Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Reviewed By alejandroariera
Posted 06/22/18 11:25:14

"Open the door, get on the floor, Everybody walk the dinosaur"
3 stars (Average)

"Jurassic World" delivered what it promised: a louder, bigger reboot of the "Jurassic Park" franchise. It was also disposable, a by-the-numbers exercise, a first chapter of a trilogy that we frankly didn’t need, the product of a corporate mindset willing to squeeze every last drop of its back catalog. “The last thing the world needs is another 'Jurassic Park' sequel. As much as I enjoyed this entry, there is no question in my mind that the Jurassic Park franchise is past its expiration date,” I wrote in my review of "Jurassic World" when it was released. Then came news that Spanish filmmaker Juan Antonio Bayona ("The Orphanage," the critically underrated and magnificent "A Monster Calls") had been hired to direct the sequel and my curiosity was piqued. Would executive producer Steven Spielberg and Universal allow Bayona to leave his mark in the franchise the way Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro and Waika Taititi were allowed to in the Harry Potter, Blade, and Thor franchises? Or would he be hampered by them?

"Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom" feels like a happy compromise. The film itself, as written by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorow (director of "Jurassic World") is pretty much a remix of "Jurassic Park: The Lost World." Trevorow and Connolly are far more interested in hitting plot points than in character development and in exploring some of the ideas they propose. And for the first hour, Bayona hits those plot beats, delivering a pretty standard franchise film. It is in the second half when Bayona and his regular cinematographer Oscar Faura and editor Bernat Vilaplana go wild with a stylish, thrilling, well-paced and fun Gothic horror movie with dinosaurs. They, in a way, are teaching Trevorow a lesson in big budget action filmmaking.

The movie opens with the equivalent of a Hitchcockian MacGuffin: the underwater search for the remains of the last film’s Indominus Rex in the gigantic pool of the now abandoned Jurassic World theme park on Isla Nublar. It’s a dark and stormy night, of course, and there are monsters out there. Which is to say, that the operation to extract from it a bone for Dr. Henry Wu’s (B.D. Wong) continuing genetical experiments doesn’t quite go as planned. Days later, a volcano eruption threatens to extinguish the island’s reptilian population and the world engages on an animal rights debate on whether or not to save these beasties, even when some of them have already chomped and digested a significant number of humans. Let evolution correct the mistake we made, argues a familiar face during a public hearing in Congress: the common sensical Ian Malcolm, played once again by the ever-reliable Jeff Goldblum. Meanwhile, former corporate tool now turned activist Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard, now wearing boots instead of high heels) vows to save them, no matter the cost.

So, when Congress turns its back on this newly endangered species, she accepts, without asking any questions, Benjamin Lockwood’s (James Cromwell) and his minion Eli’s (Rafe Spall) proposal to mount a rescue mission that would transport eleven species to their own sanctuary. Lockwood, a former partner of Jurassic Park founder John Hammond, lives in a gigantic Gothic mansion with his granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) and her nanny Iris (Geraldine Chaplin, Bayona’s fairy godmother); his intentions are noble, even though he still believes Hammond went too far in his experiments. Eli’s intentions, like Hammond’s nephew’s, Peter Ludlow, before him in "Jurassic Park: The Lost World," not so much, especially when it comes to Blue, one of four raptors specially trained by Owen (Chris Pratt) and, of the four, the only survivor of the Indominus Rex’s rampage. In order to find Blue, they need Owen, and after much humming and hawing, Owen joins the mission alongside veterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda), scaredy-cat techie Franklin (Justice Smith) and an entire battalion of soldiers of fortune led by dinosaur tooth hunter Ken Wheatley (played by Ted Levine and the film’s shout-out to the far more charismatic hunter played by the much-missed Pete Postlethwaite in "Jurassic Park: The Lost World").

It soon becomes evident to our heroes that this is more than a humanitarian mission as Levine and his men capture Blue, leave Owen sedated in the middle of the forest as lava begins to flow, kidnap Zia and lock Claire and the shrill Franklin in the park’s command center at the mercy of another hungry critter. Meanwhile, back at the Lockwood mansion, the ever-stealthy Maisie discovers Eli’s true plans: to auction off the rescued animals to a bunch of one percenters while turning Blue over to Wu as he tries to create a 2.0 version of his most recent creation: the Indoraptor of which version 1.0 is alive and well and eager for some chomping action.

Our heroes make it out of the island just in time, sneak into Wheatley’s ship and make their way to the mansion where the fun really begins. Even though Bayona does provide us with some haunting images in the first half and a truly suspenseful sequence inside that command center, it is here, in the film’s final hour, where he truly spreads his wings. If past entries were monster movies disguised as thrill rides, Bayona goes all the way in exploiting the franchise’s horror potential through the use of shadows, sound, editing and a good amount of discreetly placed gore. The Indoraptor comes across these scenes as the Saurian relative of Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and Jason, stalking his victims through the mansion’s hallways, library and dioramas and on the mansion’s roof, playing hide and seek with them, thunder and lightning roaring in the background in the grand tradition of Universal’s very own classic monster movies.

I wish Bayona had had more of a say in the script, though. His three films have used genre to explore the ties that bind mothers to their children and the trauma of losing one or the other, and this script offers a tantalizing equivalent in Maisie’s relationship to Iris, especially given Maisie’s background, a revelation that Trevorow and Connolly quickly dispense with in a blink and you miss it piece of exposition. More of Bayona’s touch would have elevated "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" in the way the writing-directing combo of Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan and Irvin Kershner did for "The Empire Strikes Back."

Still, this is a satisfactory and very entertaining entry to the series, one that I hope will give Bayona and his team of Spanish craftsmen and women carte blanche to do whatever the hell they want in Hollywood. Trevorow has some big shoes to fill now that he is taking over the reins of the third chapter of this new trilogy.

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