fabulous prehistoric creatures in as true to life detail as was humanly possible. So, the second film had to veer away from that and present the dinosaurs as characters in a bigger adventure film rather that have encountering them BE the adventure film. The third was weaker – but at least it had pterodactyls.
So it is here. Jurassic World reintroduced us to the dinosaurs, with the effects the CGI and the rendering executed even better with more lifelike detail, that whole “WOW” actor was back, in spades – especially with the incredible Indominus Rex, their man-made genetic fusion of T-Rex and Raptor. Though my personal favourite of the film was the Mosasaurus, the huge sea creature which has a couple of nice cameos in the new film.
Now we know what they look like, and act like – we need to move on, and much as the military were interested in developing tactical uses for raptors previously, we’re now in a situation where animal traffickers are interested in what other uses can be found for the creatures. Big game hunting, pharmaceutical, agricultural, and of course terrorism and the ever-present arm race. Sadly, the corporation who’ve since taken over InGen from the previous films aren’t exactly shy about meeting the unscrupulous needs of these people and have created a whole new dinosaur called the Indoraptor, which is smaller than the Indominus, but larger than a raptor and can be trained to follow a laser sight.
The moral question relates to whether animals which have been created by man in a laboratory are still considered animals, with a right to survive or are they merely property – a commodity to be written off if necessary. This question is asked in an emotional manner as the island is torn apart by a volcanic eruption, with a tear jerking scene involving a brontosaur on a jetty and mulled over later in the lab where a life or death situation ensues.
It’s a deeper, more intelligent film than it appears on the surface, some images will haunt the viewer long after the credits have rolled. (Though the sight of one dinosaur shrugging off molten lava from its head and carrying on, instead of the lava instantly melting its way through the skull and out the lower part of the jaw is very, very hard to swallow. Harder still is Chris Pratt being impervious to spontaneous combustion when he's about three inches away from a lava flow.)
There’s emotion, yes – but it’s not as Spielbergian a film as its predecessor. For its subject matter, that is probably for the best. As a bridge between its predecessor and its successor, already announced with Colin Trevorrow back in the director’s chair, I think it does the job admirably – as long as the next film doesn’t follow Jurassic Park 3. The sequel is left with an interesting plot to follow.
Life found a way.
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