Root, root, root for the raptors!
Yes, during “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” you’ll find yourself whooping it up for the same dastardly dinos that once hunted Sam Neill and Laura Dern in a jungle. In this humdinger of a movie the series’ best since the 1993 original the ruthless killers become scaly golden retrievers. Humans are the villains this time.
OK, not all humans. Some are just dopes, such as Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). Like making a reservation at a restaurant whose shellfish gave you food poisoning, the pair schleps back to the same island where they were very nearly eaten by a T-Rex years earlier in order to save their beloved prehistoric clones from an imminent volcano eruption.
But there’s a snag. While the bedridden benevolent billionaire (James Cromwell) footing the bill for the trip has noble intentions, Eli (Rafe Spall), the smarmy controller of his fortune, would rather snap up the innocent dinosaurs and sell them to the highest bidder.
So Owen and Claire who thankfully left her stilettos back on the shoe rack rescue the ’saurs from the lava and battle Eli and his evil henchmen with the help of scientist Zia (Daniella Pineda) and an anxious, and very funny, computer geek named Franklin (Justice Smith). The crew jumps between Isla Nublar, where half the film takes place, and the billionaire’s luxe estate on the American West Coast.
The franchise has recently gambled on little-known directors, and it’s paying off. This time Spanish director J.A. Bayona is in charge, and he’s more Spielberg-y than, well, Spielberg is these days. He uses light and shadow to create suspense in the same way classic action movies did before the Michael Bay-ceous period.
Bayona isn’t solely a visuals guy, either. He gets a much better performance out of Howard than in her first go-round; she’s less wide-eyed and helpless here. And Pratt, who plays the Raptor Whisperer, still has that remarkable comedic timing that keeps the film from becoming too self-serious.
“Fallen Kingdom” is a more interesting, and less obvious, story than the usual Tyrannosaurus romps, which tend to be death-defying games of hide-and-seek. But you can hear the eye rolls during an 11th-hour twist involving the benevolent billionaire’s granddaughter, which is way too philosophical for a film where dudes’ heads are bitten off by lizards. Jeff Goldblum, making a cameo appearance as Dr. Ian Malcolm, provides all the high-mindedness we need as he natters on about chaos theory in an early monologue.