Directed by: J. A. Bayona
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Written by Nick McCann
People were riding pretty high after the release of “Jurassic World.” Dinosaurs once again were planted firmly into the front of everyone’s minds thanks to a film that came close enough to the feel of the original film. It wasn’t without flaws, but the ride was the right mix of summer spectacle, adventure, and fun. Naturally, a sequel was right around the corner. Touted as going darker in tone and going in a direction unlike previously seen in the series, the end product is something of an enjoyable mess.
“Fallen Kingdom” essentially retreads similar ground to Speilberg’s own “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” with similar sights and narrative beats. It feels like a movie with other ideas meshed together semi-awkwardly. Despite that, the thrills come through in the end. The first half on the island is explosive and a fast-paced race against the clock. The latter half slightly goes down a more horror-style route, in the gothic horror vein of classic Hammer Studios horror pictures. I wouldn’t call it scary but it is a refreshing approach after all the island romping. Some of the goofy comedy certainly contradicts the seriousness it wants to pull off and the way the story ends up raises many questions. However, director J. A. Bayona shows off a more intriguing directing style than Colin Trevorrow did in the prior film. Some of the atmosphere at its best can feel slightly in line with what Michael Crichton would’ve come up with if he were still around. Personally, I think it’s worth the tonal confusion and silly storytelling.
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard expectedly return and still bring a degree of charm. However, the writing gives flimsy reasoning for said return and makes it more apparent they were only meant for one story. The rest of the cast overall does a decent job, even if the character development is still pretty thin. Rafe Spall is a mustache twirler right off the bat, James Cromwell is a delightful John Hammond stand-in, Daniella Pineda is a no-nonsense tough gal and Justice Smith screams his prepubescent-sounding head off. The big kahuna is the return of Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcolm. Unfortunately, he isn’t in the dino fray. Yet he still does an excellent job with his little screen time. His role delivers a pretty good moral backbone with a couple of effective bookending monologues. For as all over the place as the ensemble is, they do have highlights all around for better or worse.
Even if you aren’t all about the characters, there is no denying the dinosaurs bring the house down. A lot more species are shown off and always make the action sequences hugely entertaining. There are creative set-pieces all around and they effectively make the point of how the ones without teeth can be dangerous. Hats off to the special effects teams on this one. CGI effects are excellent across the board, but the film most notably brings back in-camera animatronics and puppets. They look amazing, bringing back tangibility and something of an old sense of tension as these characters have to get close at times to these creatures. All of the effects blend very well together, making for a much more endearing visual experience than the last movie.
The cinematography also delivers some stellar visuals too. The camera gets to be a lot more dynamic, moving, and holding on to shots with a bit more freedom for creativity. Some of the best-looking frames I feel come through in the last act, where you can truly see the Hammer influences. Sound design is no slouch either. Every dinosaur sounds powerful and Michael Giacchino’s score goes a lot more in on dark power than before. With brash horns, and a huge choir, it suitably has an act of God-feeling. That’s on top of the John Williams material being well-integrated once again.
At the time, I really didn’t get the hate for “Fallen Kingdom.” Now that time has sat with it, I can be less blind to the flaws. Despite the tonal imbalance, thin characters, and shoddy storytelling, I can’t resist enjoying it. The dinosaurs are immensely fun, the times the story gets serious are generally effective, and Bayona leaves an enjoyably noticeable mark in the directing chair. It’s a mixed-up movie but one that can be quite enjoyable in places. Had it been Trevorrow or another director, some of these areas I feel could’ve been an even bigger pill to swallow. It may be a weak entry, but it isn’t a boring one.
“Jurassic World” Fallen Kingdom” Trailer
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is available to rent and purchase on VOD.