“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” Movie Review


     As much as Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” is renowned as a classic and cultural icon amongst filmdom, I wasn’t overly impressed by 2015’s attempt at rebooting the franchise with “Jurassic World”, which seemed to rely a bit too much on the familiar notes of the original.  But given the massive financial success of the franchise’s relaunch some fifteen years after “Jurassic Park 3” seemingly ran it right off the rails, it is not a surprise to see a sequel arrive in the latest attempt to scoop up another bank vault filled with dino bucks.  Taking over for “Jurassic World” director Colin Trevorrow, J.A. Bayona (“The Impossible”) provides his take on the material with “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”, bringing “Jurassic World” stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard back for another thrill ride within a world that can’t seem to get enough of the famed prehistoric creatures.

     There is certainly no doubt Trevorrow, who returns along with writing partner Derek Connolly to provide the script, was given marching orders by the decision makers at Universal to provide a story delivering the larger than life dino action audiences seem to crave.  Not since the original film have the human characters actually mattered or added anything of substance to the plot, and “Fallen Kingdom” continues that tradition by simply inserting its characters into situations where their prime directive is to make bad decisions resulting in mass carnage.  This, of course, means maximum opportunities for said characters to be chomped and ripped apart by the usual assortment of carnivore creations roaming throughout every scene.  And Bayona lays it on thick, particularly given the unusual setting he is working with here.

     Some time after the events of “Jurassic World”, a band of thieves goes back to the park one dark and rainy night in an effort to retrieve a bone from the skeleton of a dinosaur needed for a soon to be revealed nefarious plot back home.  Right away, you realize “Fallen Kingdom” isn’t interested in following the governing rules of reality, since the park, after all that had happened there, is apparently unsecured, allowing these misfits to simply helicopter in and take what they want.  And for some reason, these dummies seem to believe the dinosaurs there are all dead.  Given the set up, I’m sure you know exactly just how south this operation goes, but your required suspension of disbelief certainly will not stop there.

     Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) is the one time business partner of the late John Hammond, who, as you recall, was the creator of Jurassic Park.  Now at an age where failing health seems inevitable, his business exploits are handled by his assistant, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), who contacts Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) in an effort to collaborate on a mission to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from Jurassic World, just as an erupting volcano threatens to wipe their species out permanently once again.  Of particular interest is the Velociraptor “Blue”, who was trained since birth by Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a dinosaur who represents the first success in communicating and working with such an aggressive and deadly creature.  But Eli’s attempts at persuading Owen to return to the island and help capture Blue have not been successful, leaving Claire as the one person who might be able to sway him.

     The peril experienced by the characters on the island, resulting from the constant volcanic eruptions, flowing lava, and white hot rocks hurling towards our heroes, is expertly brought to life by Bayona and his team.  These scenes, which include shots of the human characters running side by side with dinosaurs as they desperately try to escape the same threat and demise are some of the best shots in the film.  Of course, we know Owen and Claire, as well as their counterparts, Franklin (Justice Smith) and Zia (Daniella Pineda) , are not going to die a half hour into the story, but the tense scenarios they find themselves in ratchet the fear of their death to a near unbearable maximum.  If Bayona could’ve maintained this pace throughout, we might’ve had quite a film on our hands, but then everything slows way down and confines everyone, including the dinosaurs inside of a house.  Yes.  A house.

     The dinos spend most of the rest of the film in cages, as the actual business motivated reason for their rescue is revealed.  It’s at this point, “Fallen Kingdom” devolves into another monster movie taking place in poorly lit hallways and rooms where the power always seems to go out at the worst possible time.  And where would a good horror film be without its characters making bad decisions, like walking into cages with sleeping dinosaurs, leaving cage doors unlocked, or not properly disposing of people of whom you know are in complete disagreement with your current interests.  It’s the kind of thing Dr. Evil made light of in the “Austin Powers” films.  There’s even a little girl, Maisie (Isabella Sermon), conveniently worked into the second half of the story just in case you’re already bored with the other characters and need someone else to emotionally attach yourself to who also looks to be the main course on some mutant dinosaur’s dinner plate.  Children in peril is all the rage you know.  But, believe it or not, there is some merit to all of this.

     Early on, we meet up with Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who is testifying in front of a government committee on the viability of saving the dinosaurs from extinction.  His advice to let them die as nature intended is ignored, but he brings up a very good point about our society in general.  When we develop groundbreaking technology, we tend to exploit it in ways which have a negative effect that wasn’t initially intended.  He’s talking about the ability to bring back dinosaurs in present day and the need to experiment with different breeds for purposes that are not always involving scientific research and education.  And it’s true.  Even today, when some kind of technology takes us by storm, we, as a society, overuse it until what was once a good thing becomes a bad thing (Think the debut of the smartphone in 2007 and where it stands today as a device people can’t seem to take their eyes off of, even if it means sacrificing your own social skills.)  The ending of “Fallen Kingdom” goes for that “Now look what we’ve done.” kind of scenario in which what was once our greatest fear, has now become a reality.  The only question moving forward is how much will people’s lives have changed by the time the third film arrives in 2021?  Both in the story, and in real life.