Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a fun ride full of adventure - and scares - that builds on the mythology of Jurassic Park in very interesting ways.
In 1993, Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park hit theaters and became a sci-fi/adventure classic beloved by moviegoers young and old. The film was enough of a hit to earn two sequels; Spielberg's return to the world he helped create in The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Joe Johnston's Jurassic Park III. The third film was released in 2001, and it wasn't until 2015 that the franchise full of de-extinct dinosaurs was revisited. Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World picked up the thread from the original park and explored a world in which John Hammond's dinosaur theme park became a reality. Now, director J.A. Bayona takes the reins for the next installment in the franchise. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a fun ride full of adventure - and scares - that builds on the mythology of Jurassic Park in very interesting ways.
Fallen Kingdom picks up three years after the events of Jurassic World, with the theme park on Isla Nublar having been deserted by humans, leaving the dinosaurs to run free. However, the long-dormant volcano under the island has become active again, and those around the world are deciding what to do about the dinosaurs - should the U.S. government interfere and save the de-extinct creatures, or should humans allow the act of God to once more wipe out the animals? Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is now head of the Dinosaur Protection Group and refuses to let the dinosaurs be killed by the volcano.
She's recruited by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) of the Lockwood Estate, established by Hammond's former parter Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), in order to help get the dinosaurs off the island and to a sanctuary where they can live in peace. And in order to rescue the Velociraptor Blue, Claire calls on Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). Along with Owen, Claire brings paleoveterinarian Dr. Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) and systems analyst Franklin Webb (Justice Smith). However, the mission on Isla Nublar goes sideways when Claire and Owen learn the true goal of Mills' project and what he's actually hoping to achieve. With additional complications like the genetically engineered dinosaur, the Indoraptor, it remains to be seen if Claire and Owen will be able to save themselves from a horrible fate, let alone the last remaining dinosaurs on Earth.
Bayona steps into the director's chair on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, working from a script by Trevorrow and his Jurassic World co-writer Derek Connolly. Having previously helmed a horror film in The Orphanage, a disaster thriller in The Impossible, and a fantasy drama in A Monster Calls - among other films - Bayona has a unique skillset to bring to the Jurassic World sequel. In Fallen Kingdom, Bayona balances horror with action and adventure for some of the more thrilling sequences in the entire Jurassic Park franchise. The director skillfully directs a scene so as to wring as much tension out and keep viewers on the edge of their seats - or hands over their eyes, preparing for the scare, as the case may be. Further, Bayona infuses plenty of fantastic horror imagery in Fallen Kingdom, again utilizing beautiful visuals to eke out as much emotion from a scene as possible.
Bayona, along with screenwriters Trevorrow and Connolly, also bring a great deal of heart and tragedy to the world, especially when it comes to the dinosaurs. Fallen Kingdom showcases the wonder and amazement of seeing dinosaurs made real through de-extinction, while also balancing it with the true cost of what it means - not only for humans, but for the creatures who now exist in a modern world. One of the biggest strengths of the Jurassic Park franchise, both the original series and the new trilogy kicked off in Jurassic World, has been the concept of de-extinct dinosaurs and how humans would co-exist in modern day with these creatures. While Jurassic World relegated the dinosaurs to its titular theme park on Isla Nublar, Fallen Kingdom takes the next logical steps to build out this alternate universe - and those steps lead toward a very different and very compelling reality that will be further explored in Jurassic World 3.
However, like Jurassic World, one of the weaker aspects of Fallen Kingdom is the relationship of its two leads. The on-again, off-again romance of Claire and Owen feels shoehorned into the story simply for the sake of checking some box. For their parts, Pratt brings the same amount of swagger and charm to Owen as in Jurassic World, while Howard plays a more dynamic and matured version of Claire. The supporting players of Smith's Franklin and Pineda's Zia provide equal amounts of fun comedic relief and necessary plot progression. Perhaps the biggest surprise is Isabella Sermon's performance as Benjamin Lockwood's granddaughter Maisie, who turns out to be a compelling addition to the film. And, of course, Jeff Goldblum returns for Fallen Kingdom, reprising his role as Dr. Ian Malcolm. While his performance will be fun for longtime fans of Jurassic Park, it amounts to little more than a cameo.
Certainly, some aspects of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom are retreads of previous Jurassic Park films, with even the movie's Indoraptor repurposing the basic concept of Jurassic World's Indominus Rex - making a man-made dinosaur the main antagonist. Undoubtedly, these issues arise from Trevorrow and Connolly's script, which is weak at times. Fallen Kingdom feels like much more of a fully realized idea and application of the Jurassic World concept. But, the back half of the movie isn't quite as tightly woven as the first, with the script setting up a number of interesting threads and struggling a bit to pull them all together by the third act. Still, it's an entertaining enough third act that sets the stage for Jurassic World 3 to take the franchise somewhere new.
All in all, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom provides the fun and adventure moviegoers have come to expect from the Jurassic Park franchise, while providing a great deal of horror and perhaps even more heart than viewers may be expecting. Further, the concepts and ideas explored in Fallen Kingdom also weave in a little more to think about in terms of the real impact de-extinct dinosaurs would have on humankind's existence on Earth. And, given Bayona's visuals as applied to the big action set pieces throughout the film, this may be one for fans to catch in IMAX. Ultimately, Fallen Kingdom is a more mature and fully realized vision than Jurassic World, offering plenty of entertainment for diehard Jurassic Park fans and casual summer moviegoers alike.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom starts playing in U.S. theaters Thursday evening June 21st. It runs 128 minutes and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.
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