REVIEW: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom [2018]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★


Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 128 minutes | Release Date: June 22nd, 2018 (USA)
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director(s): J.A. Bayona
Writer(s): Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow / Michael Crichton (characters)

“They’re alive. Like me.”

Anyone who read/watched Jurassic Park in the 1990s should have known the product of John Hammond’s hubris: a marriage between mankind’s extinction and evolution into something more. This is what the themes of control and the lack thereof portend. To play God is to risk losing everything we have built in the past 300,000 years. Because whether we bring back that which nature destroyed (dinosaurs) or create something wholly new (through genetic manipulation and cloning), we breathe life into a being not meant for the present day. So no matter how big and dangerous these monsters ultimately become, we aren’t fighting them as much as the greed of the few people willing to sacrifice their souls for profit. The dinosaurs are a distraction from our ever-present death wish.

So why has it taken twenty-five years to reach that goal? Maybe if author Michael Crichton was given the time to really think about what a sequel to his self-contained science fiction adventure could deliver, he would have done so much sooner. But the international powerhouse that Steven Spielberg‘s cinematic adaptation became proved too much. The desire to strike while the iron was hot created a snowball effect from Crichton being talked into penning a second novel and the production getting underway. This course of events led to the franchise stripping away what made it so unique in order to focus on blockbuster popcorn sensibilities of death, destruction, and double-cross. The property was neutered into empty schlock, branded with a moniker whose pedigree it couldn’t hope to equal.

This meant that Colin Trevorrow‘s Jurassic World had a choice: follow in those creatively bankrupt footsteps or start anew. While the result may not have been perfect, the decision to take the latter avenue by going the reboot sequel route meant potential existed for the first time in decades. It utilized what worked so well in the original almost beat for beat (for better or worse), bringing us back to the fork in the road Spielberg and company failed to solve. And it was there that Trevorrow and writing partner Derek Connolly took the opposite road forward towards a journey that lead them to two logical thematic progressions able to turn an action series back into the science fiction it was meant to deliver: cohabitation and human experimentation.

That course correction makes Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom the most intriguing and fresh entry into the saga since the beginning. Couple it with director J.A. Bayona‘s emotional horror (The Orphanage) and disaster (The Impossible) sensibilities and we receive a chapter worthy of the stakes Crichton alluded to finally exploding globally in scale. The only reason we spent an hour of The Lost World on Isla Sorna is because the storytellers weren’t bold enough to weigh the consequences of dinosaurs on the mainland and show a new world order being made in real time. Bayona and company, however, have no reason to stall. Whether they have a foolproof direction that they’re heading towards next remains uncertain, but at least they’re taking the risk to go big or go home.

So they create a reason for Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to return to the scene of their greatest failure—because unlike Drs. Grant and Sattler, they were a part of this project rather than spectators. The filmmakers capitalize on this duo’s naturalist tendencies and love for the creatures they helped nurture, crafting a rescue mission set against a clock as Isla Nublar’s volcano threatens to destroy everything. And just like before with Hammond cajoling Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) into providing scientific evidence the dinosaurs could live in a sanctuary, an as yet introduced partner (James Cromwell‘s Benjamin Lockwood) of that late originator shares similar intentions. And as Hammond’s nephew brought mercenaries, so too does Lockwood’s “trusted” executor (Rafe Spall‘s Eli Mills).

Cue the disaster porn chaos of escaping a literal exploding island as a pulse-pounding endeavor used as prologue rather than filler padding the runtime. The main double-cross is revealed early so the conflict point between Claire/Owen (alongside cohorts in Justice Smith‘s Franklin and Daniella Pineda‘s Zia) and Mills (with Ted Levine‘s opportunistic hunter and Toby Jones‘ nefarious broker Mr. Eversol) can cement itself without superfluity. Add Lockwood’s scared young granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) as a bystander caught in the middle (what’s a Jurassic Park film without a bit of youthful innocence) and the majority of the piece plays like the original’s tensely claustrophobic, mayhem-inducing climax inside Hammond’s visitors’ compound. This time it’s Lockwood’s mansion with multiple dinosaur species, an armed militia, and a new abomination coined the Indoraptor.

The action is therefore performed on a much smaller scale than The Lost World and Jurassic Park III. These are dinosaurs in our habitat—each proving how ill-suited the world we’ve created is to fending off predators bigger, quicker, and smarter than those we readily lock behind cages in zoos. It’s about setting into motion the tough questions Crichton flirted with without overtly asking them and showing audiences that compassion is the path towards salvation rather than greed. It presents its characters with impossible choices without forfeiting the fun entertainment we’ve learned to expect from the series. Bayona definitely cultivates a darker, more micro-focused aesthetic, but it’s no less funny (Pratt thankfully isn’t forcing his unbecoming gruff machismo as much as in the last movie) or technologically sound.

It’s also far from flawless. Having Raptors trained like dogs was silly before and still is now—regardless of Dr. Wu’s (BD Wong) plan to engineer weaponized dino-soldiers. The will-they-won’t-they between Claire and Owen is even less interesting this time since we’ve already seen heightened states of fear bring them back together and thus know they’re wholly incompatible beyond lustful desire. And Fallen Kingdom could also do with a bit of editing to pare down its two hour-plus runtime. But those are all merely superficial issues that don’t detract from the ideas advancing mankind to the brink of annihilation. It feels like the middle of a trilogy, but it achieves its goal of creating uncertainty for what’s to come. Hopefully the next chapter makes good on its promise.


photography:
[1] The Indoraptor stalks its prey—(L to R) Owen (CHRIS PRATT), Claire (BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD) and Maisie (ISABELLA SERMON) in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” When the island’s dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event. Welcome to “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” Photo Credit: Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC. COPYRIGHT © 2018 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS and AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT, INC. and LEGENDARY PICTURES PRODUCTIONS, LLC.
[2] Maisie (ISABELLA SERMON) wakes up to a nightmarish Indoraptor guest in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” With all of the wonder, adventure and thrills synonymous with one of the most popular and successful series in cinema history, this all-new motion-picture event sees the return of favorite characters and dinosaurs—along with new breeds more awe-inspiring and terrifying than ever before. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC. COPYRIGHT © 2018 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS and AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT, INC. and LEGENDARY PICTURES PRODUCTIONS, LLC.
[3] Owen (CHRIS PRATT) meets the vicious T. rex in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” When the island’s dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen and Claire (BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD) mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event. Welcome to “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” Photo Credit: Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC. COPYRIGHT © 2018 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS and AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT, INC. and LEGENDARY PICTURES PRODUCTIONS, LLC.

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