Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) Review

A BRAVE “DINOSAUR” NEW WORLD


 

In 2015, Jurassic World, the fourth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise, was released, bringing with it all the pomp, thrills, chills, and dinosaur adventure back to the big screen since 2001. Directed by Colin Trevorrow, the film, which started Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard and others, saw the return to Isla Nublar and the now fully realized dinosaur amusement theme park that has flourished and become a thriving business. However, when a genetically engineered hybrid dinosaur escapes from its captivity, it sends the island into a frenzy, causing mayhem to both humans and dinosaurs alike as main characters Owen Grady and Claire Dearing must hatch a plan to stop this menacing dinosaur. While some moviegoers and critics had a few issues with the film, Jurassic World received a lot of positive praise and was better received that the previous two sequel installment in the Jurassic franchise. Furthermore, the film went onto become a huge success during the summer of 2015, generating over $1.6 billion (worldwide) at the box office. The film now stands as second highest grossing of 2015, the highest grossing movie of the Jurassic franchise, and sits (currently) as the fifth highest grossing film of all time. Now, three years later, the story of Jurassic World continues as Universal Pictures and director J.A. Bayona release the film Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Does the fifth installment in the franchise continue on the up and up after its 2015 predecessor or does this dinosaur sequel squander its success for a bloated and haphazard cinematic adventure?

THE STORY


Three years after the events that took place in Jurassic World, with the once thriving theme park on Isla Nublar now abandoned by human and leaving the dinosaurs on the island to roam free. However, the once dormant volcano under the island has become active again, posing an extinction level event for the Jurassic creatures that dwell there. With an almost near certainty of an eruption, the nations of the world debate the topic on what to do with this situation: should they save these primordial creatures from being wiped out or should they do nothing and leaves the dinosaurs to go extinct once again? Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is now the head of the Dinosaur Protection Group, believes otherwise, refusing to let the dinosaurs be kill by the volcano. She’s then recruited by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) of the Lockwood Estate, which was established by John Hammond’s former partner Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), organizing a way to get the dinosaurs off the island and to a safe and secure sanctuary. Additionally, Claire enlists the help of former colleague associate Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, who plans to go along with the mission to find the Velociraptor Blue on the island, as well as paleo-veterinarian Dr. Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) and system analyst Franklin Webb (Justice Smith). However, when the mission on Isla Nublar goes wrong and with the volcano ready to burst, Claire and Owen learn the true agenda of Mills’ project and what he’s actually hoping to achieve.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


What can I say…. I do love the original Jurassic Park film. Yes, I was younger when I first saw it and I was super scared and had nightmares about the T-Rex and the raptors chasing me, but it’s one of those movies that has stood the test of time to be something truly iconic and classic in its own right. Despite the film being released almost 25 years ago (from this year of 2018), Jurassic Park still holds up and its one of the movies that I love to watch every now and again. The other two installments (Lost World and Jurassic Park III) were mediocre sequels that semi-captured some of the “dino” adventure that the original one was able to display beautifully. There’s still some fun to them, but not as completely engaging or entertaining as Jurassic Park was able to achieve. As for Jurassic World, its probably my favorite Jurassic sequel and right behind my appreciation for Spielberg’s original film. It was definitely a fun and thrilling movie, displaying the right amount of spectacle, chills, and big summer blockbuster nuances to make the feature memorable within the franchise. Yes, there were a few complaints that I had the film (mostly due to its retread of the first film), but it was definitely one of my favorite movies to see during the summer of 2015 and still carries that same bravado on its home release. It was just one of the movies that left a smile on my face after initial seeing it and I felt completely satisfied with it when the credits began to roll (as I left the theater).

Plus, I think everyone will admit, whether you liked the movie or not, the scene where we (the viewers) actually see a fully functional Jurassic World theme park come alive was something pretty cool to see. Also, I’m a huge Chris Pratt fun, so I’ll liked that he played one of the film’s central protagonists. In a nutshell, Jurassic World didn’t reinvent the wheel when talking about dinosaurs, but simply revigorated moviegoers in the dinosaur franchise.

This brings me back around in talking about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth and latest installment in the Jurassic franchise. Given my liking of Jurassic World, I was definitely looking forward (and hoping) that a sequel film would be made. Fallen Kingdom was one of those movies that I have been longing to see and I sort of scoured the internet (every now and again) to see if any news and / or updates were made about the movie. Plus, I’ve watched film’s trailers many times now (both when I go to my local theater to watch movies and online), so I was pretty “pumped” see Fallen Kingdom. Furthermore, I was curious to see how the movie would ultimately shape up (story-wise) against its predecessor sequels. I mean Jurassic World was a well-received sequel, but Lost World and Jurassic Park III weren’t so well-received? Again, I was really curious to see how Fallen Kingdom would pan out. So…. what did I think of it. Well, to be honest, I really did like it. Despite treading some familiarity territories once again, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a solid dinosaur sequel to the franchise. It may not beat out the original Jurassic Park or Jurassic World, but it’s a great follow-up installment, taking the franchise in a somewhat (and intriguing) new direction.

While director Colin Trevorrow helmed Jurassic World, he passes the baton to director J.A. Bayona (Juan Antonino), whose previous directorial works include movies like The Impossible, The Orphanage, and A Monster Calls, in undertaking and crafting Fallen Kingdom’s filmmaking execution. Giving the different genres of films he’s made over the years (i.e. The Impossible = a disaster thriller, The Orphanage = horror feature, and A Monster Calls = a fantasy coming of age tale), Bayona takes that all into account, bringing that particular skillset of filmmaking directing when approaching to this Jurassic World sequel. As a film (collectively speaking), Bayona seems to find a unique balance between action, adventure, and thrills in Fallen Kingdom for some of the more “chilling / horror” scenes of the entire cinematic franchise. Well, maybe not the entire Jurassic franchise (the best is still the first appearance of the T-Rex or the raptors in the kitchen scene from the first film), but still…. Bayona knows how to create some fantastic horror imagery in the movie. An example of this is a particular scene of which showcases Bayona skills in squeezing out as much tension (as possible) and keeping viewers on the edge of their seat (it surely did for me) throughout the sequence. Thus, while the movie isn’t as blood and / or gory or violent as some of the other Jurassic films (like the first movie or Jurassic World), Fallen Kingdom does have some more “surprisingly tense / dark” moments than any of its predecessors. This also makes for a kindly reminder (to the parents out there) that Fallen Kingdom is not a made for younger kids, despite them probably having a fascination for dinosaurs. However, not everything is horror-ish scares as Bayona also peppers Fallen Kingdom with a few tender moments (mostly of the varying dinosaurs), which showcases the softer / gentle side (or even “wow”) of this dinosaur sequel adventure.

While Bayona helms the project, Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, handle the film’s script, bringing Fallen Kingdom’s story that’s filled with a great deal of tragedy, heart, and sometimes something very poignant in the film’s commentary message, especially when it concerns the fate of the de-extinct dinosaur species. Interestingly, the movie, which usually have a three-act arc to follow, Fallen Kingdom (for the most part) as two halves; both of which are very distinct and different from each other (both in cinematic storytelling and in direction). Naturally, as one can guess by the movie’s trailers, the first half takes place on Isla Nublar, showcasing the island (which stands upon a powder keg as the imminent explosion of the island’s volcano) and seeing the abandoned remains of the Jurassic World theme park, which now lay in ruins. Plus, Bayona ends the first half on an exciting high-note, with the eruption of Isla Nublar’s volcano and a lot of visual flair of lava, hurtling balls of fire, and dinosaur stampeding / rampaging. It’s chaotic and frenetic and helps builds that action blockbuster feeling to the Fallen Kingdom’s proceedings. The second half, taking place off Isla Nublar and on Lockwood Estate, finds a unique way of being more tense and horrific, with much more smaller setting area, but also a lot more close-quarter interaction with humans and dinosaurs. To be honest, it was quite unexpected (I was guessing for a more big and loud climatic conflict like the previous Jurassic films), but it was a smart idea and ultimately works with the movie rather than against it and allows Fallen Kingdom to take the more logical and progressive step towards branching away from the past installments of the franchise; an idea that will probably be further explored in the now untitled Jurassic World 3.

Like all the other movies, there’s still child-like amazement and wonder / terror in seeing these primitive creatures come to life (both in the film and onto the big screen) with Bayona keeping the feature primarily focused on the dinosaurs, while the Trevorrow and Connolly’s script counterbalances it with the discussion of their existence of not only what it means for us (as mankind), but for the creatures that live in the modern world. Perhaps one of the more interesting (and most fascinating) pieces that took away from watching Fallen Kingdom was that particular fundamental question: Do the dinosaurs have the same animal rights as other endanger species or show the laws of nature simply wipe out these de-extinct beings? Like I said, it’s a really interesting question to pose, especially in a movie of which many consider to be a “summer blockbuster / popcorn flick” endeavor and it would be interesting to discuss as a topical debate of some kind in real life. I mean, if you think about, the dinosaurs, while primitive and primordial than humanity, are probably the more savage and ferocious of the two. Thus, could dinosaur and human really co-exist together? Furthermore, building upon the ideas brought up in Jurassic World, the movie continues the thematic idea of genetically engineering as well as training / breeding animals for weapons / military applications. Again, it’s very interesting; reflecting upon today’s world of the advancement made in the science and technology and, if not we’re not carefully, could fatally cause our own downfall (be genetics, biological, or simply mankind trying to “play god). Like the line in the movie states “These creatures were her before us. And, if we’re not careful…. they’re going be her after”. Question for the philosophical ones out there….

For its technical merits, Fallen Kingdom is just simply a beautifully render feature film. Much like Jurassic World, the visual effects are top-notched, bringing to life these ancient dinosaurs (in all shapes and sizes) through the usage of modern computer CG wizardry. Thus, the whole visual effects team on Fallen Kingdom should be commended for their work on the project. Additionally, while modern visual technology utilizes to bring these dinosaurs to life, Fallen Kingdom still uses animatronics / puppetry for several dinosaur / human interactions. It’s still an old technique to use (a lot was used back in the original Jurassic Park film), but it’s still cleverly done in terrific way, producing some larger-than-life thrills / chills; sometimes more so than some of the CGI visual effect scenes. Perhaps one of my favorite aspect in Fallen Kingdom is the cinematography that’s applied in the movie. Done by Oscar Faura, who collaborated with Bayona on The Impossible and A Monster Calls, the film’s cinematography is beautifully, with a lot of creative usage of camera angles as well as the usage of lightening and shadowing. Thus, making Fallen Kingdom one of the most stylish and cinematically Jurassic feature films of the franchise. Seriously, if Faura’s cinematography work on Fallen Kingdom doesn’t get nominated for the “Best Cinematography” at this upcoming award season…. I’ll be super pissed. Other technical areas that should be mentioned, includes film editing by Bernat Vilaplana, production designs by Andy Nicholson, and set decorations by Tina Jones and Carolyn Loucks. Also, the film’s musical composer, scored by Michael Giacchino, is pretty good, hitting all the right moments of eerie / tense-filled scenes as well as big drama epic swells and melodies. Plus, Giacchino still uses several melody cues from John Williams’s classic Jurassic Park score that’s peppered throughout the movie.

Despite a lot of positives, Fallen Kingdom does a few drawbacks that keep it outreach of surpassing Jurassic World as well as Jurassic Park (but I think the latter is pretty much a given because it would be really hard to overtake such classic film like that). Similar to how Jurassic World tread into some familiar territories (i.e. taking several cues from Jurassic Park), Fallen Kingdom does have similarities that are found in Lost World: Jurassic Park. I mean half of the movie is on a dinosaur island, a group of hired mercenary (spearheaded by a militaristic baddie) start hunting / capturing dinosaurs, the back half of the movie takes place off the island, corporate greed of a human individual takes center stage, etc. Considering all that, it’s not that hard to make the similar connection between the two films. However, that being said, I think that Fallen Kingdom is better one of the two films, mostly due to Bayona’s direction of the film as well as staging several key sequences. Coinciding with that notion, there’s also the introduction of the newly engineered dinosaur (i.e. the Indoraptor), which is, more or less, a repurposed concept idea from Jurassic World’s Indominus Rex. While that might be a common thread of these new Jurassic World movies (i.e. man genetically engineering a dinosaur), it just seems a bit redundant per say. Heck, even the somewhat physically design is sort of the same (looking more like a velociraptor than Indominus’s T-Rex attributes). In truth, Fallen Kingdom doesn’t venture out into new territory until the final stretch of the film, which will ultimately set up the next (and possible final) installment of this Jurassic World trilogy. In truth, with the Jurassic World movies being planned as a trilogy, Fallen Kingdom does (for better or worse) fall into the “middle” part of a trilogy, which usually a merely a bridge piece as the first one set everything up and the third one concludes it all. The movie does have a beginning, middle, and end, but just seems like the interlinking middle piece to the whole arc storyline of these Jurassic World movies (if you know what I mean). However, as a somewhat creature feature and continuation to Jurassic World, these negative points aren’t as impactful on my overall likeness of the movie. Although, it might be for others.

The cast in Fallen Kingdom is (collectively) a solid, with several recognizable actors / actresses playing the film’s characters throughout. However, much like Jurassic World, these “human” characters are, more or less, the weaker aspect of the feature. I’m not saying there necessarily bad (acting-wise) in any shape or form, but the human characters are more secondary (and a bit thinly written) in comparison to the dinosaurs in the movie. This is perhaps noticeable in the further continue relationship of the two Jurassic World leads, who return to Fallen Kingdom, with actor Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard reprising their roles as Velociraptor trainer Grady Owen and once head of Jurassic World operations now turned Dinosaur Protection Group Claire Dearing. As professional actors, Pratt, known for his roles in Guardians of the Galaxy, The Magnificent Seven, and Passengers, brings his sense of likeable swagger and roguish charm to Owen (much like he did in Jurassic World), while Howard, known for her roles in The Help, Gold, and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, has a more evolved character development from the previous film (more dynamic and more mature version of Claire), who’s able to keep with Grady and the film’s progression of events rather than being a more “damsel-in-distress”. While I do like both Pratt and Howard (both in real life and as their Jurassic World characters), their so-called “on again, off-again romance feels very much shoehorned into the story for the sake of being simply adding a cheeky rapport between the two protagonist characters. I just don’t simply buy into their relationship, despite their star power / on-screen presence each one respectfully has.

Aiding Pratt’s Grady and Howard’s Claire are young actors Justice Smith (Every Day and Paper Towns) as a former IT technician for Jurassic World and now system analyst for Claire’s Dinosaur Protection Group Franklin Webb and actress Daniella Pineda (The Originals and American Odyssey) as a former Marine and now a Paleoveterinan (who also work for Claire’s organization) Dr. Zia Rodriguez. Together, both Smith and Zia showcase (and provide) the equal amount of comedic relief and somewhat necessary plot progression in Fallen Kingdom as the supporting side characters to the protagonist ones. However, I have to say that Zia almost looks like a slightly younger version of actress Aubrey Plaza (just a fun observation). As for the somewhat film’s antagonist roles, actor Rafe Spall (The Big Short and The Ritual) fills out the role as Lockwood’s ambitious right-hand associate Eli Mills. Much like several other Jurassic features, the character of Mills is setup / de facto baddie of the movie (i.e. humans see the dinosaurs as lowered species and as bargain chips to achieve their ultimate desires). It’s really nothing new, but it seems to fit within Fallen Kingdom’s narrative. Still, Spall’s acting in making Mills a conniving / smarmy business man seems like a perfect fit to me. As a close secondary villain in the movie is the character of Ken Wheatley, a seasoned mercenary-for-hire who works under Mills and who is played by actor Ted Levine (Monk and The Bridge). While Wheatley’s performance is fine, I just can’t shake off the feeling like he’s a vague clone of the late actor Pete Postlethwaite’s Roland Tembo from Lost World.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the movie is the character of Benjamin Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie, who is played by young actress Isabella Sermon. Making her theatrical debut with Fallen Kingdom, Sermon does great job in her role, especially in one particular scene that will truly standout in the entire feature. As for her character, there’s a whole lot of “mystery” that surrounds Maisie (one that turns into a major point in the film’s second half), but I won’t spoil it. My only complaint is that her “mystery” sort of does get brushed aside quickly as Bayona seems more interested in action rather than dissecting the Maisie’s revelation. Perhaps more of her will be uncovered in Jurassic World 3, if her character does return to the feature. Other supporting players in the movie, which includes actor James Cromwell (Babe and L.A. Confidential) as John Hammond’s former partner Benjamin Lockwood, actor Toby Jones (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Painted Veil) as the auctioneer host Gunnar Eversol, and actor B.D. Wong (Law & Order: Special Victim Unit and Oz) who returns to reprise his Jurassic character of Dr. Henry Wu. These roles, though may be limited, are still good and played great by the actors that play them. I wish there was a bit more added “depth” to them. If that was so, it would’ve been perfect. Nevertheless, their sum parts in Fallen Kingdom suffice enough.

Lastly, actor Jeff Goldblum, known for his roles in Jurassic Park, Independence Day, and Thor: Ragnarok does make small cameo appearance in Fallen Kingdom, reprising his role as Dr. Ian Malcolm. While reports of him being in the movie have been confirmed for quite some time (even showing him in the film’s trailers and TV spots), his screen-time is limited (as reported as well), so don’t expecting him to be a major player in the movie. Still, it’s neat that Goldblum’s Malcolm is in Fallen Kingdom and does (in a little way) bridge the continuity gap between the older Jurassic movies to the newer Jurassic World ones. Who knows…. maybe Sam Neil’s Dr. Grant in a possible future installment.

Also, before I forget, the movie does end in an interesting way. Some people might be upset by as the film ends at a point that leaves you wanting more, but I think it ends great. It sort of leaves this Jurassic World story arc in an ominous place. Not darkly ominous (like Avengers: Infinity War), but still leaves the story being told in an uncertain / mysterious turning point…of which I really liked.

FINAL THOUGHTS


The park is closed, Isla Nublar stands upon an extinction level event, and the life can not be contained are the main points to be made in the movie Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Director J.A. Bayona latest film sees the continuation of this newly Jurassic World trilogy as well as the fifth installment in the franchise. While does tread into some familiar territories (scenarios and story-wise) as well as lacking a few character developments, the movie provides the same fun, adventure, and dinosaur thrills one would expect from the Jurassic franchise, while providing enough of Bayona’s influences of horror imagery and (perhaps) a bit more heart and thought-provoking questions than other past installments. Personally, I liked this movie. Yes, it had a few areas that felt familiar and it didn’t outshine Jurassic World (or the timeless classic of the original film), but it was definitely better than Lost World and Jurassic Park III. Plus, I did like the cast (again, I’m a big Chris Pratt fan) and Bayona’s direction / visual flair was made what the franchise ultimately need to revigorated viewers in this beloved dinosaur franchise. Thus, I would give Fallen Kingdom my “highly recommended” stamp of approval; it’s something worth seeing in theaters and definitely one of the more better sequels of long-running franchises out there. Much like what I said in my review, a Jurassic World 3 is already being planned (a tentative release set for June 21, 2021) and it will be interesting to see how that particular installment takes (and ultimately) concludes this Jurassic World trilogy. For now, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom stands as a more mature and realized continuation to its 2015 predecessor, offering plenty of big summer movie entertainment for both the causal moviegoers out there as well as the diehard Jurassic fans alike. All I have left to say is…. “Welcome….to Jurassic World!”

4.2 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)

 

Released On: June 22nd, 2018
Reviewed On: June 22nd, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom  is 128 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science fiction violence and peril

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