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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom movie review: back to Isla Nublar… again

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom yellow light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Hollywood finds a way. To keep telling the same stories over and over again, that is. There’s too much going on in Fallen Kingdom, and yet somehow not enough, either. Still: dinosaurs!tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): love love love love love the original trilogy (yes, all of them)
I’m “biast” (con): was less than in love with Jurassic World
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, female coprotagonist
(learn more about this)

Hollywood finds a way. Hollywood always finds a way. To keep telling the same stories over and over again, that is. Even when fresh ideas are literally right in front of its eyes, like in the very movies that turn into retreads, it doesn’t know what to do with them.

Dammitall already.

Ian Malcolm: doomed to be a man totally unappreciated in his time.

Ian Malcolm: doomed to be a man totally unappreciated in his time.

If you’ve seen The Lost World: Jurassic Park — the 1997 sequel to 1993’s Jurassic Park* — then you’ve pretty much seen Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the sequel to 2015’s reboot of the franchise. Once again, what was intended as an open-to-the-public theme park is now closed after a dinos-chomp-humans disaster, and for seconds, let’s invent a reason to get a few people back there anyway. And it’s the same reason as Lost World: some rich assholes want to remove the abandoned dinosaurs and bring them back to the mainland. There’s more urgency to Fallen Kingdom**’s conceit than there was to Lost World’s: Isla Nublar’s dormant volcano has come alive, and a massive, island-devastating eruption is coming, which will wipe out all the animals. Although, actually, this shouldn’t be a matter of great urgency. This is a world in which dinosaurs have been resurrected for a quarter of a century, and it is impossible to believe that there aren’t gene banks and frozen embryos, at a minimum, stored elsewhere, and possibly even other facilities where living dinosaurs are known to exist. The implication in Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) and Derek Connolly’s (Kong: Skull Island, Monster Trucks) script is that dinosaurs will go extinct again if none are rescued from Isla Nublar, and that seems rather unlikely.

Anyway, former Jurassic World administration Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard: Gold, Pete’s Dragon) and raptor wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt: Avengers: Infinity War, Passengers) are among the team that returns to the island, financed by too-wealthy-for-anyone’s-good Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell: Big Hero 6, The Artist), who was, it turns out, a partner of Hammond’s in the original Jurassic Park venture whom we had never heard about before. (Lockwood as a Hammond stand-in is but one of the callbacks to the original films that Kingdom will dredge up, as if we couldn’t recognize a giant-dinosaurs-on-the-rampage movie without them. Watch for the riveting “rebooting the system” scene!) They need Claire to activate the park security systems that will let them track the dinosaurs, and they need Owen because they desperately want to capture Blue, the smart, social raptor that Owen had trained to obey commands. You will be unsurprised to hear that the rescue does not go well, and that Lockwood’s people are driven by secret and less than ecologically noble motives.

Director J.A. Bayona manages to bring a tiny bit of the spirit of Spielberg to bits of Fallen Kingdom.

Fallen Kingdom may feel inexcusably familiar, but it’s very slightly an all-around better movie than Jurassic World. The sequence in which the volcano finally goes kerflooey and the panic that sets off among the humans and the dinosaurs to escape it is deliciously intense. (See this in IMAX if you plan to see it at all.) Director J.A. Bayona (A Monster Calls, The Impossible) manages to bring a tiny bit of the spirit of Spielberg in this section of the film, in the pathos of terrified dinosaurs caught up in the eruption, and particularly as Claire and Owen, presumed dead in the cataclysm, surreptitiously witness Lockwood’s nefarious forces loading up their dino catch onto a freighter. This recalls bits of Raiders of the Lost Ark not just visually but also emotionally, as Claire and Owen resolve to stop bad guys who have precisely the opposite of the entire planet’s best interests at heart (never mind the dinos’ best interests!). Even moreso than Lost World, or any other Jurassic Park movie so far, perhaps, there’s a frisson — only a little, but still — of an understanding here, and later, that bringing dinosaurs back to life is an undertaking that has fundamentally altered the course of human history. People talked about this in other movies, but we really feel it now.

That said, the promise that this movie was sold on — “Welcome to Jurassic world,” ie, the dinosaurs are free and rambling everywhere, no longer constrained on a remote island — is but one of the ideas that Kingdom doesn’t have a lot of interest in exploring. It’s clearly keeping this one in reserve for the next film (currently due in 2021), but the other few intriguing ideas new to this rebooted franchise are cast aside in favor of dino action (of which there isn’t even enough anyway!). Blue is a fascinating character — she almost rises above the status of mere animal — and the notion of trainable smart dinos is absolutely ripe for storytelling exploitation. Debates about what bits of nature are worth saving could be the source of an entire film on its own — Claire was called away from her work with the activist “Dinosaur Protection Group” — but that’s left by the wayside. The SJW warning that ridiculously rich men ruin everything deserves more exploration. The newly more overt Frankensteinian allusions could have done with more examination. There’s too much going on in Fallen Kingdom, and yet somehow not enough, either. The fact that the original Jurassic Park Cassandra, Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum: Isle of Dogs, Thor: Ragnarok), is here relegated to two tiny scenes — just about all of which you’ve seen in the trailers and ads — is an unintended microcosm of the biggest problems with Fallen Kingdom on the whole.

I want to pet a dinosaur!

I want to pet a dinosaur!

And yet, while Fallen Kingdom lacks the lovely grimness of Bayona’s previous movie, A Monster Calls, the director is far more fair to the female characters here than Jurassic World was: He makes a big deal out of showing us that Claire is wearing sensible boots this time, rather than the stiletto heels she foolishly ran around Isla Nublar in last time. And awesome “paleoveterinarian” Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda: The Fitzgerald Family Christmas), who is on the trip to Isla Nublar, and badass little girl Maisie Lockwood (newcomer Isabella Sermon) — Benjamin’s granddaughter, who thankfully does not stow away like Ian Malcolm’s daughter once did — are terrific characters, and more interesting, in fact, than either Claire or Owen.

Nothing — absolutely nothing — can ever compare with the first Jurassic Park, with the wonder and the horror of it. And yet: dinosaurs! I wish this was a better movie, but I’ll take the dinosaurs.

*‘Jurassic Park’ is 25 years old?! How the hell did that happen?!

**One suspects “Fallen Kingdom” came about as a subtitle for the film by running “Lost World” through a thesaurus.

see also:
Jurassic World movie review: lack of humility before blockbusters

Click here for my ranking of this and 2018’s other theatrical releases.

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) | directed by J.A. Bayona
US/Can release: Jun 22 2018
UK/Ire release: Jun 06 2018

MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate threat, occasional bloody moments, action violence)

viewed in 2D IMAX
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • althea

    Did anybody ever address what happened to the pterodactyls that escaped from the Bird Cage at the end of Jurassic Park 3?

  • Not that I can recall!

  • screaminjay

    I’m of a different opinion… I believe the first was great, the second was somewhat ok, but obvious cash-grab. The third was bad. Maybe it is the effect of the years having went by, but I had a good time with Jurassic World… seen in 3D at the cinema. It was a spectacle anyway.

  • Jurgan

    the director is far more fair to the female characters here than Jurassic World was: He makes a big deal out of showing us that Claire is wearing sensible boots this time, rather than the stiletto heels she foolishly ran around Isla Nublar in last time.

    That’s adjacent to my biggest concern, but not quite it. Namely: Is Chris Pratt still a sexist douchebag? He was the biggest reason I couldn’t get behind Jurassic World.

  • Tonio Kruger

    No doubt they’re saving the pterodactyls for the inevitable sequel Jurassic Sky….

  • He is, kind of, but she doesn’t let him get away with it, and she’s not impressed but it. They’re not a couple here.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I want to pet a dinosaur!

    “I want a velociraptor for Christmas!
    Only a velociraptor will do…”

  • David_Conner

    I haven’t spent a lot of time analyzing this, but I think possibly the Jurassic World movies only make sense if JP2 and JP3 are considered “out of continuity.”

  • David_Conner

    I just saw this today, after watching the 2015 movie for the first time yesterday. “And yet: dinosaurs!” is my reaction to both movies. There’s a lot of tedious and clichéd stuff here… and yet….

    The dinosaurs are still amazing and fun. I especially liked the pugnacious herbivore who goes around on a head-butting rampage – nice to see a reminder that it’s not necessarily *just* the carnivores you have to worry about.

    The problem with these movies is that while there are actually several interesting ideas raised from time to time, the core plot threads and character motivations are no better than your average SyFy Original Movie. In particular, I really wish they’d come up with some interesting twist on the “Eeeevil Military-Corporate alliance wants to weaponize the incredibly dangerous and unpredictable monsters” plot we’ve seen a thousand times.

  • David_Conner

    It just occurred to me that I’d actually kinda like to see a prequel to the 2015 movie that’s just about running this amazing theme park, and everything goes according to plan and nobody gets eaten.

    Obviously, this might be problematic as rampaging dinosaurs eating people are expecting, but for conflict, we could have Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer/Johnny Karate, and he and his raptors have to win a dance contest to raise money to save the park from a (more) evil corporation.

  • Jim Mann

    Particularly given that the Jurassic World movies seem to forget the other island from The Lost World. So, yeah, the two Jurassic World movies feel like sequels to Jurassic Park, with movies 2 and 3 completely forgotten.

  • Roy Jason

    The script sometimes seems delusional, only one frame is found out of humor, where the lizard before the attack thoughtfully tapping with a claw, like Sherlock Holmes in front of the bad guy Watson . I have watch ones using boxxy software. There have all movies and serials think i can find something more action than this movie

  • FargoUT

    This movie was terrible. It had moments of entertainment but a plot that defied any kind of logic, even internally. I couldn’t wait for it to end, tbh. I was definitely in the minority opinion in my group though.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I really hated this movie.

    (Full disclosure, I’m not a fan of the JP franchise. I have only a retrospective appreciation of the first, haven’t seen the second since 1997, saw the third on video in like ’02 or ’03, and thought JW was an unnecessary sequel starring one of my least favorite movie stars of all time.)

    Sure, the dinosaurs look great. The dinosaurs in this series are consistently well realized. But to me, pointing and saying, “but… dinosaurs!” is just damning them with low expectations.

    Characters would disappear for long stretches of run time, emerging when they’re needed to advance the plot. This is bad enough when it happens to minor characters. (Look, the paleovet and the terrified computer geek are interesting characters, with at least recognizable character traits, and the actors are giving sympathetic performances. But now you’re implying you want us to care about them, so you’re going to have to show us their POV so we can keep track of them.) But here, it happens to major characters, including the two leads. Case in point: Owen uses the headbutting dino to clear the auction hall, and throws the switch to keep the indo-raptor’s cage in place. Cut to the hunter coming into the auction hall to get eaten along with Toby Jones. But where is Owen? In some other room, doing… something? What is he doing? How did he get there? Why did he leave the auction hall? Who knows!?

    I get why the character of Maisie exists. There always has to be at least one kid. It’s a JP rule, like having a T-rex, and at least one velociraptor. But what exactly was the point of having her be a clone of James Cromwell’s dead daughter? What did that contribute to her story, or the story as a whole? It even makes it look like Rafe Spall’s plan is just going after chump change. Sure, you can make a few hundred million selling dinos as pets or weapons. But viable human cloning? That’d be worth trillions.

    Michael Giacchino’s score for this is just painfully, embarrassingly bad. He has two iconic John Williams scores to play with and riff off of, and this is what he comes up with? Did he farm this out to a grad student?

    I might be less annoyed with both of the JW movies if they were more honest about what they are. With all the references to Hammond and “the previous park”, they’re presenting themselves as sequels to at least the first JP. But really what they’ve done is remakes of JP 1 and 2. Which would be fine. As I say, I have no great nostalgia for the ’90s films. But their inability (or unwillingness) to go anywhere new with the story is boring. OK, maybe “engineering new, bigger, scarier dinosaurs” represents a new direction. I’m not sure how clever it was to lampshade it the way they did in JW. But rehashing the exact same plot in JW:FK? Come on!

  • Dr. Rocketscience
  • Owen1120

    I thought this movie was okay, because the writers clearly have a lot of good ideas about where to go with the story but the characters all make the dumbest decisions
    the clone twist was jaw-droppingly terrible though

  • Having good ideas means nothing unless you do something with them.

  • Owen1120

    I do think they did something with them because they fundamentally changed the world by introducing dinosaurs into it. It’s a great sequel hook in an okay movie

  • Watched over the weekend:

    Wow this was worse than I was expecting. A LOT worse. It was awful. Even
    the dinosaurs have grown boring. Sure, they’re still cool to look at,
    but they’ve removed all sense of mystery and wonder about them.
    The movie basically just replays all sorts of scenes and acts from past
    films. I rolled my eyes several times while watching because I had seen
    all this before. Some things numerous times before.
    Even some of the dumbest humans on the planet wouldn’t do the things that so many people do in this film.
    They better hire better writers for the next one.

  • The first movie 25 years ago did that.

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