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Extinction Level Event 

Chris Pratt
Chris Pratt
Universal Pictures
 128 Minutes
Directed by: J.A. Bayona
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard  
Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

My favorite line in all of the Jurassic Park movies occurs in the distinctly inferior sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Aging tycoon Richard Attenborough, the driving force behind building the park in the first place, informs scientist Jeff Goldblum that he’s sending a new expedition to Isla Nublar, the home of the dinosaurs and says, “Don’t worry, I’m not making the same mistakes again,” to which Goldblum pithily and accurately replies, “No, you’re making all new ones.” I thought of that when watching Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth and latest incarnation in the series, because, this time around, the film makers are making the same mistakes that brought down the lesser editions in the series previously.


The original Jurassic Park is an undisputed classic and one of those Steven Spielberg films that, like E.T., is able to impart a feeling of wonderment to the audience. In the film, the wonderment existed on two levels, first, that of the characters in the movie on seeing dinosaurs for the first time, and in their native habitat to boot. Then, second, there was the audience’s wonderment at seeing the capability of CGI animation in creating the dinosaurs, a tremendous leap forward from the variety of techniques effects artists were forced to rely upon in the past. But as the series went on, the wonderment dimmed and was replaced by run-of-the-mill action stories in which some cardboard villains brought about artificial crises that had the various human heroes running for their lives.


After a gap of some fifteen years in the series, Jurassic World reversed the downward spiral both through the addition of even more spectacular dinosaurs than before and by expanding on the theme park motif of the original film and turning the newly-renamed Jurassic World into a thinly veiled version of Disney World, not coincidentally the main competition to the theme park of Universal Studios, the producer of Jurassic World. But while the plot of Jurassic World essentially paralleled that of the original film, right down to the ending of the island habitat of the dinosaurs being abandoned, the film itself was reasonably well made and highly successful.


This time around, the plot of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom essentially parallels that of Lost World, the film that gave rise to Goldblum’s trenchant observation. His character, Ian Malcolm, is again on hand, albeit briefly, this time to warn Congress about the dangers the dinosaurs represent. It seems that Isla Nublar is about to be destroyed by the eruption of a long dormant volcano. While activists on both sides of the issue debate the ethics of letting the dinosaurs go extinct vs. mounting a rescue mission, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), a survivor of the first film and now a pro-dinosaur activist, is recruited by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the former partner of Richard Attenborough’s John Hammond. Lockwood wants to relocate several species of dinosaurs to a new island and Claire agrees to help, and even gets dino wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to go along.


To the surprise of Claire and Owen, the mission is a fraud, orchestrated by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), Lockwood’s assistant, who intends to bring the dinosaurs back to Lockwood’s estate and sell them off to the highest bidder among the numerous unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies and arms dealers eager to get their hands on the creatures. The only reason Claire was brought along was because her retinal scan was needed to access the island’s computer system. Despite the attempt of Mills’s mercenaries to kill Claire and Owen, they escape and manage to sneak on board the freighter bringing the captured dinosaurs back to the United States. Among the dinosaurs is a badly injured Blue, the raptor that Owen trained years earlier.


Once the action moves to the United States, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom shifts from a traditional action adventure to more of a classic horror story, with the soon-to-be-freed dinosaurs on the loose inside the somewhat cramped quarters of Lockwood’s mansion. Among their targets are the various would-be buyers, who arrive to take part in the auction and generally become dino chow, and Lockwood’s pre-teen granddaughter Maisie, who has been living with him since her mother died. Naturally, Maisie’s primary purpose in the film is to be pursued and terrified by the creatures, especially yet another hybrid that was created in the lab and intended to be an even more deadly predator than the rest of the group.


Actually, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has quite a bit going for it, and that’s almost completely due to the work of director J.A. Bayona. Somewhat of an unknown to American audiences, Bayona has a background in horror and it shows in the stalking sequences late in the movie, with Maisie trying to avoid a beast known as an Indoraptor. The shot of the creature’s claw reaching out to the little girl in bed will doubtless become the movie’s signature image. Either Bayona or the screenwriters must have realized that the best sequence in the original Jurassic Park was the indoor showdown between humans and raptors, and they expanded on it here. Unfortunately, they also expanded on the ultimate resolution of that sequence: humans wind up being rescued by larger dinosaurs eating smaller ones about half a dozen times in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, as in the clip below. Bayona also does a good job with the stampede sequence on Isla Nublar, when all the animals race towards the beach in an effort to outrun the exploding volcano. His sense of imagery is solid, including a last shot of a single brontosaurus amidst the smoke.


Unfortunately, Bayona’s skill with set pieces gets lost at times amidst villains who seem to be carbon copies of those from the previous films and who seemingly exist for the sole purpose of meeting their demises in “fitting” ways. Rafe Spall looks as if he is trying to win a Ryan Reynolds lookalike contest and wondering why he can’t land any of Reynolds’ roles, while secondary villain Ted Levine looks exactly the same as he has in every single one of his previous movies. Add to that a couple of annoying sidekicks sho accompany Claire and Owen, and the result is a human cast that one hopes will exit the film sooner rather than later.


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom raises the same moral issue that the previous four films in the series have raised (and that numerous other literary works dating back to Frankenstein have raised), namely to what extent should man tamper with nature, and, more specifically, having once tampered, what should he do next. Since it’s already common knowledge that there will be a Jurassic World 3, it’s not too difficult to figure out what did happen next. But the moral issue, which might presumably be considerably better food for thought in a better film, really only serves as a hook for a third act plot twist.


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a distinct step backward from its immediate predecessor, but it gets enough things right to qualify as acceptable popcorn entertainment. There’s no sense of wonderment, but there is enough tension and excitement to get the film past the dull expository sequences, the lame villains, and the complete lack of chemistry between the lead characters. For those with suitably low expectations, Fallen Kingdom fortunately does not mark the complete downfall of the franchise.

In this clip, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard get help from an unlikely rescuer.

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) on IMDb