Home > Reviews > REVIEW – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

REVIEW – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Directed by: J.A. Bayona
Produced by: Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley, Belén Atienza
Written by: Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly
Edited by: Bernat Villaplana
Cinematography by: Oscar Faura
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, B.D. Wong, Isabella Sermon, Geraldine Chaplin, Jeff Goldblum
Year: 2018

 

Well, if anything, I think Jurassic Park III is still the worst movie in this series…

I’ll give Fallen Kingdom this, however: it’s a much different movie from the other four, which is pretty much what I expected from Spanish film director J.A. Bayona, who is responsible for one of the most gut-wrenching and beautiful horror films I’ve ever seen, The Orphanage, in addition to one of the more heart-wrenching family films of recent times, A Monster Calls. That being said, I was definitely hoping for more from Bayona’s contribution, particularly considering his credentials far exceeded that of previous director and this film’s co-writer, Colin Trevorrow.

Picking up 3 years after the previous film, Isla Nublar – the island that housed both previous parks – is now about to self-destruct and take out the de-extinct-but-soon-to-be-extinct-again creatures with an island-wide volcanic eruption. Claire, who once oversaw operations at the previous park, is now working as an advocate for saving the dinosaurs from their impending destruction. Her prayers are answered when Benjamin Lockwood, a former partner of original park founder John Hammond’s, and his assistant Eli Mills get in touch with her and reveal a plan to relocate the dinosaurs to a new island haven. Claire, in turn, is tasked with recruiting a reluctant Owen to go back to the island, his connection with the particularly intelligent velociraptor called “Blue” being a key reason. Naturally, this mission isn’t entirely all that it seems to be to our protagonists, and, in a subplot introduced through the latest child surrogate to the Jurassic Park universe – Maisie Lockwood, who seemingly has free reign of the Lockwood mansion, but nowhere else, particularly not in the secret lab residing below it – we learn more and more the latest dino-related shenanigans going on behind the scenes.

Firstly, let me say that there’s a lot to like about this film. The opening scene is reminiscent of the one from the first, complete with creepy, in-the-shadows threats and violence that happens just right off camera, leaving much of the horror to your imagination. Meanwhile, many of the set-pieces on the island feel like the action-packed middle section of the previous film, with characters split up and facing peril at almost every turn – not all of it related to dinosaurs. The ticking timeclock of the volcanic eruption actually makes much of this feel pretty fresh for the series, and it’s all capped off with a moment of surprising poignancy that I won’t spoil but that you may have heard of by now, anyway, thanks to the internet’s collective inability to not express their exaggerated sense of traumatization at every turn… And while I have mixed feelings about the climax, the setting where it all takes place feels like nothing else you’ve ever seen in these movies, and Bayona almost turns the film into a creepy haunted house flick, only subbing in dinosaurs for ghosts, but keeping the often soap-operatic family drama that creeps just beneath the surface of those flicks.

Problem is that I had a hard time connecting with many of the new characters. Owen and Claire remain our anchors this time around, and because of what we know of them and their characters’ perspectives from their first outing, we still care about them, but they’re joined by two new protagonists, the squealy computer nerd Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) and the headstrong paleoveterinarian Dr. Zia Rodriguez, neither of whom really have any sort of character arc and both of whom will disappear for long stretches before the movie figures out places where they can pop up again. It also doesn’t help that they’re just as much stock characters as Owen and Claire were from the outset, only without the charm and admittedly limited nuance their actors were afforded the first time around.

Then there’s the issue of Maisie Lockwood, who initially feels almost like an obligation to the plot – because, again, these movies always have a child protagonist – and it can become tedious to watch her scamper around the mansion, be alternatingly doted upon at and shouted by the adults (an easy rubric for determining whether they’re good guys or bad guys), and do things that feel more like a movie writer’s idea of what an innocent child would be like than something the resourceful kids of previous films would have done in this situation. Perhaps that was an attempt to make a change of pace, and in hindsight, I get how it relates to her miniscule character arc, but it just makes Maisie feel like a plot contrivance rather than a fully formed character. She’s not kicking velociraptors off buildings with gymnastics, but she’s also not carrying the baggage of an unhappy home, either. She’s just kinda… there… that is, until the very end, when she basically serves as the movie’s wrong-headed thesis statement. I would get more into that here, but that would be tantamount to major spoilers. I’ll just say that it doesn’t seem as though the filmmakers really thought through the real world parallels, as they should have, and it almost feels like they were trying to shoehorn in some actual meaning into a studio-mandated story development and couldn’t quite get it to work.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a disappointment to me, and appreciation for this entry’s strange deviations from previous films is going to vary greatly. I’m more of a mixed mind about it, in that I kinda still want to see where this franchise goes in the inevitable sixth installment now that it’s gotten us there, but I’m not certain I altogether liked the means of getting there. I didn’t particularly care for the characters, but I wasn’t altogether annoyed by them like I was with the new characters from Jurassic Park III. The movie isn’t nearly as bland as that movie, either, as Bayona does at least bring a somewhat unique but franchise-cohesive sensibility to the film, but despite its fleeting moments of distinction, awe, beauty, and action, I just don’t feel like the movie impacted me in the same way that any of its predecessors did. None of the highs are as high as we’ve seen before, and none of the lows are as low, either. I suppose you could just say that Fallen Kingdom is just… okay.

The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 2.5 / 5

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