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Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)


Title: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Genre: Sci Fi/Horror

Director: J.A. Bayona

Stars (primary actors): Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, Ken Levine, Isabella Sermon, and James Cromwell

Bias: I really did not like the first Jurassic World.

Grade: B+

In A Nutshell: Three years after the events of the last film a volcano at the heart of Isla Nublar is about to erupt, threatening a new extinction of the remaining dinosaurs. Claire (Howard) and Owen (Pratt) are sent back to the island by Benjamin Lockwood (Cromwell), the former partner of Jurassic Park’s John Hammond, to help rescue eleven species and remove them to a new island called Sanctuary. Someone has other plans, however, and they must race to save the few remaining dinosaurs from the evil plot.

The Critique: My primary complaints with the first Jurassic World were, in no particular order, the lack of any genuine tension or danger for the characters, an overabundance of metatextual nods to previous films (particularly the entirety of Jake Johnson’s Jurassic Park fanboy character), and just an overall level of dumbness that either went too far, or not far enough, to be fun. Fallen Kingdom fixed all of those problems for me (perhaps in large part because of the shift from Colin Trevorrow to director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage). Right from the start, in a tense opening sequence focused on a small group of poachers discovering the very real threat the dinosaurs on the island still pose, the film feels more consistent in what it wants to be. It’s a monster movie, and like any good monster movie it’s not just the creatures you have to watch out for.

The humor, too, is much more understated than in the previous film, consisting mainly of the banter between exes Claire and Owen, and also in the terrified, yet surprisingly resourceful Franklin (Smith), who really, really hopes the T. Rex from the island is dead (spoiler: it isn’t). Franklin is probably the character that’s pitched at such a level that he could have grown old very quickly, but who winds up being used just the right amount to lighten things up when necessary. Along with that, both Pratt and Howard seem more subdued (or, you know, more like actual human beings than movie characters), which makes the movie feel like much less of a cartoon.

The last act of the film is where it shifts into full-on monster movie territory, complete with canted angles, a weirdly Gothic feel, and some very effective scares and kills. Not everything here entirely works, though. There’s a reveal that, while it makes sense, isn’t all that essential, a couple of characters disappear from the film without explanation, and a moral dilemma that feels a bit tacked-on (and the lead-up to it overly-complicates the last act). All of that is mostly offset for me by the effectiveness of Bayona’s direction from the moment THE monster is unleashed to the ultimate resolution.

Shout-out: This is more of a reverse shout-out. Many people called it before the film came out, but, yes, Jeff Goldblum is barely in the film (despite being ALL OVER the advertising). He has about as much screen time (and is only marginally more important) as Bill Murray did in the Ghostbusters reboot. To be fair, this seems to be more a problem with the company the marketing itself, as both Goldblum and Bayona described it as essentially a cameo.

Comic Book Recommendation: Love the Jurassic films, but sometimes think, "I wonder how the dinosaurs feel about all of this?" Of course you do. You'll definitely want to check out Kaijumax (published by Oni Press) from writer/artist Zander Cannon. Kaiju, if you don't know, are giant monsters, often reptilian, that stomp on small towns and large cities. Think Godzilla or King Kong. In this comic, which has three volumes so far, the giant monsters are incarcerated in a Super Max style island prison where, well, dark prison-type things occur, raising questions about just who the real monsters are.

To Go, to Rent, or to Netflix: Worth at least a matinee/discount screening at your local theater.

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