Full-blown, top-to-bottom spoilers for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom to follow.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out to mixed reviews but a massive box office opening with overall great audience reception, receiving an A- Cinemascore from audiences. It is, for all intents and purposes, a film that might be the silliest of the franchise while also being one of the most terrifying at the same time. It leans, more than ever, into it’s science fiction roots to give us even smarter genetically modified dinosaurs and loyal velociraptors. In it’s biggest swing of all, it even has the balls to introduce the concept of viable human cloning.
That’s right, we’ve finally taken genetic manipulation to it’s foregone conclusion, we just had to get the 5 films of dinosaur island to get there. This is only one of the few things JW:FK does to completely separate itself from your typical Jurassic Park film, and it leaves the film headed in an unknown future that is tinged with both doubt and excitement.
The first 30 minutes or so of the film play out as you’d expect, with an absolute banger of an opening sequence that’s as good as any since the original ‘SHOOT HER’ opening of the original. The T-Rex stalking some poor mercenary computer guy (decked out in a yellow raincoat, no less), is played to maximum intensity, using lightning and thunder to really boost the action. The Mosasaurus jumping out and eating the guy just as he thinks he’s escaped is perfect icing on the cake, which makes it all the more unfortunate that this moment and many others were already spoiled by the trailers for the film. The big bad aquatic dino swims through an open underwater gate and suddenly we’re racing towards a true Jurassic World.
After that opening sequence, all the main players get re-introduced on top of giving us new archetypes, and make no mistake, that’s what they are. The sassy no-BS scientist girl, the nerdy out-of-his-element computer geek, the shifty mercenary leader, and the slimy suit-wearing businessman all make appearances to give us humans in which our beloved dinosaurs can terrorize. Lot’s of the new characters are thin, but relatively enjoyable. I found both Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt to have fun chemistry with one another and build off of their admittedly thin characters from the previous film. We can’t forget about Goldblum, either! He only get’s a few extended courtroom speeches at the start and end of the film, but both of them perfectly continue his chaos theory ramblings from before. He spends his moments chastising humanity as not only abusing the power they’ve created, but how they’ve let it spiral out of control to a degree that could lead to cataclysmic, unnatural change.
Once the team heads back to dinosaur island, it’s a race against the clock. We get a few moments of beauty from a beloved Brachiosaurus before Owen tracks down Blue. Sure enough, the mercenary team they’re helping turns on them, leaving our good guys in various states of screwed as the volcano erupts. The volcano eruption is as intense of one as I’ve seen on film before, and director J.A. Bayona once again shows a knack for handling natural disasters, as he did with tsunamis in The Impossible. Owen is left doing the worlds worst Kill Bill impression, trying to wake his body from tranquilizer as slow-moving lava surrounds him. Claire and Franklin have a pretty great little sequence as they try to escape a vicious Baryonyx as a wall of trickling lava keeps them just out of biting range.
Then the island blows up. The volcanic sequences and dinosaur stampedes really play on the power of nature in relation to these creatures. Carnivore and herbivore alike run in fear. The mighty T-Rex roars as it does in the trailers, but has the wind knocked out of it immediately after when the shockwave hits. Worst of all, as the mercenaries push away from the island, we’re left with an incredibly sad image of that Brachiosaur, left on the dock with nowhere to go, roaring out in vain as the lava surrounds it. It hoists itself up on it’s hind legs, mimicking the original spectacular shot from Jurassic Park, before it’s enveloped in smoke and flame. It is genuinely heartbreaking to lose not only that dinosaur, but essentially the nostalgia of the park and the wonder in general.
One of the biggest challenges these Jurassic films have faced is finding ways to get people back onto dinosaur island. It’s always been some form of corporate greed or disrespect for nature, but sooner or later people were gonna have to stop going. JW:FK solves this problem by obliterating that island, although the mercenaries probably managed to grab at least 30, maybe 40 dinosaurs before the volcano blew its top. The park, and the island, are completely gone, and that’s when Fallen Kingdom begins moving further away from what came before.
One of my biggest issues with the film is the way that it deals with time and location. These dinosaurs, as well as our stowaway heroes, are all locked up in an admittedly big tanker boat. But then that boat takes seemingly hours to get from South America to Northern California. The rescue team arrived during the day, left during the day, and arrive in NorCal at night. You mean to tell me that the entire operation and delivery of dinosaurs took a single day? I doubt that very much. Maybe, MAYBE it took 24 hours. But if that’s the case, you mean to tell me none of our heroes were discovered on this boat that’s packed with mercenaries? I can believe that you remade dinosaurs, but this, this is a stretch.
It’s from there the film switches gears into a full blown horror film, with Michael Giacchino’s score booming loudly with deep horns that might feel welcome in a King Kong or Godzilla film. The bad guys are auctioning off these dinosaurs to further fund their genetic experiments, and to be honest the numbers they pull in are a little embarrassing. You mean to tell me that the last living Ankylosaurus in history pulls in less than what a professional athlete makes in a year? Granted, this isn’t their endgame, but I couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed for them when they get so excited over $10 million bucks.
It’s during these auction scenes that JW:FK fully introduces us to the Indoraptor, a smaller, more vicious version of the Indominus Rex. Giacchino’s score yet again amplifies it’s intensity as the roll it out, making great use of sound and shadow. The Indoraptor serves as the unnatural monster of the later parts of the movie, stalking and murdering humans left and right. One of the most vicious and violent dinosaur kills in the series is courtesy of the Indoraptor, who tears off poor Ted Levine’s arm and makes him cry like a baby before chomping him to death. Despite Levine’s character being a thundering dumbass for getting into that situation, it’s still a top 5 death in the franchise, for sure.
During the chaos, the young girl in the film, Maisie Lockwood, is reveled to be a clone of her dead mother, created by John Hammond’s partner Benjamin Lockwood who was unseen before this film. With the Indominus Rex, the Indoraptor, and now Maisie all being further steps in genetic tampering, it paints the franchise in a whole new light, leaning more towards its science fiction roots than ever before. It’s not unwelcome, per se, but it starts to feel less and less like a Jurassic Park film and more like something completely different, especially when you get into the confines of Lockwood’s creepy mansion.
Bayona makes the most out of every nook and cranny of the mansion in which the final third of the film takes place. From claustrophobic hallways to basement laboratories, from wood-paneled dinosaur dioramas to the rainy rooftops, Bayona takes advantage of every setting, giving us new and unique set pieces. His lighting and staging are akin to horror films and gothic fairytales, using moonlight and lightning as effectively, natural light sources. There are a handful of shots here that rival some of those composed of even Spielberg himself. From the Indoraptor roaring on a rainy rooftop backlit by the moon to a shot of Blue looking back to Owen, illuminated only by headlights, this movie really brings it with some gorgeous filmmaking.
The Indoraptor no doubt has to showdown with Blue, our hero raptor, ending in a pretty fantastic hero shot of Blue roaring whilst perched on the Indoraptor’s impaled corpse. Of all the successful things the Jurassic World franchises has done, completely rehabilitating the Velociraptor imagine has to be amongst it’s biggest successes. The relationship between Blue and Owen is actually pretty effective, given more depth through the use of training-videos from when Blue was a baby. Blue reigns victorious, our human heroes get out alive, and dinosaurs are scattered across the Earth. Oh and evil slimy corporate asshole Eli Mills gets chomped by the T-Rex, then has his leg ripped off by a Carnotaurus, and his remains are picked upon by Compies. It’s GREAT.
JW:FK ends on a montage using many clips that you’ve seen in the trailers, against highlighting that they gave WAY too much away in these previews. Half of the dinosaurs were purchased and shipped off to parts unknown, the remaining dinosaurs have escaped into the wild, and there’s still plenty of unhatched specimens and dino DNA seen to create many, many more. The T-Rex roars face to face with a lion, the Mosasaur attacks surfers, Blue looks over a subdivision from the hills, all while Goldblum delivers his ominous warning about welcoming in a new Jurassic World. It’s an effective ending, but one that still has plenty of question marks.
Just exactly how likely is it that Malcolm’s foreboding commentary come to pass, and that we actually get a third film where the world is being shared by human and dinosaur alike? Firstly, there’s not THAT many dinosaurs out there, and the ones that are can definitely be tracked using their chips. The shady individuals that bought dinos could definitely find ways to reverse-engineer them. Fiendish Dr. Wu even says that by selling the prototype Indoraptor, their giving outsiders the opportunity to make more. I think this line will probably be very telling of what to expect when the third film hit’s theaters in a few years. Sure, our original dinosaurs will still be in play, but we’ll have a bunch of other dinosaurs created by other groups and countries. Perhaps the third film will lean even more heavily into its genetic arms race ideas , as these two previous entries have built towards.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is by no means a smart film. The villains are too dumb, the timeline too abbreviated to not question it. The film struggles to show us the magnitude of it’s decisions, leaving it to the third film to fill the gaps, so to speak, so that we may truly get that final Neo-Jurassic age. But for the all dumbness there is, it is beaten out by a combination of nostalgia-heavy action, large leaps towards sci-fi genetics, and the unique setting and direction from J.A. Bayona. While the first hour of the film resembles the Jurassic action adventures that we’re familiar with, it takes some serious left turns in tone and intensity in the second half. I had an absolute blast with it, and I’ll be there again when the third film comes out to see just where they plan to take this all. Jurassic Park made me love dinosaurs and movies as a kid, I still love them 25 years later, and I’ll still love them as they keep cranking out more dinosaur action.