The more I reflect on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – J.A. Bayona’s rambunctious mashup of Cretaceous panic humor and gothic houses on dino-haunted hills – the more I respect a film that doesn’t care a lick about conformity and safety nets. I’m sorry, did you think 2015’s Jurassic World jumped the proverbial Mosasaurus? Well, strap the *hell* in. Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly’s screenplay is A-STOUND-ING-LY ludicrous. Remember when Jurassic Park couldn’t get zanier than a child gymnast twirl-kicking a velociraptor or the Indominus Rex getting triple teamed by other combat-ready dinosaurs? Fallen Kingdom makes the talking raptor dream sequence in Jurassic Park III look pedestrian by comparison.
Some of you will downright *despise* the dizzying storyboard jolts of this off-the-rails subgenre royal rumble. Others will laugh while enhanced velociraptors catapult away from ignited fireballs like those cool dudes who never look at explosions. If you’re already smirking at the thought of the latter, congratulations. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a brazenly batty evolution of genetic mythos that delves even deeper into the question of feral domestication and biomedically enhanced DNA cooking. Far closer to that report of a “militarized hybrid dino-soldiers” spec script than you think.
Despite two very distinctive halves, Bayona splices together tried-and-true island scampering with midnight-dark horror aesthetics. First comes a traditional dino roundup with big game hunters (led by Ted Levine’s gruff Ken Wheatley) while a volcano devours island boundaries. Then it’s to Lockwood estate’s massive penitentiary/museum/laboratory in California, where the captured beasts are auctioned off to the highest bidder until inevitable escape.
Oh, and did I mention Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) has organized a PETA-like activism group that fights for dinosaur rights? Protests in Washington, congressional hearings and all. We also meet John Hammond’s ex-partner Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) who helped him extract extinct DNA and father the science behind 1993’s Jurassic Park. And that’s not even the wackiest development.
Seriously. No hyperbole. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is 2018’s most stark-raving-delirious man vs. nature sandbox smashup Frankensteined from a formula of “WTFs” and philosophical doombringing. The apocalypse is nigh, and it’s scalier than predicted.
Scenes on Isla Nublar are ferocity in the sun, dewy from rainforest washings and unchained as Mother Earth intended. Claire, brawny Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), tech-wiz anxiety ball Franklin (Justice Smith) and dino veterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda) are hired by ailing Lockwood’s estate manager Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) because of their previous experience – and failures – on the landmass (re: Jurassic World). The team arrives, Nublar’s Vesuvius already churns a healthy black smoke, and it’s right to “rescue time.”
Shots are nostalgically reminiscent of all the previous franchise entries – Zia gazing upon a necky Brachiosaurus for the first time – and flooding excitement draws on rediscovering God-like rushes of egotism…err…I mean living dinosaurs…once again. Then the lava starts flowing and the entire expedition crew races to escape with their “assets” secured before Nublar is swallowed whole – which is where Mr. Wheatley attempts to leave Owen, Claire and Franklin. For dead.
Right off the bat – well, after a few picket signs reading hilarious sentiments like “T-REXS ARE PEOPLE TOO!” – Bayona hits us with adventure, greed and man’s greatest folly. It’s obvious that the poacher with leathery skin and his hit-squad commandos probably don’t intend to move Stegosauruses or carnivores to a magical sanctuary miles away. Filming never hides that. Audiences watch for the stampedes and more of Blue’s mutual bond with Owen, and that’s what we immediately get. Purity in sun-soaked warmth and destruction.
When orange molten goop starts sliding downhill, pandemonium erupts so catastrophically. Owen – after sedation by Wheatley – wakes up with a triceratops licking his face, still paralyzed. Only his bottom half functions, so he goes all “quaaludes scene” from The Wolf Of Wall Street to escape being melted to the bone in a fit of physical comedy. This is while Franklin and Claire face off against a demonic meat eater who enters their locked control room via connecting pipe – framed by Bayona’s wonderful sense of monster-in-the-closet paranoia – as magma drips through ceiling grates. It’s frantic, eeks a few laughs thanks to Smith’s high-pitched squeals, and all culminates with underwater/speeding-down-a-collapsing-dock Temple Run escapism. Very much my kind of blockbuster content.
From here, it’s to Lockwood’s massive mansion grounds, with Eli operating an entire illegal import and sale of ‘effing dinosaurs under his bedridden employer’s nose (magnificent caged marvels wheeled out with reminiscent King Kong grandeur). Pint-sized Gunnar Eversol (Toby Jones) enters with the instantly despicable entrepreneurial swagger of Donald Trump – hairpiece and all – and the open mystique of Jurassic World becomes bottled inside an affluent man’s manor. Fallen Kingdom’s freshly baked hybrid killing machine – the Indoraptor – is let loose to stalk the grounds and everyone inside. From Lockwood’s diorama gallery (full Natural History aesthetic) to modern castle archways where Owen and his new little accomplice Maisie (Isabella Sermon) – Lockwood’s granddaughter – flee from their next-level super-predator pursuer. It’s the Jurassic World Bayona was hired to make. Throbbingly tense, deliciously chilling and soaked in fang-gnashing dread.
It’s the closest thing I’ve got to a damn Dino Crisis movie. Leave me alone.
Bayona’s signatures also favor “the dramatic” amidst an oddball blend of corny one-liners (like, the cheesiest creamed corn) and rainstorm terror. Repeated silhouettes portrait dinosaurs as they make life-altering decisions or fall victim to a volcano’s damning excretion. Humanization of Jurassic World’s great wonders pushes beyond intelligence. As Dr. Grant once recognized a raptor working out how to use a door handle, we’re now light years ahead. To the point where humans are tricked by “napping” adversaries or newfound Pachycephalosaurus homies wink directly into the camera. Bayona takes these creatures and gives them personality, helped by the inclusion of baby herbivores and raptors alike (d’awwww). For how forced and choppy Owen’s relationship with Claire may be, we’ve never been allowed to feel for Jurassic attractions like this before.
Concerning those pesky humans, expect the same attention to detail into hero dynamics as Jurassic World. If you winced at Claire’s now-famous “running from a T-Rex in heels” scene, don’t expect revamped gender politics. Pratt’s Owen is *never* allowed to emote past laughing in death’s face, while Claire’s agape (see: petrified) mouth is a permanent fixture. Romantic tension bubbles, villains are as outlandish as they are delusional, and a calmness permeates character actions despite Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom being the zaniest amalgamation of genre beats ever assembled. Spall’s wherewithal of a second-rate Bond villain satisfyingly teeters on the edge of madness and economic adaptation, while Toby Jones embodies a true-to-form sleaze-bag as only Toby Jones can. Levine grunts, Smith cowers and Pineda walks away my favorite new addition to Jurassic World’s universe – but are you really here for them anyway?
The movie is called Jurassic World, and all eyes are on the “Jurassic” portion of that. Once animatronic products of Stan Winston craftsmanship have become digital reimaginings. I’d love to rail against CGI – as a practical effects lover does – but it’s not distractingly noticeable (sans one chomped arm or hyper-close pan). A return to puppeteering and scale models balances the pixelation domination from the new trilogy’s first venture, leaving us to focus on more enriching details like how an opening submersible mission shades traumatizing judgment over Jurassic World’s most family-friendly, Sea World amusement note. The old left in ruins; trained tricks traded for savage inhibitions.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is boggled insanity of the highest and most enthralling sci-fi order. As exciting and wondrous a summer blockbuster audiences could ask for. You must suspend reality (EVEN FURTHER) and enter a world where dinosaurs have existed for years in order to attain circumstantial nirvana, but if done correctly, an absolute wealth of ceremonious riches await.
Developed bonds between man and monster, afraid-of-the-dark nightmare chases, downright slapstick rich-get-headbutted anarchy – this movie plays into its own admission of insanity and never wavers. The park is gone, and with it any rationale or somewhat plausible structure. And you know what? We might just be better off for it. Jurassic World: War For The Planet Of The Dinosaurs (or whatever the sequel will be called) – BRING IT ON.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a midnight movie that snuck into primetime billing, amplified itself in the process and came out boastfully committed to the sci-fi looney bin (in a most admirable way).