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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Movie Review)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Movie Review)
06.23.2018by: Jake Dee
6 10

PLOT: When a dormant volcano on Isla Nublar grows angrily active, Owen and Claire are put to the test in their attempt to rescue the dinosaurs from the natural disaster.

REVIEW: After demonstrating a deft hand at properly weighing emotional children’s drama and FX-driven spectacle with THE ORPHANAGE and A MONSTER CALLS, Spanish director J.A. Bayona seemed an inspired choice to graduate to the big league franchises. Of course, more money means more responsibility, and indeed, Bayona’s chance at such has arrived via JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, the exact kind of big, loud, safe, broad, mildly thrilling, largely predictable PG-13 mass-summertime diversion you’d expect it to be. It’s an okay output, surely meant for the younger crowd, and does boast a right-headed and goodhearted spirit in its advocacy of animal rights, an undertow of the entire franchise. And because Bayona is such an inherently more talented filmmaker than Joe Johnston and Colin Treverrow, it’s no stretch to say FALLEN KINGDOM is the best JURASSIC PARK film since Spielberg was at the helm – but then again, that hardly constitutes as a compliment either. I loathe being so reductive to say, it is what it is…the formula for these billion dollar products reign supreme.

Four years after the Jurassic World theme park has been shut down, Isla Nublar faces a new problem. A dormant volcano is suddenly belching lava, putting its endangered dinosaurs in direct threat of extinction. Dr. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) shows up in bookending scenes, arguing in front of a panel on behalf of dino-extermination. He believes we made a mistake in rewriting history, and wants to correct the mistake. A raging political debate is stoked among the public as to what should be done, with the government ultimately deciding to let the dinosaurs burn to death in the fiery lava. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) gets a call from Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), an instantly identifiable slime-ball, who summons her up to the estate of Dr. Lockwood (James Cromwell). Mills wants Claire to rescue the dinosaurs, bring them back to the gateless sanctuary up in Northern California. Dr. Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon), who harbors a parallel secret of her own, becomes a vital key in the preservation of majestic prehistoric animals.Of course, Claire must first enlist the help of Owen, who’s busy building his own lakeside cabin somewhere in the sticks.

After some lamely flirtatious coaxing, Owen joins Claire, en route to Isla Nublar. They’re joined by a young tech-nerd Franklin (Justice Smith) and a hipster doctor Zia (Daniella Pineda in a standout turn). Owen’s affinity for Blue, a baby dinosaur he helped to raise and instill traits of kindness, becomes his key rescue directive and ultimate savior. These training receptors also become the crucial bargaining chip for Eli Mills, who nefariously plots to sell of each rare breed of dinosaur to the highest bidder. An auction is held, presided by a Mr. Eversol (Toby Jones), and it’s here we’re given a glimpse to the newest hybrid introduced to the franchise: the Indo-Raptor. Ted Levine shows up as a military man out for a cut of the money, and gets nice and cozy with the Indo-Raptor in one of the more amusing set-pieces. On the whole, the Indo-Raptor could have, should have, and needed to be much cooler and scarier to make a deleterious dent in the way the T-Rex did 25 years ago.

There are some other meekly effective scare tactics along the way, usually coming in refreshing set-pieces that take place outside the familiar park. There’s a tense bedroom scene, a decent underground chase sequence through a medical lab, a rainy nighttime rooftop showdown, etc. And not for nothing, but I’d be surprised if this entry didn’t have the highest kill count of the entire franchise. And not just the worst villains, who we intently root for to be done away with in the nastiest of fashion, but ancillary characters and nonspeaking parts, they get slurped up and chomped down as well. Which is appreciated. Most of it is credible enough as well, as the CGI in this department has come a long way since 1993. There are the obligatory shots of artifice you can’t help but notice, but on the whole, the computerized imagery isn’t a distracting downturn, it’s an attractive asset.

For me, the biggest problem I always have with the JURASSIC PARK flicks is who to root for and who to root against. If we root for the dinosaurs to survive, and we root for the humans who help them survive, where are our sympathies left when the dinosaurs attack those trying to help them? Do we hew to our own and root for the humans? Or does the primacy of existence over extinction for dinosaurs rule the day? Are we hoping, as they always seem to do, that the heroic humans only brush with death, while the obvious human villains like Mills and Oversal invariably die in gruesome ways? I’m not sure this is an oblivious bug or deliberate feature of the franchise, but there seems to be no break from this formula, which saps dramatic tension, quashes suspense, and really never rises to the kind of consequences needed to function as a nerve-shredding thriller. Bayona, to his credit, tries to recalculate the formula by doing what he does best, emotional children’s drama. Indeed, in the character of Maisie, the stakes are raised to a more costly level. I can’t spoil her particulars, and don’t even think the it entirely works, but at least for the attempt, Bayona has given us a better JURASSIC WORLD than Colin Treverrow did three years ago.

Again though, how much is that really worth? Look, JURASSIC WORLD 2 isn’t a great film, nor is it expected to be. It’s a thinly abashed A-budgeted-B-movie, a broadly appealing summertime family outing meant to cull as much cash as possible first, entertain second. To this end, it will succeed, and in turn likely validate its own self-defeating formula. But because Bayona is a better director than the aforementioned others, because he once again taps into his wheelhouse of childhood emotions, because he gave his otherwise vapid leads a stellar supporting cast - doing all three while delivering a few decent FX-driven thrills - JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM is a slight cut above.

Extra Tidbit: What did you think of JURASSIC WORLD 2?
Source: AITH

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