Movie Review: ‘JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM’ finds some fun in its insanity

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Jared McMillan // Film Critic

JURASSIC PARK: FALLEN KINGDOM

Rated PG-13. 128 minutes.
Director: J.A. Bayona
Starring: Bryce Dallas HowardChris PrattRafe SpallJustice SmithDaniella PinedaJames CromwellToby JonesTed LevineJeff Goldblum and 

Insanity: The product of doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting a different result.

The argument could be made that we are all insane when it comes to something specific, but that is an argument for another time. However, in the JURASSIC PARK cinematic world, there is just something so appealing about that island. So much so, that it causes intelligent people to forego all logic to see or revisit the existence of dinosaurs, which were brought back to life because an eccentric genius couldn’t let go of a chance to play God.

From the first installment, there is a variant of the same formula: A small island near Costa Rica is home to dinosaurs created by the corporation InGen. People somehow get dragged back to the island after surviving a previous installment’s attack, underlying intentions are discovered, and survival from man and monster ensues. This went on through three films before the InGen corporation opened a new operation called Jurassic World, introducing new leads in raptor handler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and InGen’s Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard).

Of course, one of the dinosaurs causes mayhem that creates a domino effect of giant creatures creating chaos, which plays into the JP formula. Owen and Claire escape while the dinosaurs roam the island once again. However, when a project generates so much interest and revenue, there are bound to be elements that exist to keep the creations going, regardless of the characters’ sanity. Hence JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM.

The fifth movie of the JP franchise revolves around the fact that Isla Nublar is actually an active volcano, which will violently erupt and killing all dinosaurs. Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) argues before a government committee that we should let them die, and they concur. Claire is now running a non-profit that is actively trying to save dinosaurs from becoming extinct again when she hears the news. However, she gets a call from the estate of Ben Lockwood (James Cromwell) that might help her cause.

Chris Pratt in JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM. Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

At his mansion, Claire is welcomed by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), the caretaker of the dying Lockwood’s financial matters. He reveals (to the audience) that Lockwood is the former business partner of John Hammond, and Jurassic Park was their vision. They have a plan to move various species to a secure location, so they can thrive, but she knows the park better than anyone, so they need her help. She goes and gets Owen because he is the only one that can get Blue, the raptor he raised on the island. Of course, they go with the best intentions, and of course everyone else has a plan to exploit the dinosaurs.

The story and plot of JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM are really a remix of previous elements in the JP franchise: there’s the subplot to sell dinos on the black market, a billionaire’s grandchild in peril (newcomer Isabella Sermon), evil ex-military types, and a hybrid dinosaur called the Indoraptor (part Indominus rex, part raptor). Also, there are times in the first act where the movie takes itself too seriously to inject metaphor or deeper meaning. Coupled with lazy dialogue and it can take the viewer into a negative position before the action starts.

However, what makes the fifth movie really shine is the direction of J.A. Bayona, whose works include THE ORPHANAGE, THE IMPOSSIBLE, and A MONSTER CALLS. Partnered with Bayona’s go-to cinematographer Oscar Faura, they make great use of lighting and shadow to give gravitas to scenes involving the dinosaurs. The opening sequence makes great use of the giant Mosasaurus by barely showing it and starting the experience off with terror and awe. There are some extended takes peppered in throughout the movie to drive the tension where it is needed, and they really play with silhouettes when the Indoraptor is revealed.

And while the script could be better, there are fun moments that happen. The audience will cheer on Blue the velociraptor as her relationship with Pratt’s charismatic hero Owen develops. And the supporting cast does well to bring levity when necessary: Zia (Daniella Pineda) brings a sarcastic kick-ass woman in to balance the scared-out-of-his-wits Franklin, and Toby Jones shows up as the black-market dealer to chew all the scenery that he can.

These details create an environment for the audience to enjoy themselves rather than figuring out how to receive the movie, creating a link to that fun as the story changes moods. People come to the JP franchise to see the manifestations of creatures that used to walk the Earth millions of years ago and the insane scenarios that could be if man tried to conquer them. JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM takes a while to get through the formula of the JP franchise, but it becomes a solid adventure once it gets let loose.

Grade: B-

JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM opens nationwide today.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.