MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure/ Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, B.D. Wong, Geraldine Chaplin, Jeff Goldblum, Peter Jason/ Runtime: 128 minutes
When it comes to the cinematic concept of bringing a franchise like the Jurassic Park one back from the brink of extinction, pun intended, Hollywood should always remember the golden rule. That rule of course being that if you want to bring audiences to theaters then you should always do your best to attempt to balance both what is familiar and loved as well that which is new and unexpected. Indeed it should be no surprise to learn then that had Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom been too much of a retread of what had come before in this storied franchise, then beyond any and all doubt would it have been easy for both audiences and critics to realize and immediately slam the movie and call it such gems as “uninspired” and “shoddily assembled”. Trust me; this is the franchise that gave us Jurassic Park 3…I think it knows those 2 words quite well. Thankfully however in this case this is not a film that would like to fit those 2 words in the slightest. Instead what J.A. Bayona and the cast and crew on this outing have wisely chosen to undertake in this film is that, pardon the pun, they have managed to take the DNA of what has come before it yet in the process manages to splice in some twisted and diabolical new twists and turns. Of course it isn’t until the time that the end credits roll that you see that this all has managed to create a film that is both an immensely enjoyable popcorn flick through and through, but also a sequel in a franchise you thought you knew that manages to take this series and set up things that you never thought possible.
The plot is as follows: Three years after the horrifying chain of events that occurred in the first film in this new series, Claire Dearing finds herself being approached by a man representing the former partner of entrepreneur John Hammond and tasked with saving the remaining dinosaurs on the island. Why do they need saving you may ask? Well apparently this whole time, Isla Nublar happened to have a volcano on it (a fact the builders of both parks apparently conveniently ignored) and that volcano is starting to show signs of a catastrophic eruption because….plot reasons mostly. Thus having gained a heart and compassion for these prehistoric titans, Claire, with the reluctant help of Owen Grady and 2 of her research assistants, sets out to do whatever she can to help this organization save these majestic creatures. However it isn’t long before this adventure will quickly lead this team down a path that has an endgame in mind that is more nefarious, and sinister than they could ever have truly imagined…
Now I am just going to come right out and say it: the decision to bring J.A. Bayona on board to make this film was honestly a fantastic and downright brilliant idea. This is because the director and his style of filmmaking manage to fit what is needed for this installment in the series perfectly. This is because Bayona manages to do a wonderful job of walking the thin and significant line between the typical amounts of emotion, spectacle, and terror that is needed for a film of this caliber. Indeed now that I think about it, I think this movie also does a brilliant job of continuing something over from the previous film, and chooses to see the dinosaurs more as characters alongside the humans rather than just simply causes of the terror. Indeed it should go without saying, but there are actually more than a few moments within this film where I promise that you will get downright emotional about the titular dinos that have always been the heart and soul of this series’ overarching narrative. Indeed these dinos will make you applaud, tear up, and shiver in absolute terror and yet the amazing thing is that not once does it ever seem forced or artificial in even the slightest.
Now in addition to the dinos, I feel that It should also be said that the humans that make up the credited cast is just as solid as the previous outing. Indeed this starts with leads Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas-Howard who once again showcase that they have terrific charisma both separately and when they are able to play off one another in a style very reminiscent of Romancing the Stone. That being said though I definitely applaud the filmmakers for choosing a path in this film that helps make Claire a stronger character than she was in the first film and in fact establishes that she is more the main character for this new series of films than any other character. Now in particular regard to any of the new characters this installment offers us, I definitely feel that Danielle Pineda as the take-charge and willing to do whatever it takes for the dinos Zia, Ted Levine as the tooth-obsessed, but also absolutely insane “great white hunter” Wheatley, and Toby Jones as an oddly Donald Trump-esque in a few ways auctioneer host named Eversoll are this film’s definite standouts. In addition I definitely enjoyed seeing James Cromwell in this, and I hope that we get to see him in more movies now that he is free of his time on American Horror Story. Now I didn’t mind Justice Smith in Detective Pikachu, but I do think he did tend to get a little bit whiny here. Here’s hoping that changes should he come back for the 3rd one. Finally while I do enjoy Rafe Spall as Eli Mills in this, I did feel that his particular character arc in this was quite predictable, and as such just a wee bit disappointing even though Spall does deliver a fully committed performance.
However in regards to the human cast I do have one particularly big complaint, and that is in particular regard to the return of Ian Malcolm in this movie. It’s not because Jeff Goldblum doesn’t do a good job; in fact he’s still just as good as he was back in the 90’s. It’s the fact that he literally is barely in this. I mean I get that maybe scheduling might have been an issue, but when you have one of the OG stars from the original, one of the best sci-fi movies ever made, and then you only use him for 10 minutes tops it really just feels like a wasted opportunity. Here’s hoping they rectify this when they bring him, Sam Neill, and Laura Dern back for the 3rd one.
Yet despite all of the success and positives that this film brings to the table, I feel it must be said that there are some small glitches to be found during the journey 65 million years in the making that is this film. In particular, there’s a narrative thread that, while certainly exciting, doesn’t entirely function as well as it should in particular regard to it’s place within the film. In addition, running throughout the movie there exists a sense of humor that more often than not doesn’t seem entirely appropriate given just how sinister and intense this film actually gets. If nothing else, the film does manage to figure out just what kind of movie it fully wants to be, but between the beginning and the final act there exists a lot of moments that really are a mixed bag to say the very least.
All in all Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is otherwise a very well-done summer blockbuster, complete with not only unexpected pathos, but also a helping of riveting action as well a 2nd half that actually gets downright dark in certain aspects. Indeed this is a film which needs to be enjoyed amongst friends with the biggest bowl of popcorn possible whilst watching on the biggest TV possible too. Indeed it really was quite the travesty to hear that the powers that be over at Universal and Amblin Entertainment didn’t try to get J.A. Bayona for Jurassic World 3 (or whatever it winds up being called). This is because, thanks to him, we now have the set-up for what could either be a roaring continuation or a finale unlike anything we could have predicted with the release of the original all the way back in ’93. As it stands though, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is an enjoyable time to be had and exactly the trip 65 million years in the making that is the reason why all eyes should be on the Jurassic World saga as something to both appreciate and enjoy for years to come. On a scale of 1-5 I give Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom a 3.5 out of 5.