Movie Review: JURASSIC WORLD Fallen Kingdom

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jurassicworldfallenkingdomUniversal Pictures

“If I don’t make it back, remember that you’re the one that made me come here.”

I believe at this point it’s safe to say that any sequel to come out will never really capture the lightning in the bottle magic of the original Jurassic Park movie. Which is okay, I think. As long as it’s entertaining, and doesn’t insult my intelligence too much. Which can’t really be said about all of the sequels. I mean, Jurassic Park III was pretty bad, in a mediocre kind of way. When it comes to the reboot sequels, I would have to sadly admit that the most recent sequel — Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom — falls rather flat.

Spoilers abound, my dearhearts…

It’s three years after the events of Jurassic World, and the dinosaurs on the island are in danger due to an active volcano getting ready to blow its top, literally. While the U.S. gov’ment is debating whether to consider them endangered species and try and save them, or to let nature take its course to correct the mistakes John Hammond made with the first park, the former operations manager of Jurassic World and now head of a Dinosaur Rights organization–Claire–is contacted by John Hammond’s former partner, Benjamin Lockwood, to mount a privately funded dino rescue mission. And since one of the last remaining velociraptors in existence is one of her ex’s pets, she talks him into coming along to help, along with a couple of interns from her Dino-Rights! group. I just imagined that being said by J.J. Walker, by the way. They all get to the island, along with a bunch of para-military types to help with the capturing of these beasts, who — surprise surprise, shock and awe — turn out to double-cross them on orders of Lockwood’s long-time financial assistant, who wants the dinosaurs to sell off to the highest bidder, and also create a new even more dangerous hybrid called the Indoraptor. Because we learned absolutely nothing with the Indominus Rex from the last movie. Lockwood’s granddaughter discovers what’s going on, as the assistant smothers Lockwood and prepares to sell off the dinosaurs. Meanwhile, Owen and Claire are captured and locked up with the dinos, but they manage to escape and interrupt the auction proceedings by setting free the Indoraptor, which kind of backfires when the thing starts hunting them down. But, then they manage to defeat the Indoraptor by way of Plot Convenience, but then the grandaughter learns that she’s a clone herself, and thus sets all the dinos free to roam the great American countryside, eating whoever gets in their way, and setting up another sequel.

Make no mistake, I’m no hater when it comes to these movies. It’s just that I consider th Jurassic Park movies to be like an amusement park ride that you go on frequently, like a rollercoaster or haunted fun house. The first time is great, but then they start getting predictable to the point where you could take a nap through the entire thing and still hit all the beats. This was actually winked at in the first Jurassic World movie, with everyone noodling around on their smart phones rather than look at live dinosaurs mere feet in front of there.

Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom felt like a movie that was going through the motions. Well, much more notably than the others. I mean, there’s only so much you can do with the who Altruistic “Dinosaurs have feewings” good guys versus the Evil “Dinosaurs are for-profit commodities to be exploited” entrepeneurs before you begin wondering if one of the financial backers was Peta or Greenpeace. this was already played out in The Lost World, and it was just as nauseatingly heavy-handed then, too.

There were parts of this movie I did enjoy, lest you begin thinking I slept through this: the parts where the dinos are all running amok in both the beginning and the end sections were always a treat; and say what you will about Chris Pratt, he’s the reason why you would want to watch this, outside of said dinosaurs. James Cromwell (Zefram Cochran to us Star Trek nerds) as the estranged business partner to John Hammond threw in a nifty angle that kind of retcons things a bit, but he fits right in. And as usual, the scenes are shot beautifully, and was probably the only reason why I was glad to have caught this on the big screen. However, that couldn’t keep the parts that took me out of my overall enjoyment from making this less than “meh”: for instance, never mind that the story itself is tired and merely paint-by-numbers, but there were times where I found myself thinking, “That’s not how lava works”, “They should have burst into flames and been reduced to cinder long before they got to the boat”, and “They’re really low-balling the prices for the auction of these things”. And don’t get me started with that kid more or less dooming humanity all because she’s got the feels.

Overall, Jurassic World: The Lost Kingdom isn’t entirely bad, per se. It has its problems, as well as some bright points, and points that just don’t make sense. Go into this with your expectations low, and catch a matinée instead of a full-price. Or wait for the rental / streaming. As to the obvious sequel baiting, to paraphrase the woefully underused Dr. Ian Malcolm here: they were so preoccupied with whether or not they could make a sequel that they didn’t stop to think if they should.


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Jurassic-World-Poster-OfficialUniversal Pictures

“You just went and made a new dinosaur? Probably not a good idea.”

Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining,in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitor’s interest, which backfires horribly.

Well, here we are. fourteen years since the last Jurassic Park movie stink bombed its way through the theaters, and we have another sequel in a series that started so very, very strongly. Honestly, I don’t think anyone was really demanding another sequel, let alone a movie like this. But, again I point out, here we are. Another Jurassic Park movie. This time, though, things are quite a bit different than the same-old yadda-yadda, it seems.

For the record, I wasn’t really planning on watching this movie, until it came out for rental much, much later. Especially after I watched the preview while waiting for the new Avengers movie to start; it just looked like they made it into Star Lord: Dinosaur Whisperer. Seriously, Chris Pratt was shown making friends with raptors. It definitely a different take, sure, but didn’t really make me want to rush out the day this movie opened and watch it in the theaters. Second-run, maybe. But, see it in theaters on opening weekend, I did. Blame boredom. And the fact that others from the Exalted Coven of Geeks went to see an early afternoon showing on the Friday it opened, when I couldn’t join along on account of I work for a living and such. Being an adult can be a real drag at times, it seems. So I found a couple more who haven’t seen it, and went to a Saturday evening showing.

One of my biggest concerns was whether Jurassic World was going to be a reboot of the Jurassic Park franchise. Indications were pointing strongly towards no, but I still had my doubts on that. It turns out, what Jurassic World is, it’s a sequel, but it seems to completely ignore the events of The Lost World and JP III. Which, really, is probably the best way to go at this point. I actually enjoyed The Lost World, and considered JP III pretty to look at but ultimately a pointless waste…let’s face it, we needed something that’s more than just a retread of the original story.

On the one had, Jurassic World is most assuredly a retread of the plot of Jurassic Park. Second verse, same as the first. But, it seems to have gone the route of ignoring the two sequels of the original, and taking place in a kind of tangent universe where the events of the first movie didn’t stop Hammond from refining and opening up the park to great success, as when we begin with Jurassic World, the park has been open for ten years now, and attendance has been waining due to crowds not being wowed by live dinosaurs anymore. There’s a social commentary there, I think. I’m not too sure.

I guess I should point out, there’s going to be spoilers in this rambling review of mine. It should go without saying, but you’d be surprised at how many get ticked off regardless. You’ve been warned.

Anyway, after one of the more amusing fake-out shots I’ve been privy to, we’re introduced to our two young protagonists, getting set to go visit their aunt, who is a young and single powerful business gal who is in charge of the dino-park. Their parents need to be alone for some pointless character back-story angst, you see. When they arrive there, however, they discover that their aunt–who is apparently the ancestor of Enterprise-D medical officer Beverly Crusher, by the looks of things*–is so busy that she has her British assistant act as surrogate aunt to entertain the boys while she deals with the issues at hand; namely, the dropping attendance, and the newest addition to the dino-family that’s acting kind of peculiar. Meanwhile, in Subplot C, Star-Lord the Dinosaur Whisperer is training some raptors with a pig and what may be Beggin’ Strips, I don’t know. Star-Lord considers them a part of the family; his boss, on the other hand, wants to strap frickin’ lasers to their heads and use ’em for military shenanigans. The aunt shows up at Star-Lord’s modified trailer to ask him to help her out with the new dinosaur, and after some ham-fisted sexual tension, they show up at the dino’s pen…only to think it escaped from there. Of course, it’s a fake-out to get everyone inside with it, and thus the Super-Dino escapes and begins to wreak genetically-engineered havoc on the entire park. Which includes terrorizing the two boys (remember them?) who were exploring the park inside a hamster ball, while Star-Lord and Proto-Crusher give chase on foot. The military is brought in to take the thing out, but soon discover that, not only is Super-Dino super-smart, but is also part cuttlefish and can camouflage itself, and thus are made into dino-chow in short order. The boys stumble upon the ruins of the original Jurassic Park, where they somehow overhaul one of the vehicles that have been there since presumably the first movie and go driving off. Star-Lord and Proto-Crusher then arrive soon thereafter, only to have Super Dino let loose a legion of Pterodactyls (would that be a “flock of Pterodactyls”? And why is that not a band name?), which of course show up at the park’s main fairway to partake of the human smörgåsbord therein. Star-Lord’s boss decides now is the perfect time finally strap those lasers on the raptors and send them in to take down the Super-Dio…only that doesn’t go too well once the raptors decide to throw in with the Super-Dino as the alpha instead of these tasty-looking humans. Imagine that. Anyway, things wind up back at the park, where they’re all hunted by the turncoat raptors and the Super-Dino, until the raptors then decide to turn coat on Super-Dino because…reasons, and Super-Dino throws down with the mother-freakin’ T-Rex and is eaten by Shamu’s prehistoric ancestor. The end.

In the end, one has to ask, was it absolutely necessary to have another movie in the Jurassic Park series? And the answer is, no…but we’re going to see it anyway. Because, in all honesty, Jurassic World does nothing to really build upon the story that the first movie did, with the exception of having it open to the public prior. The thing is, Jurassic World seems to be self-aware of this, and manages to have some fun with it while not insulting our collective intelligence too much. The movie is obviously not perfect–we could have done without the whole “our parents are getting a divorce!” side story thing, the villains are unintentionally hilarious in their depictions, and the story’s big moral (namely, man playing God always comes back to bite them in the butt…literally as well as figuratively in this instance, with a nice heavy dollop of Military Types Only Think Of Weaponizing Everything, and let’s face it: the British assistant deserved a way better end than what she got)–and I admittedly was underwhelmed when the Super-Dino was revealed, but that really isn’t the point of watching this movie. The point is, obviously, watching dinosaurs run amok, which is what we got. The visuals are stunning, both Star-Lord and Proto-Crusher got some decent character development, and the throwdown between Super-Dino and the T-Rex was pretty much worth the price of the ticket right there.

So, in the end, yeah, I was very much satisfied by watching Jurassic World on the big screen. I would recommend watching it while it’s still in the theaters, with a big tub of “buttered” popcorn and a bucket of soda to take in the entire experience.

(*–Credit to that observation goes to Exalted Geek coven member Sarah Edwards)