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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom adds another set piece-packed entry to the blockbuster franchise, although genuinely thrilling moments are in increasingly short supply.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom adds another set piece-packed entry to the blockbuster franchise, although genuinely thrilling moments are in increasingly short supply.
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Fallen Kingdom delivers on its promise and then some. But once fully digested, this high-calorie snack will likely not rank very high on the Jurassic franchise food chain.
Golly, maybe life really will find a way, even in a franchise whose last installment played like a zombified version of the original entry from Steven Spielberg.
Fallen Kingdom is the silliest and most purely enjoyable variation on a story that a few big studio productions have been offering recently.
J.A. Bayona demonstrates a flair for the gothic... which has less pyrotechnics but more suspense.
Although each Jurassic movie is fated to essentially repeat the same idea-oh no, dinosaurs!-this new era has come up with ways to surprise, terrify, and inspire, which is enough to keep the heart of the franchise beating.
Individually, there is really artful and muscular camerawork going on here, but for the most part it is kind of mindless.
This movie is the epitome of dumb fun.
There is one scene that provides any amount of decent action, and even that feels like a bad ripoff of the Brontosaurus stampede from Peter Jackson's "King Kong.
Fallen Kingdom is vibrant and broad, but lacks the emotional depth and message (director J.A.) Bayona attempts to infuse.
There's nothing wrong with the movie-as-theme-park-ride concept but the ineptitude of the script knows no ends and makes it hard to buy into the supposed fun. Fallen Kingdom is a cash grab, pure and simple, and a lazy one at that.
The thrill of dinosaurs invading our cineplexes has gone extinct.
Bayona's adrenaline-fuelled, sometimes emotional, often nightmarishly scary effort is brought roaringly to life by the Jurassic stars of the show.
K so this happened, the legendary Spielberg franchise churned out its fifth movie and actually turned into cheesy B-movie schlock. Did I say turned? I meant deteriorated.
So here we go again. The island of Isla Nuba is gonna be destroyed by a pending volcanic eruption and there is a debate about whether the dinosaurs should be saved or not. Naturally despite the US Senate deciding to allow the dinosaurs to perish some do-gooders take it upon themselves to try and save them anyway (must be part of the 'resistance'). But low and behold the people who claim to want to save the dinosaurs for a new sanctuary actually mean to sell them off to the highest bidders. These naughty humans have also created genetically modified dinosaurs too which will bring in even more money. And needless to say, the people who to buy these dinosaurs are all evil (and probably Russian, I dunno). Could you get more schlocky??
Alright so like some previous reviews I've done for these huge popcorn flicks I'm just gonna basically bullet point my thoughts because there is literally so much I could write it would go on forever.
So straight away one of the key political narratives in this movie is the argument about whether the dinosaurs should be saved because they are living animals and deserve protection. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) believes mankind should allow the dinosaurs to perish because nature has once again selected them to die off and that they were originally man-made so they shouldn't have been around in the first place. An opinion he has generally held throughout the franchise, that the whole idea was a bad one. Personally I agree with this because as said these creatures were man-made. Without our science and interference they wouldn't be alive in the first place so essentially letting them die off via natural disaster is a good way to end the 'project'.
What bewilders me is the fact that our two protagonists, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), still want to save the dinosaurs and put them in a sanctuary somewhere...because that's worked out so well up till now. They both think these giant lumbering creatures can be looked after like regular animals despite [b]all[/b] the trouble thus far. They just don't seem to understand that dinosaurs cannot be contained and some will eat you. This is a huge flaw in the characters and it's annoying.
Isla Nuba: The volcano erupts and we officially enter the schlock zone. Grady and Dearing manage to outrun the pyroclastic cloud. During this time the soon-to-be bad guys are off catching dinosaurs to 'rescue'. We never actually see how they do this, they just arrive at the ship with lots of captured dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes. Its also at this time we get our first (overly used) T-Rex money shot as it roars after inadvertently saving the protagonists (how many times guys? How many times).
Sir Benjamin Lockwood: Who? Well alas Richard Attenborough died in 2014 and obviously director J.A. Bayona wanted another elderly character to oversee the new dino project. So now we have a John Hammond-esque character again, hurray! Turns out back in the day this duo worked together on Jurassic Park but fell out, hence we haven't ever seen him before (and not because he was just created for this movie).
Northern California Estate: Jump to Lockwood's sprawling Addams Family-esque mansion in northern California complete with a moody wood-paneled Victorian-esque interior, a creaky dumbwaiter...oh and an underground lair with cages big enough to house large dinosaurs. It's basically a fecking castle. This is where the highly illegal activity of selling dinosaurs goes down in some ridiculous evening event for...[i]Bond[/i] villains? And yes I actually think some of these dastardly people were actually Russian.
It seems these people want to buy dinosaurs for various reasons such as hunting, but the main reason is, of course, the old weapons notion. Yep apparently these guys think that dinosaurs would make great future weapons, [i]'the perfect weapon'[/i]. This literally makes no sense to me, how the flip is a dinosaur the perfect weapon? Why go to all the trouble of trying to train a deadly man-eating dinosaur (possibly with attached weapons?) for the purpose of warfare when you can just use highly skilled men. You can't rely on the dinosaur not killing you. You can't rely on the dinosaur not running off on a mission. And although a dinosaur can probably kill lots of people, surely men with guns can kill more? And surely a dinosaur isn't exactly invincible either, its a living creature, it's not bulletproof.
Its here we also get introduced to the new genetically-modified dinosaur with all the bells and whistles (but still not bulletproof, although apparently tranquiliser proof). Naturally said dinosaur eventually gets out and kills everyone as we proceed to the second half of the movie, 'Resident Evil: Dino Hunt'. Yes it's around this point that the movie legitimately becomes a monster B-movie as the dinosaur chases people around the dark mansion (and on the rooftops). Cue lots of near misses as the dinosaur goes for the kill (always an object in its way).
To really double down on the whole [i]Resident Evil[/i] theme we see that Lockwood has a young granddaughter. Spoiler alert, turns out she's a clone. It seems Lockwood got carried away with the whole replication of DNA and cloned his dead daughter, which in turn caused the split with Hammond.
Towards the finale the Velociraptor known as Blue (transported from Isla Nuba) is released and helps Grady and co by attacking the new modified dinosaur. Cue lots of furious CGI and the second money shot in the exact same pose we've seen before with the T-Rex, only this time with the Velociraptor (Jesus Christ!). In the end both dinosaurs fall off the roof and through a window whilst fighting. Luckily the evil dinosaur is impaled on a statue, phew!
Oh and then in the end when everything has settled, Dearing has a chance to free the remaining dinosaurs into the wild (of America) otherwise they'll get gassed to death (the results of the aftermath of the dinosaurs breaking free under the mansion). Thankfully she hesitates and doesn't, realising that would be a bad move. But then Lockwood's cloned daughter calmly does it anyway because she's a stupid kid.
So all in all its a pretty surprising drop in quality really. This used to be an epic franchise, a Spielberg franchise, a step above the rest. But now its been dragged through the mud with multiple sequels that have gotten worse and worse until we are left with a cheesy monster movie that wouldn't look outta place in the [i]King Kong[/i] universe. The effects are impressive of course but its a drab looking movie loaded with annoying callbacks to the original movie. The dinosaurs are now free in the US so one can expect a very familiar third movie soon. I'm guessing the only thing they can do now is round all the dinosaurs up and move them back to site B? (remember that? Its still out there).
Where the park provided a sense of wonder for many films of the franchise, the latest installment just sends it all into fiery hell with a big volcano catastrophe. That's spectacular and with great special effects but even at this point already, the films tone is odd at times. Pratt's delivery has been more on point in other projects, but at least his chemistry with Howard works. The second half of the film, which combines the horror tropes of the lab and scary mansion with the dinosaurs feels like a very strange setting. I imagine few viewers signed up for Jurassic Mansion. There are a few Spielbergian thrills here or there and the film is entertaining in every second, but overall, the title almost feels like false advertisement.
Not a direct steal from the first Jurassic but rather let's just say that quite a few scenes from the original have been, er, creatively restructured. The summer blockbuster still remains with plenty of big action set pieces to chew popcorn with the best of them - although this isn't one of the best of them. They did well enough to keep the series alive (because that's their intention), but you won't be running to your chums and telling them that they've got to see this movie.
There has always been an element of suspension of disbelief with the Jurassic Park films even with the hubris-pushing premise, but the sequels specifically have had to manage a rising tide of incredulity and sense of dumb. You can only keep going back to a dinosaur-infested island or thinking this time mucking with the DNA of large, extinct, highly advanced killing machines will be different. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom may be the dumbest yet, and while it does have moments of fun and excitement, the dumb outweighs all else.
Years after the deadly attacks at Jurassic World, the volcano on the island has reactivated and the remaining dinosaurs are in imminent danger of another extinction (except for the flying ones, but whatever). Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), with sensible footwear this go-round, is looking to raise money and awareness to save the thunder lizards. A wealthy magnate (James Cromwell) wants to save the dinosaurs and whisk them to a wildlife preserve far from mankind, but first they must secure the raptor Blue, and in order for that to happen Claire needs to convince her former flame and co-worker Owen (Chris Pratt) to go back. They venture back to the endangered island only to run into more trouble from stampeding dinosaurs, new super predators, and a plot to house and sell the creatures off the island.
Maybe it's just a side effect of being the fifth movie in a generation-spanning franchise, or maybe it's a holdover effect of the 2015 film's meta-commentary about audiences becoming complacent with what used to inspire awe, but it feels like returning screenwriters Colin Trevorrow (The Book of Henry) and Derek Connolly (Safety Not Guaranteed) couldn't be bothered picking a tone or developing their plot. It reminds me of the seventh season of HBO's Game of Thrones, specifically the back half of episodes. It felt like the creators had certain conclusions in mind and rather than smarty develop storylines that would naturally reach those conclusions, the "how" of the narrative became jumbled, confounding, and frustrating. I felt the same way while watching Fallen Kingdom; the stylish set pieces were likely established first and foremost and the stuff in between, you know the story and characters and their interaction, was given far less attention. It didn't matter how we got from one set piece to another. This lack of consideration leads to many moments that keep you from fully engaging with the movie, namely dumb and/or awful characters doing dumb things for dumb reasons. The conclusion of Fallen Kingdom seems meant to leverage interest in a third movie, which is already scheduled for release in 2021. Was this 128 minutes the best way to get there?
When people repeatedly do stupid things, it tests your limits of empathy. This happens to me with horror movies and it happened for me with Fallen Kingdom. It's the kind of movie where a little girl runs into her bedroom and hides under her covers from an approaching hungry dinosaur. The ensuing image of the stalking beast entering the bed with the claws is a killer image, but what did we lose getting here? This little girl was not established as some dumb kid either. The preceding hour showed her as resourceful and plucky, so this just erases all that. There's another moment where characters have to choose between escaping through an ordinary door or an open window and crawling along the edge of the roof... and guess what they choose. This is the kind of movie where characters will be in danger and then, hooray, another character arrived in time to save the day, and then another character arrived to save the shortly-after next day. Then there's a bad guy who enters a dinosaur cage simply to retrieve a dino tooth for his personal necklace of dinosaur teeth. I'll repeat that. He's not extracting them to sell to another bio-engineering company for its DNA (the opening scene presents this very example). He's removing dinosaur teeth for his own personal decorative hobby. My preview screening groaned in unison loudly at how stupid all of this was. How am I supposed to even enjoy this dumb character's inevitable death when they're this dumb and undefined?
The dumbest action of all is tied to its central premise of saving the dinosaurs. When Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcolm (relegated to a two-minute cameo, don't expect much) was championing letting the dinosaurs go extinct again and the folly of mankind playing God in the realm of genetics, I was right with him, and I'm no GMO spook. Bringing gigantic, killing machines back to life was clearly a mistake as five movies have now shown in great, bloody detail. At some point a lesson must be learned. I know that Fallen Kingdom is meant to imbue the dinosaurs in an animal rights lens, with Claire trying to atone for her time shaping and selling these creatures for public consumption. The animal rights angle never clicked for me. There are moments the film really tries, wanting you to shed a few tears for the fate of these gigantic creatures. Maybe you will, and there are a few shameless sequences to make you (the child sitting next to me was losing it at points). That's why it's not enough to have the bad guys have bad guy plans but they also have to be cruel and abusive in their treatment of the dinosaurs. The multi-million dollar ploy to weaponize the dinos also baffled me. Are they going to be that much better than firepower? There's a reason we don't just drop hungry lions into our war zones.
The new characters fail to add anything of merit to the story and larger Jurassic world. Cromwell's Benjamin Lockwood is basically just a John Hammond stand-in ("Oh, there were TWO super rich dudes who funded the research and park now"). He's confined to a bed for most of the movie and adds little besides his bank account. Then there are the two main team members, computer whiz Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) and med vet Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda). He's only here for comic relief and to do computer magic whenever called upon, and she's only here for spiky attitude (she gets called a "nasty woman" for commentary?) and to do medical magic when called upon. Each of these characters is less a person than a handy plot resolution. When the movie transitions into its second half, both of them are kept on the sidelines. Then there's little Maisie (Isabella Sermon) who has her own secret that really doesn't come to much of anything and begs further examination. I suppose her perspective relates to a difficult moral choice at the end over the value of life, but she still felt underdeveloped. Even the villains are disappointing with the exception of Toby Jones (Atomic Blonde) as a slimy, one percent businessman looking for new thrills. I wish the screenplay had devoted more time to establishing the rich's entitled sense of privilege even as it comes to a new world with living dinosaurs as the next big, commoditized play thing to buy and sell.
With all that said, there are moments of enjoyment and excitement to be had with Fallen Kingdom. Director J.A. Bayona (A Monster Calls) has a great gift for finding the right image and holding onto it for maximum impact. He showcased this in his crafty, brooding, and highly effective ghost story The Orphanage and in his emotionally uplifting and harrowing tsunami survival drama The Impossible. With his first crack at a major studio movie, Bayona comes most alive in its second half when the movie transitions into a haunted house thriller in a mansion of secrets. His command of visuals and mood comes into sharper focus and there are some tense, delightful sequences. As much as I wrote about Fallen Kingdom being a movie of set pieces and little else, those set pieces are actually pretty entertaining. The island material only lasts about a half hour, wasting little time in getting the important pieces in play. There's one long take inside a submerged capsule taking on water that keeps spinning and ratcheting up the tension that reminded me a bit of Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men. There's another sequence involving a blood transfusion that I thought married comedy and tension better than anything else in the film, and it served a purpose that was credible.
If you can shut off your brain and stuff your mouth with a steady supply of popcorn to thwart your incredulous grumbling, there might be enough to enjoy with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It's technically well made and the special effects are pretty good, the photography is evocative, and there are potent set pieces and imagery to stimulate the pulse. It's loud, dumb fun, but for me, this time, the dumb outweighed the fun.
Nate's Grade: C
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