Film Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Thanks to skilled direction, a flawed script can’t quite hamstring Universal’s latest dino romp.
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If you see only one movie this year where a wounded dinosaur is given an emergency blood transfusion, have it be Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

OK, OK. Not a lot of competition there. Unless Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again goes to some truly weird places, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will probably end up being the only movie this year where a wounded dinosaur gets an emergency blood transfusion. Also the only movie where a dinosaur cries, “single dramatic tear”-style. Or leaps away from an explosion. Or does a pull-up.

Fundamentally, what I’m saying is this: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a deeply silly movie.

That silliness starts at its premise. Isla Nublar is about to be destroyed by a volcano, rendering the dinosaurs that live there—roaming free after destroying the theme park built to contain them in Colin Trevorrow’s billion-dollar blockbuster—re-extinct. Hoping to save her former charges, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), Jurassic World operations manager-turned-dino rights activist, enlists the help of raptor trainer extraordinaire Owen Grady (Chris Pratt); timid computer specialist Franklin (Justice Smith), a comic-relief character who’s not that funny; and cool-girl “paleo-veterinarian” (Daniella Pineda), whom the movie all but forgets about halfway through. At no point does anyone pause to ask themselves why they’re racing towards an exploding volcano to save the dinosaurs when—sanity check—science has figured out how to make more of them.

Like I said: deeply silly.

Silly, and messy, but not entirely bad. Stepping in for Jurassic World director Trevorrow is J.A. Bayona, in every way a more skilled hand than his predecessor. You can really see Bayona’s directorial stamp—particularly his love of Gothic-tinged sentimentality, most prominent in A Monster Calls and The Orphanage—in Fallen Kingdom’s second half. Because after the volcano plotline wraps up, we get something different, and that something different is “dinosaurs ambling around an old, dark mansion.”

The plot beats that get us there don’t need explaining, except to note that they hinge on the movie’s antagonists behaving like utter idiots. Things like “logic” and “proper planning” have no place in Fallen Kingdom. If they did, we might not get a scene where a dinosaur headbutts its way through a room of Russian oligarchs and I, for one, don’t want to live in that world.

Jurassic World’s biggest flaw was that, though entertaining enough as far as big-budget blockbusters go, it was highly generic. Fallen Kingdom has its issues—like a script stitched together from disparate components like, well, a genetically modified dinosaur—but generic it ain’t. Bayona fights against the script’s weaknesses to craft a movie that, against all odds, feels fresh, fun and even a bit vital. A lot of it’s dumb, and the human characters haven’t gotten any more compelling than they were in Jurassic World, but dammit, everything involving dinosaurs is top-notch.

The effects have undergone measurable improvement since Trevorrow’s installment, and the cinematography is better than it’s ever been in this franchise, thanks to the lensing of Bayona’s regular collaborator Oscar Faura. Whether audiences will show up for Fallen Kingdom in droves like they did for Jurassic World remains to be seen. But as far as quality is concerned, this installment represents a definite step up.

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