Review: ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’

dfn_jurassic_world_fallen_kingdom_300About halfway through Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the sequel throws off all its pretenses and embraces its true heritage as a monster movie. It plays much better as a darkly-comic thriller than anything else.

Up to that point, its ponderous baggage weighs it down without mercy. Picking up three years after the events in Jurassic World, a volcano on the island of Isla Nubar threatens to erupt at any moment, thereby guaranteeing that any man-made dinosaurs that still reside there will be wiped out. That will be just fine, argues Dr. Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum) in a special congressional session, despite the protests of an lively dinosaur rights movement.

Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the former manager of theme park attraction / dinosaur refuge Jurassic World, has become a leader among the protesters, seeking government assistance to rescue the doomed animals. When Congress declines to act, she is overjoyed to be summoned to the estate of Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell). Lockwood wants her help, or so he says before he is wheeled away by nurse Iris (Geraldine Chaplin).

Up steps Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), who tells Claire that the intention is to save the dinosaurs and relocate them to a protected refuge on the mainland, and her handprint is needed to reboot the systems at Jurassic World so that the dinosaurs may be located, especially Blue, the tricky velociraptor who is almost human in his intelligence. Since Claire knows the island better than anyone, her help would be “invaluable.” Oh, and could she help recruit someone who knows Blue better than anyone, namely, his former trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt)?

Written by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, the story trudges along dutifully through its first half, touching all the expected bases, introducing key white hunter Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine), as well as two young protesters / geniuses / sidekicks in the courageous medic Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) and the cowardly computer whiz Franklin Webb — “Webb”? As in the Worldwide Web? *sigh* — (Justice Smith).

It’s in its second half that the true, more gleefully nasty nature of the film is revealed, and also when the presence of director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, A Monster Calls) becomes more apparent. Both the pace and the violence pick up, the dinosaurs are reduced to their most primal expressions, we meet the evil Mr. Eversol (Toby Jones), and spend more time with Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), the granddaughter of wealthy Lockwood. She is a really good screamer / possible food source for the dinosaurs.

Perhaps because she’s the least familiar face to me, Daniella Pineda stands out for the steel in her spine and her precise, often-comic delivery. Ted Levine and Toby Jones excel at playing villainous characters and they clearly enjoy their opportunities to darken the days (and nights) here. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are pretty good reactors, which is good, since they have to do a lot of reacting again to dinosaurs created through post-production visual effects. The visual effects are voluminous and expertly done.

As a film, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a sequel. It doesn’t deviate very far from the new formula established by its immediate predecessor and succeeds in supplying cheap laughs and fearless thrills for simple minds, such as mine.

The film is now playing at theaters everywhere in Dallas, Fort Worth, and nearby communities. I saw it last night at the Alamo Drafthouse in Lake Highlands, where the sound and picture were very good.