Published on June 22nd, 2018 | by Dan Nicholls0
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
It may not win everyone over, and we can’t say it’s not without flaws, but pound for pound, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom evolves the franchise.
Science has run amok once again and genetically engineered dinosaurs are on a rampage in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a new blockbuster that goes slightly esoteric in the service of avoiding modern day sequel pitfalls. It isn’t fully successful and character logic is dumber than a doornail. There are repetitive tropes and clichés that are leaned into hard. And yet it all still remains wrapped up in its own odd blanket, impervious to the threats from within and pre-registered audience hatred. At the end of the day, this Jurassic World delivers visually engrossing spectacle with an atmosphere of its own that you won’t find anywhere else.
A Shady Corporate Villain (Rafe Spall) contacts our intrepid Romantic Lead Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) with a proposition — take the all the resources they have and go save as many dinosaurs as possible. Claire’s a bleeding heart activist fighting against the world’s indifference to letting these man-made specimens die off forever, so she jumps at the chance. But she needs our Stoic Male Hero Owen (Chris Pratt) to join. As we recall from the first film, Owen has a special bond with a particularly advanced velociraptor named Blue, and he’s the only one who can help tame the beast and bring her in. Unbeknownst to Claire and Owen, though, this rescue mission is all a ruse to cover a more nefarious plot. And Blue is the key to it all.
In the realm of summer blockbusters, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a fascinating outlier simply based on its tone. Where once there was awe and wonder there is now only dread and fear. Sinister musical notes and lighting tell you right off the bat — there’s no ‘Ellie sees a brontosaurus for the first time’ moments here. To some, that’s disingenuous to the whole idea of a movie set in the Jurassic Park world. But others will view it as an inspired injection of ominous foreboding — which I surely do.
It isn’t ‘fun’ in the sense that it’s a rip-roaring adventure. The fun comes more in thriller format, where you clench your armrest during many tense sequences. Each frame is packed with VFX and production design that captivate even when the story and characters don’t and in the spirit of John Hammond himself, it would appear that no expense was spared in bringing this film to the big screen.
Look, the movie is dumb. But it isn’t insultingly dumb, because it knows it’s a B-movie at heart so therefore it’s operating on a B-movie playing field. And in that sense, it’s the most expertly executed mega-budget B-movie ever. Because no matter how you split it this movie can be deduced to expensive trash. Stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are as game as ever but they’re given little opportunities to do anything interesting — they coast along solely on movie star charisma but Howard in particular shows off some momentarily impressive chops when it comes to screaming and running scared shitless.
Directory J.A. Bayona makes every groan-worthy moment seem passable thanks to his dedicated sense of mise-en-scene and action. There are visuals in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that will stand with the storied franchise’s strongest, most indelible imagery. There’s simply no comparing to the 1993 OG that started it all because that’s an impossible bar to meet. You’ll find more to stick in your memory here than in The Lost World and Jurassic Park III combined, however. If you’re a fan of these movies it’s doubtful you’ll shake your head in dismay as you walk out the theater.
Technical merits are high across the board here. Really the only part of it all that’s lacking is the screenplay, written by Derek Connolly and Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow. But still — the screenplay doesn’t pretend to be anything that it’s not. There’s no political grandstanding or overwrought emotional monologues. It’s a vehicle to get dinosaurs off the island and into a civilized landscape; that alone sounds similar to 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park, but Fallen Kingdom has more of a unique identity in its thumbnail than that bloated Spielberg mess had in its entirety.
Where the series leaves us to move on from here is indeed more exciting than even the peaks of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. But does the promise of greater things to come make the journey worthwhile in its own right? In my opinion, it does.
A lot of people aren’t going to jive with the mix of jungle exploration adventure and haunted house horror scares but it truthfully works well — it’s just not at all the movie we expected it to be. We’re given exactly what we’re promised, so any incredulous outbursts from critics should be muted to a calmer level. Because Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom keeps it the same while dishing out a wildly different flavor at the same time. It’s no Jurassic Park — of course it isn’t. It doesn’t even go toe-to-toe with 2015’s nostalgic blockbuster Jurassic World. But in a universe of retreads and paint-by-the-numbers recreations of what worked before (looking at you here, Incredibles 2) Fallen Kingdom more than makes a trip to the theater refreshing and rewarding in its own way.