“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”- Movie Review

I can’t remember the first time I saw Jurassic Park. A part of me wants to say I came found it on cable while channel-surfing, yet at the same time my mind is painting a very distinct picture of me getting the VHS tape out from my grandma’s video cabinet and popping it in the VCR. Either way, it doesn’t really matter how I discovered the film. What I know for sure is how is how it I felt watching it. Jurassic Park has that cinematic magic. Whenever I watch the film, or see the logo, or listen to John Williams’ brilliant score, I feel like a little kid again being swept up in a dangerous yet inspiring adventure. Unfortunately, that sense of awe hasn’t really followed into the most recent follow-ups to Jurassic Park. So going into the series’ fifth installment, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Fallen Kingdom picks up three years after the disastrous events of the first Jurassic World. The park is left in ruins, and the pending eruption of a dormant volcano threatens to wipe out the dinosaurs on the island. This sparks a fierce debate. Although made in a laboratory, do these creatures have rights just like other animals? Should nature take its course and the dinosaurs be left to die, or do they deserve to be saved from extinction? Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) sure think so. They take part in a massive rescue operation to help the remaining dinosaurs, though efforts prove futile once they uncover the operation’s true intentions.

The film’s director, J.A. Bayona, has quite an interesting resume. He’s written, directed, and produced a handful of Spanish short films, and has also lent his talents to more mainstream projects such as A Monster Calls, The Impossible, and the acclaimed horror film, The Orphanage. Clearly, the guy has a knack for dark storytelling. Visually speaking, Fallen Kingdom isn’t devoid of artistic effort. It’s a very nice-looking film, composed of shots that convey a constant sense of danger, slow and intense reveals of dinosaurs lurking in the shadows, and a decent blend of CGI and animatronics that help make the dinosaurs feel more alive. Though as wonderfully crafted as Bayona’s vision is, it isn’t enough to save a story that’s bloated with repeats, a pointless twist, and horrible decision-making.

You’d think that being the fifth addition to a franchise, Fallen Kingdom would step outside the box and commit to doing something new. And at first, that’s what it seems to be doing. The animal rights angle and the notion of trying to get the dinosaurs off the island are solid, intriguing enough ideas to fill out the entire movie. Instead, it’s compressed into a rushed first act, with the rest of the film playing it safe. It recycles certain narrative beats that we’ve already seen in the first Jurassic World– from creating a new dinosaur hybrid that breaks out and wreaks havoc to having a bad guy advocating to weaponize the dinosaurs (which is and always will be a stupid idea) – and the few call backs to the original Jurassic Park feel less like clever homages and more like tired reminders.

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In terms of the characters, there’s not much to get attached to. Chris Pratt is charming and humorous as always. The character of Owen never really grows or changes throughout the film, but the bond he has with the raptor, Blu, is admittedly adorable. Bryce Dallas Howard’s character at least feels different from the first movie, and she gives a fine performance. I never bought into their romance. Why they couldn’t be strictly platonic, I don’t know. That’s just my personal Hollywood peeve. The comic relief, a stereotypically geeky, germaphobic, easily-frightened kid named Franklin (played by Justice Smith), annoyed me so much that every time I saw him I prayed he’d get eaten by raptors or be carried off by a pterodactyl. Although Rafe Spall, who plays the villain, isn’t over the top, the writing of his character is. He’s one of those suit-and-tie wearing, money-hungry villains you’ve seen in cheesy cartoons. All he needed was a mustache to twirl.

Isabella Sermon, the actress playing the young girl in the film, is in an interesting predicament. In my opinion, she’s one of the highlights. Her performance is strong, her character, up until the last five minutes, is smart, and she handles the few emotional moments pretty well. At the same time, however, her role is attached to two of the biggest flaws with this movie. An aspect of her character and the reveal of it are pointless, and add nothing to the story in any shape or form. To make things worse, she’s involved with a decision at the end that’s treated like a respectable choice when in reality it’s a horrible one that puts thousands of people’s’ lives at risk. I understand the end goal that writers Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connelly were trying to reach, but I think it could’ve been handled in a smarter way.

With all that being said, I don’t dislike this movie. Between the craftsmanship, the dinosaurs themselves, and the fine performances, I can’t say I was ever bored. I was always interested in where the movie was going, but where it ultimately went was beyond disappointing. If all you want is to do is turn your brain off and see dinosaurs do some cool things, then you’ll probably have fun with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.  For me, one word best sums it up: meh.

Cosmic Grade: 3/5 Stars

 

 

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