Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has released over here European side a full two weeks before its release stateside. Last week I had an opportunity to watch it, and surprise, I had a good time. Well I had a better time with it than its previous entry Jurassic World. Maybe that was because I was with someone who really enjoyed these movies, or maybe it was because the new director J.A. Bayona wasn’t just content to try and ape the original Jurassic Park through and through (although it still very much feels like it apes The Lost World). Whatever the reason I went into Fallen Kingdom expecting something along the lines of its predecessor and instead I found myself very pleased with the outcome, and somewhat excited to see where this somewhat unneeded franchise ends up.
Returning Jurassic World stars Chris Pratt (Owen) and Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire) headline the film as their respective characters as they head out on mission assigned by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall from the fantastic creature feature; The Ritual) to rescue the dinosaurs from the now conveniently active volcano on Isla Nubar. From there they realize Mills intentions aren’t so altruistic and set out to stop him and save the dinosaurs before they can be sold off to the highest bidder. Joining them is Daniella Pineda and Justice Smith as both Franklin Webb, a Paleoveterianrian and an IT technician. Both play their roles well as both comedy relief and a take-no-shit doctor, but beyond that, neither character adds anything to the film. James Cromwell also drops by as Benjamin Lockwood, John Hammond’s former business partner. While in the film a lot more than I anticipated, he too adds nothing to the overall film, other than being a Hammond knock off, that doesn’t really get any time to shine despite a late reveal that the film does nothing with. With our villains alongside Eli Mill’s is Ted Levine as Ben Wheatley, a mercenary and Toby Jones as Gunnar Eversol, an arms dealer. If I’m being completely honest none of these characters were really interesting at any point and the characteristics of the three antagonists could have easily been rolled into one. Oh, Jeff Goldblum shows up in a throwaway cameo that either sets him up for the next film, or not at all.
But let’s get real here, besides the first movie, there’s only one reason we come to see the Jurassic Park films. And that’s the dinosaurs. Besides the new cast members, the biggest addition to the film is director J.A. Bayona. His roots in horror help make Fallen Kingdom the scariest, if not the darkest Jurassic film yet. This helps with the film having a unique stance as the third act essentially becomes a haunted house film, but with the main antagonist being the Indoraptor. Bayona delivers plenty of thrilling set pieces, but my favorite by far is the opening dealing with a team of mercenaries looking for the bones of the Indominus Rex while in the Mosasaurus lagoon. It’s thrilling, and the way Bayona highlights both the approaching Mosasaurus and T-Rex is downright terrifying as he uses lightning to showcase their looming shadows right before they pounce. It’s great and as the scene nears closer and closer to rolling credits, the tension ramps up until it’s final crowd-pleasing frame. It’s also where the film starts to show just how stupid it’s characters are. The fact that a team of mercenaries would go to an island to hunt for the bones of a dinosaur and assume that said dinosaurs were already dead is a gross arrogance and endlessly stupid. Does it make the scene any less thrilling? No. Yet such a cheap thrill only works because said characters are stupid, and now we want to see them get eaten for their lack of vision. The film’s set pieces are great, and practically breathless. For a certain crowd that just wants Dino action, they won’t be disappointed.
In today’s blockbuster world, I have to admit that the Jurassic Park movies don’t hit me like they used to. Or at least not how the first one does. The sequels aren’t terrible, and all of them are well made, but as many have said countless times; the genie has been let out of the bottle, and they won’t be able to capture it again. That said, I enjoy the films for what they are in that they are big ass creature features. We want to watch stupid people get eaten by big dinosaurs, and each one delivers on that fairly well. I will say while I enjoyed Fallen Kingdom more than Jurassic World, I do feel that World had something to say, no matter how much it screwed the pooch (Among it’s myriad of other issues). Fallen Kingdom is fun, and it has some pretty good scares to boot, but like the last few entries it does nothing to really warrant me telling anyone else to see it beyond watching dinosaurs eat people. With half baked sub plots, characters that disappear entirely for no reason, and plot points that make no sense (How you set up a park on an island with a volcano and not know about it bugs me to no end). The real excitement for me is what happens next, as the ending has massive implications for the world. It won’t take much for people to see where the film is going and what the next film may entail, but I can honestly say despite the fact that Trevorrow is returning to the director’s chair, I am excited to see what happens next as it may be the very first time that a Jurassic Park film may not have to adhere to its very specific template. Until then, if you want a rush of seeing big dinosaurs eat evil, stupid people, then this film is for you.