WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, in theaters now.
For all intents and purposes, the Jurassic Park franchise has always been about dinosaurs. Sure, we've had humans with their god complexes (Richard Attenborough's John Hammond), scientists tampering with nature's evolutionary course (B.D. Wong's Dr. Henry Wu), intellectuals warning against these experiments (Jeff Goldblum's Dr. Ian Malcolm), and a multitude of heroes who more or less have the creatures' best interests at heart.
But ultimately, the franchise's speaking roles have comprised its supporting cast, as the prehistoric creatures -- from the T-Rex to the Brontosaurus, and the Velociraptors to the Mosasaurus -- have demanded the spotlight, and often steal the show.
However, director J.A. Bayona, really flips the script by breaking free of the old shackles with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Not only does he shift the status quo by having dinos escape into the free world, he paints something totally new by taking quite a bit of the focus away from the animals, thus giving himself room to shape the most human story the franchise has ever told to date.
Sure, Jurassic Park films usually tug on our love for dinos, but Bayona crafts a different kind of love. People aren't fawning over them in a park, marveling at the science that revived them, or treating them with care because they're antiques from a time past. Here, there's something much more genuine, with the humans actually considering them as more than just animals.
We get this right off the bat with Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her Dinosaur Protection Group, activists along the lines of PETA and Greenpeace, ready to go the distance to preserve the creatures from extinction. This is highlighted by her allies, the paleoveterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda) and tech specialist, Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), who all make the perilous journey to Isla Nublar to save the dinosaurs from a volcanic eruption.
The level of concern expressed over the dinosaurs in peril brings a warmer feeling to the franchise than we've seen in the past. In prior installments, the humans, even the past protagonists, weren't really there for anything other than selfish reasons: to monitor the park, to assess the state of the dinos, and to make sure their existence didn't pose a genuine threat to mankind. But in Fallen Kingdom, these activists are putting their own lives on the line to rescue the dinos, placing the animals's safety first, even ahead of their own.
There's also a deeper sense of family and connection forged through the bond of Blue, the highly-intelligent raptor, and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). Though their bond was explored in the last film, here, she's more than a pet to him; she's like a child he brought up since birth, which is why he goes back to Isla Nubla and eventually tries to stop Wu's plan to sell and weaponize dinos.
The father-figure role Owen plays comes full-circle later in the film as he's now trying to save even the T-Rex at the end, a creature humans have usually tried to kill. This emphasizes that they're no longer viewed as exhibitions, not even this behemoth we considered a villain in the old flicks. What's also worth noting is when we see the dinos dying on Isla Nublar after the volcano erupts, our heroes are truly affected, looking on as if other humans are dying, upset over the fact that they couldn't protect them all.
This sense of equality, and yes, family, is what drives the film's finale, and compounds what Bayona was trying to achieve all along. Here, Maisie Lockwood, the cloned daughter of Benjamin Lockwood (one of the men who started the vision for the park), frees the imprisoned dinosaurs on her family's estate in California. Owen and Claire don't want to, reluctantly willing to let them die in a fire, but Maisie does so behind their backs because she sees them as equals. In her eyes, they're just as human to her, with just as much of a right to live; after all, none of them asked be created, but none of them want to die.
Directed by J.A. Bayona from a script by Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom stars Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and B.D. Wong, joined by Toby Jones, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, Ted Levine, Geraldine Chaplin, James Cromwell, and Jeff Goldblum.