June 23, 2018
First off, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth film in the Jurassic franchise, will henceforth be referred to as JWFK, simply because legendary hip hop group Jurassic 5 is way too awesome to have their name eclipsed by such a mediocre movie.
Spanish director J. A. Bayona takes the reins from Jurassic World (and ex-Star Wars: Episode IX) director Colin Trevorrow for this latest dinosaur romp in which an active volcano on Isla Nublar, the island off the coast of Costa Rica where both the original “Park” and subsequently resurrected “World” so epically failed, threatens the blow the island off the map. This calls into bio-political debate whether or not the remaining dinosaurs should be exfiltrated to a “safe” site before the eruption so they may survive or simply be allowed to perish as their prehistorically doomed fate would seem to suggest.
The lovely but marginally talented Bryce Dallas Howard returns as Claire, now a “save the dinos” activist, along with quipmaster Chris Pratt as Owen to journey back to the place where they nearly died three years ago to help the giant reptiles they so cherish. Our heroes are joined by a team of genre-typical shoot-first military escorts led by a creepy-as-ever Ted Levine and, the best new addition, tech wiz Justice Smith (The Get Down), who actually scores more comic relief moments than Pratt.
Their mission is funded by original park founder Old Dr. Hammond’s loyal but tentative partner played by Old James Cromwell and his usurping colleague, a British villain (Rafe Spall)whose master plan is to team up with Truman Capote — er — Toby Jones to auction off weaponized dinos to the highest bidder. Because, of course, that will end well.
After the effective reboot of Jurassic World, with an influx of new characters, a reimagined park, new tech and DNA-tampered dino-villains, the vast majority of JWFK is merely a retread. There’s Owen and Claire still pretending to dislike each other except in moments of extreme peril, a preteen with a knack for finding trouble, and plenty of suspenseful close calls at the jaws and claws of great lizards, including the latest genetically engineered people-eater, the Indominus Rex/Velociraptor hybrid Indoraptor.
To use an overly simplistic analogy, JWFK is to Jurassic World what The Lost World was to Jurassic Park. There are Lost World parallels aplenty: new dinos that are sure to delight junior paleontologists, a Jeff Goldblum appearance, an evil corporation attempting to capitalize on the downfall of a theoretically amazing tourist attraction and, most notably, the transportation of dinosaurs from their native island to the mainland where they can wreak new forms of havoc.
This final replication, however, is the singular instance in which JWFK succeeds where The Lost World failed. As the previously mentioned auction goes awry, JWFK morphs into a virtual haunted mansion where the monsters doing the stalking just so happen to be dinosaurs. It’s terrifying and organic and tons of fun. Bayona & Co. use some cool new lighting tricks on the dinos we haven’t seen before and this extended sequence will undoubtedly be the best and most memorable takeaway viewers have from the film.
JWFK could and maybe should have been an exercise in intensity like Bayona’s incredibly powerful tsunami disaster flick The Impossible, where all the main characters are separated for a large part of the story, overcoming all odds in their struggle against the forces of nature to find their way back together. Instead, while JWFK has everything fans of the franchise would want and expect, there is nothing wholly original here until that gripping final act. Unfortunately, it seems as if the entire lead-up to that climatic staging is all place setting in order to get audiences to that final 30-40 minutes of glory. Still, the major cliffhanger the movie concludes with promises that there is more Jurassic-ness to come. Let’s just hope it’s something fresh and not just more of the same.
Star Rating: 2.5 out of 5