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Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Directed by: J.A. Bayona

Premise: A follow up to 2015’s Jurassic World. Following the disaster at the theme park, a volcano threatens to destroy the island and kill all the dinosaurs. Capitalist-turned-ecologist Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and dinosaur expert Owen (Chris Pratt) lead an expedition to evacuate the animals from the island. 

What Works: The soft reboot or nostalgia sequel is now a major part of Hollywood’s release slate. 2015’s Jurassic World is among the prime examples of this trend; it was a partial remake of 1993’s Jurassic Park and overwrote the existence of the other sequels. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a logical follow up. It is a direct sequel to the 2015 film and a partial remake of The Lost World. Just like the 1997 film, a team of scientists travel to the island while another team intends to extract the dinosaurs and bring them back to civilization. However, while Jurassic World was a hollow reworking of a classic, Fallen Kingdom riffs on a mediocre and frequently stupid sequel and the filmmakers refashion the material into something better. The new film repeats many of the key beats of The Lost World but finds ways to improve them and it is the first Jurassic film that actually moves the franchise in new and interesting directions. The filmmakers aggressively introduce new ideas and the world of the Jurassic Park series is fundamentally changed by the events in this movie. In doing so, Fallen Kingdom potentially saves the franchise by setting up interesting possibilities for the future. This movie is also a successful compromise between corporate manufacturing and cinematic art. Fallen Kingdom offers the monster movie thrills that audiences expect from Jurassic Park movies but it also has moments of artistry. This is the best looking Jurassic film and it has sequences that are visually and even emotionally arresting such as a scene of a brontosaurus disappearing into a fog of dust and smoke as the island is destroyed.

What Doesn’t: Fallen Kingdom might be more exciting for what it sets up than for what it actually accomplishes. The movie has so many things going on that the story is pulled in a lot of directions at once. It becomes a mishmash of different ideas, themes, and subplots. None of them are fully developed or followed to a conclusion. Fallen Kingdom is also rather light on dinosaur action, especially throughout its middle portion. A lot of the animals are caged and the film focuses much more on the human players.  There are a lot of characters in this movie and while everyone is distinct they aren’t given very compelling stories. Claire has radically changed since the first film, having forsaken capitalism for ecological activism, but her evolution occurs between the two movies and doesn’t make sense the way that it did for John Hammond in The Lost World. Claire’s relationship with Owen retreads the same old ground (although soft pedaling his sexist condescension this time) and the supporting characters are all who they initially appear to be. There are also a handful of dumb moments in the film. Nothing here is as hokey as The Lost World’s gymnastics bit but Fallen Kingdom forces some of its plot turns by making the characters supremely ignorant or resort to ridiculous choices.

Bottom Line: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is arguably the best sequel in the series. That’s not saying much since most of the other entries were terrible to mediocre. But Fallen Kingdom delivers enough dinosaur action while also reimaging the franchise in ways that take it in new and potentially interesting directions.

Episode: #707 (July 15, 2018)