Movie Review: "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" (2018)
I didn't walk into Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom asking myself what I wanted out of a new movie in the JP franchise. I didn't even walk in there wondering what I wanted out of a dinosaur movie in general, but I damn sure walked out wondering just that.
There are certain things that you should be doing in a franchise by the time you get to the 5th installation. They are (in no particular order): take chances that you haven't before, don't go heavy on the callbacks, show us something that we haven't seen, and maybe go a little deeper with a message/theme/moral of the story. If nothing else you can at least pull a play out of the horror genre and go batshit crazy with a change of tone. You might get dreck like Batman and Robin, but you might get something utterly unique like Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom did none of those things with any real success (if at all), but I'll be damned if I wasn't at least partially entertained by a gorgeous looking movie nonetheless. I'm getting tired of saying that, though, when reviewing big-budget stuff. It's standard fare to look good in Hollywood in 2018. When the section of the credit roll for VFX gives you enough time to go get a blowjob AND have an after-smoke then your shit had damn well better look amazing! But I digress...
The cornerstones of the last film return as Bryce Dallas Howard (Lady in the Water) and Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) reprise their roles as Claire Dearing, the former park manager, and Owen Grady, the raptor whisperer. Following the disastrous and bloody events of the previous park's demise, the debate now rages through society about what to do with all of the dinosaurs that are left roaming the defunct island as the company pays out a cubic fuck-ton of settlements and a dormant volcano has become active. Do we let them all die out again or rescue them and carry on (cue Jeff Goldblum cameo in a congressional hearing)? That question doesn't even linger long enough to engage a couple of brain cells before Claire recruits Owen and some snappy new characters from her team of "Save the Dinosaur SJW's" to join with bedridden billionaire Benjamin Lockwood's (James Cromwell, The Green Mile) team of experts to save as many as they can and take them to a new sanctuary island where we can leave them alone.
Do you really think that will happen? Where's the excitement in that?
One double cross and a plot rehash or two later and we're selling dinos for profit to nefarious individuals right under the nose of Lockwood and his precociously dino-obsessed (sound familiar) granddaughter, Maisie (Isabella Sermon) at their lovingly gothic mansion in the hills. As Owen foreshadows earlier in the film: "What could go wrong?"
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom races through so many action sequences and chases that it leaves you a little dizzy. I don't know if they meant to go that fast, but it truly flies by and feels like someone jams the breaks when it slows down. That abrupt stoppage is a blessing in disguise as the film finds what legs it has in the second half of its 2 hour and 8 minute runtime. While the exploration of the "Pandora's Box" theme is still scant, at least they try to put it out there as the film reaches its climax.
Sure, there's a new badass dinosaur creation to behold. There's more paramilitary fuckery and talk of bioweaponization. The sinister and greedy Dr. Wu (BD Wong, Gotham) returns for his villain spot. The T-Rex saves the day at one point, and you know old Blue is there to play the dino hero! Owen and Claire flirt and rekindle!
I don't mean to sound nasty here, because there are some things they got right. It's just that...dammit, this looks and sounds so similar to the last one (and others)!
The new dino, the Indoraptor, is admittedly one bad little son of a bitch in both design and execution. All of the dinosaurs are almost too good looking. We're treated to Ted Levine (that's Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, y'all!!) as the paramilitary scumbag with a habit of pulling dinosaur teeth for his grisly necklace in a memorably odd role. The opening sequence is a thing of beauty out of an old horror film; the use of light and shadow play is a highlight. I dug the seediness of the dino auction scene. Perhaps best of all, they do a solid job of setting up a follow-up that promises to be unlike any JP you've seen before. I look forward to it.
Still, it left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth that is all too reminiscent of that big Hollywood party where it's all glitz and glamour but in the morning you're left with the knowledge that you've been there before and the mild shame is an old friend.
I take my dinosaurs seriously, y'all. I'm begging that the next one has the balls to truly go somewhere different. Please, God. Don't give us awesome dinos and then kill 'em softly.