Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom picks up three years after the disastrous downfall of the Jurassic World theme park as a volcano threatens to bury Isla Nublar, and all of its remaining dino inhabitants, for good. Will the toothy creatures finally become extinct… again? Or will all hell break loose… again? The fifth time is a (semi)charm for the latest installment of this monster franchise.
The film kicks off with a bang. The director (J.A. Bayona, taking over for Colin Trevorrow) knows what you want – that would be nonstop dinosaur action, of course – and he’s here to give it to you! The opening sequence does not disappoint, evoking the original Jurassic Park, complete with a dark and stormy night. But this time there’s no waiting for the payoff – the scaly beasts are out in force from the get-go with a wild chase scene that had audience members cheering. (If there’s one way time has been kind to the filmmakers of this series, it’s in the advancement of CGI. There are more dinosaurs than ever, and most are relatively realistic.)
Speaking of dinosaurs and Isla Nublar, a huge debate is raging on the mainland regarding the ethical question: should we save the prehistoric animals from the island before the impending volcanic eruption, or should we let nature take its course and let them melt into the molten lava? On the, “Let’s save them, no matter what!” side is Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), Jurassic World’s former operations manager who is now a dinosaur-rights activist and founder of the Dinosaur Protection Group. (Typing that ridiculous sentence is entertainment enough. But wait, there’s more!) Right as a senate hearing, lead by Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who is firmly on the chaos theory side of, “Let nature take its course,” concludes with the decision to seal the fate of the dinosaurs, Claire receives a mysterious call from Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), John Hammond’s former dino cloning partner, who needs Claire to get to the island posthaste. How convenient!
Claire arrives at Lockwood’s gothic mansion to meet with his aide, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), who tasks Dearing with her dream mission of saving the animals from the island before it explodes, with the goal of moving them to a sanctuary where the reptile relatives can live in peace without human interference. (As Benjamin Lockwood wisely says, “They don’t need our protection. They need our absence.”) Mills is particularly interested in Blue – the last living velociraptor with the heart of gold who was trained by Claire’s ex, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). I guess that means Claire will have to go fetch Owen from his mountain man existence and convince him to join this shaky plan. (Spoiler alert: he agrees!)
They head to Isla Nublar with help in the form of Dr. Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda), a former Marine who is now the Dinosaur Protection Group’s paleo-veterinarian, and Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), the nerdy former IT tech for Jurassic World who is now the DPG’s systems analyst and hacker. Two exes that still spar, and two millennials with inflated job titles? What could possibly go wrong?
Of course it’s Jurassic World– thusly the dinos dominate and it doesn’t take long for man’s plans to get derailed, in predictably spectacular fashion. There are villains, of both the animal and human variety, along with ridiculously impossible feats (that may or may not delight, depending on what attitude you’re approaching this offering with) – the best being when Chris Pratt’s character has been shot with a tranquilizer dart and has to roll away from a rapidly approaching lava flow. Bring the crackers; Jurassic World is happy to provide the cheese!
Nothing will ever quite capture the thrill of the original Jurassic Park, when the concept was wildly original. (Michael Crichton is much missed!) You’ll recognize the majority of the tropes at this point, with some scenes lifted directly from the original trilogy. Oh, and the plot holes and troubling points! Here are a few:
- Claire. She’s gotten a shoe upgrade – much was made about her running in heels in the last movie. This time she’s allowed sensible boots, but she’s still relying on a man for help.
- The injuries sustained by the characters would have a mere human in the hospital for weeks, but Claire and Owen soldier on with impressive ease.
- The characters are paint by numbers, shouted by bullhorn, in case you missed it: the hero, the star-crossed lovers, the nerd, and the numerous evildoers are so obvious, they might as well be wearing nametags.
- The child. Spielberg is ultimately at the helm, so there has to be a kid in peril. He can’t help himself. This one isn’t too annoying – until the end, with that one line. (You’ll know it when you hear it. It’s so bad, I yelled, “Boo!” at the screen. We were at a rowdy viewing.)
- Dr. Zia Rodriguez is the badass who has no problem sassing back to the bad guys, one of whom shakes his head and calls her a nasty woman. God damn right that’s a compliment. A side of politics with my popcorn, please!
- Wait, did they just auction off a new hybrid of dinosaur, specifically created for war, TO THE RUSSIANS? I guess the orange monster they already own isn’t enough.
All that said, the team behind Fallen Kingdom is here to please. Bayona favors dark (but not so dark that you can’t see the action), lush cinematography that enticingly compliments the surreal vibe. The screenwriting team of Derek Connolly and the aforementioned Colin Trevorrow deliver on the thrills mixed with nostalgia, and of course Steven Spielberg is aboard as the executive producer. Nothing about this is fresh – the “monsters” escape, they kill people, and the brave few try to contain the mistakes they have wrought. But if we’re judging this solely as a summer blockbuster, it still gets an A in my book – it is what it is, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. It’s loud. It’s huge. It’s silly, dumb fun. And that’s the point.
Any review of this film is superfluous; you’re going to see it, no matter what the critics say. And that’s great! No one is pretending this is Oscar bait – it’s blatantly fishing for your wallet in summertime; but if you set your expectations accordingly, you’ll get your money’s worth and have a pretty fine time while doing it.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time a dino makes a kill, or gets killed.
Take a Drink: for every jump scare.
Take a Drink: every time the film hammers home the point of environmental concerns and what humans are doing to the planet. We are fuuuuucked.
Take a Drink: for Chris Pratt, who just may be the Harrison Ford of our generation, as he helps holds down three massive movie juggernauts (Jurassic, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Avengers) while still maintaining other roles.
Take a Drink: every time you catch a nod to other classic films, including Raiders of the Lost Ark and From Here to Eternity.
Do a Shot: for one of the dinosaurs that winks – not once, but twice – at the camera! Holy hell filmmakers, give your audience a little credit.
Do a Shot: for Jeff Goldblum! The fact that they barely utilized him is a crime.
There is one tiny extra scene that sets up the final installment of the Jurassic World trilogy (the next movie is set to arrive in June of 2021); but the credits are excruciatingly long and the tidbit is not tantalizing enough to stick around for, in my opinion.