It's just like taking a stroll through the woods...65 million years ago
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is directed by J.A. Bayona and stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, both of who reprise their roles from Jurassic World. Fallen Kingdom also stars Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, and Ted Levine. Jeff Goldblum makes a brief appearance as Dr. Malcolm.
I had no business liking Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom as much as I did, even going so far as to think to myself that it may be the best Jurassic movie since the first one. Now, I didn't love it; it still serves as another fine example of how the Jurassic Park franchise has evolved into one of the most creativity deprived and lazily written franchises still going on today, but the movie works quite well in certain areas, and its ending sets up a framework for a sequel that I'm honestly looking forward to and am praying Colin Trevorrow doesn't screw up.
The story of Fallen Kingdom is set three years after the collapse of Jurassic World. The dinosaurs roam free on Isla Nublar, but are in danger of becoming extinct once again, as the island's volcano is nearing an eruption. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the former operations manager at Jurassic World, has created the Dinosaur Protection Group to generate support for the dinosaurs, but her efforts are in vain as the U.S. Senate decides that the dinosaurs will be left to die. Shortly afterwards, Claire is contacted by John Hammond's former partner Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) and goes to his estate, where she meets with his aide, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), and learns of a plan to rescue the dinosaurs. Mills emphasizes the importance of saving Blue, the last living Velociraptor, so Claire decides to recruit the help of Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who helped train the Velociraptors on the island. Owen and Claire are accompanied on their trip to the island by the Dinosaur Protection Group's systems analyst Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) and paleo-veterinarian Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda).
What I just described plot-wise is only the first half of the movie, the second half resembling a dinosaur haunted house scenario that tries to stimulate the horror roots of the franchise. You know, the terror and suspense to be had knowing a dinosaur is right around the corner and will eat you if you're not careful enough. The only previous time that the Jurassic franchise has embodied anything horror-related was the velociraptor kitchen scene from the first film, and for the first example of how Fallen Kingdom continues the franchise's streak of bad writing, I'm here to inform you that there is a scene late in the film in which our heroes must stay hidden from a raptor on the hunt.
But I'll get to more of the bad writing later. In the mean time, I do want to discuss how at least, on paper, Fallen Kingdom looks like a repeat of The Lost World, in which a group of humans go to the island entirely populated by dinosaurs and attempt to bring them back to the mainland. I do not categorize this as a low point, however, because I will take any and all attempts to improve upon the concept inherent to the no good sequel that is The Lost World, attempts that I think Fallen Kingdom very much succeeds at. Granted, characters behave like idiots much like in The Lost World, but what's different this time around is that all forms of idiotic behavior in Fallen Kingdom are rightfully punished, a rare kind of satisfaction we didn't really get with the previous four films.
- Fallen Kingdom accepts its identity as a massive product of entertainment that needs to be seen by audiences nationwide, not at all caring to be something that artsy-fartsy viewers would watch and perform a thorough analysis of later on. It knows it is pure escapism, and that is how it works best. J.A. Bayona brings some new nuts and bolts to the dinosaur thrills to spice them up, such as in the opening scene, when appropriately timed lightning flashes show us a T-Rex is on its way and about to make a meal out of the hapless man that has no idea what is right behind him. The entire volcanic eruption scene is also a lot of fun, one because it's a different type of action sequence we hadn't seen before, in which all of the dinosaurs are on the run, and two, because volcanoes are something we reasonably associate to the kind of landscape that dinosaurs lived on 65 million years ago. While not all of the dinosaur action can win points for originality or freshness, there's enough here that feels different so as to not seem like we're going through the Jurassic Park motions again.
- It continues to amaze me, time and time again, how amateurish the writing is for this franchise, with Fallen Kingdom continuing that losing streak. Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly tag team it on the screenplay, and it's clear that neither learned anything from Jurassic World, insisting on recycling even more moments from Jurassic Park like the raptor scene I described earlier. The villains are kind of hilarious; they're money-grubbers who just want to exploit the dinosaurs for profit, about as interesting as a cartoon villain hell bent on taking over the world. Fallen Kingdom also brings back a plot point from the villain in Jurassic World: training raptors for military combat. I don't know why Trevorrow and Connolly thought this was a good idea to bring back, because neither seemed to realize that military raptors won't work; there are too many variables to take into account, like feeding the raptors and the fact that they're not impervious to bullets.
The movie also has a series of deus ex machina moments, with characters, both human and dinosaur, showing up to resolve a conflict and re-enforce my belief that Trevorrow and Connolly are both lazy writers who don't want to put the time and energy into making us fear for our main characters and believe they are in real danger. A little girl about to be eaten by a raptor? Here comes Owen to save the day! Say, remember when Dr. Alan Grant came by to save Hammond's grandchildren from the raptors in the kitchen? Wait, what? That didn't happen? Oh, that's right! Steven Spielberg didn't have a deus ex machina moment for such a famous scene, and that's why we love that kitchen scene so much.
In the end, there were moments where I thoroughly disliked Fallen Kingdom, moments that made me angry at Trevorrow and Connolly for their questionable writing skills and moments that reminded me of how this entire franchise is handicapped by the reputation of the first film. That's not a knock on Jurassic Park; that's a knock on how every film afterwards has been unable to do enough to fully distinguish itself from Jurassic Park and be that sequel like what Aliens is to Alien or what Terminator 2 is to The Terminator. However, when thinking about everything I saw in Fallen Kingdom from start to finish, I came away feeling like it has put the franchise in a bit of a better place, in the sense that it has set up a sequel that will have no reason to not be at least good. Maybe that's to suggest that Fallen Kingdom is a bit of filler material for the next movie, but hey, it's pretty darn entertaining filler material, and it generates optimism that this trilogy can end on a special high note.
(If there was a grade in between a B and a B-, that is the grade I would give this movie. I decided to round down because of the screenplay).
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: