Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Review – 6 Awesome Things and 4 Disappointing Things
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is finally here. We’ve waited three years since the unprecedented success of the reboot that starred Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard and showed us what a functional Jurassic theme park would look like. Now, the sequel is here to show us what happens when that park has been destroyed and it’s on an active volcano and some rich guy sees the dinosaurs and gets dollar signs in his eyes. On the whole, it’s an entertaining movie. But it’s also a little underwhelming. Here are 6 awesome things in the movie and 4 things that are, sadly, disappointing.
10. The trailer gave too much away
Movie trailers these days have a habit of giving away too much footage, and fans watch these trailers religiously to look for clues about the plot and the set pieces. Deadpool 2 flipped this on its head by manipulating dialogue and slipping fake scenes into the trailers to totally mislead you as to what the movie was about. But Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom didn’t do this. It gave us entire scenes and plot twists in the trailer. Many fans were hoping from this that there would be more to it than that and everything we see in the trailer would just be the beginning of a larger story that we didn’t see coming, but that wasn’t the case. That’s pretty much all there is. It’s the whole movie condensed into two minutes. You want to entice an audience, but there’s a limit – you want some of it to be a surprise. Based on the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom trailer, we spend the whole movie waiting for the volcano to explode and for the dinosaurs to get to North America and for the scene where the claw is creeping towards the little girl in bed. Nothing was left as a surprise, all the exciting set pieces and shocking moments were in the trailer and you can almost see them coming when you’re watching the full movie, almost like a game of connect the dots. Oh, and that shot of the underwater dinosaur (don’t know its name, sorry) preying on some surfers at the beach that you’re all waiting for when you watch the movie goes nowhere – it’s just shoved in a montage and forgotten about.
9. It drags on a little
At 128 minutes, the running time of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom might seem like it’s a lot tighter and leaner than some of the other summer blockbusters we’ve been treated to so far in 2018. Solo: A Star Wars Story was 135 minutes long. Avengers: Infinity War was a whopping 149 minutes! That’s one minute shy of two and a half hours! So, in comparison, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom might seem pretty short and slim. But sadly, it’s not. The movie actually feels a little flabby. There are a lot of scenes and subplots that could’ve been cut down or eliminated entirely, and it doesn’t follow the classic three act structure. That would be approximately half an hour setting up the premise, an hour escalating the conflict and bringing everything to a head, and then another half an hour for the big climax. That’s easy to follow and it’s easy to see where things are going and when we’re coming to the end. It’s the perfect way to structure a story – that’s why storytellers have been using it for centuries. But Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is structure more like: this happens and then this happens and then this happens and then this happens. You have no idea where it’s going and it meanders a lot and drags on and it grows a little tiresome.
8. The Trump jokes get a little distracting
It seems that no writer can resist the opportunity to throw in a joke or a dig or a reference about President Donald Trump these days. First, it happened to shows like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, which were already pretty political shows, and then all the late night talk shows started doing it. Before long, movies like Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising started doing it. And now, it seems as though even summer blockbusters about dinosaurs can’t help themselves, because Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has a couple of little Trump jokes hidden in there. In a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ kind of moment near the start of the movie, during a BBC News report, the ribbon at the bottom of the screen reeling headlines across the screen mention key information about the fictional universe, like InGen and the UN’s views on cloning technologies, and then one of them has a sly little dig at Donald Trump and his penchant for calling out “fake news.” It reads, “U.S. President questions ‘the existence of dinosaurs in the first place.’” Toby Jones’ evil Gunnar Eversol character has a silly hairpiece, which is another sly dig at Trump. Also, in another scene, Wheatley refers to Zia as “a nasty woman,” a reference to Trump’s controversial line from one of the final debates with Hillary Clinton. They’re fun, but they’re also distracting.
7. The characters are never in any serious danger
The foundation of all drama is conflict. That dates back to the Greek tragedies and the Shakespeare plays, and it’s a basic, fundamental element that is even prevalent in today’s TV shows and blockbuster movies. In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, there is certainly conflict, but you never get the sense that the characters are in any real danger. You know they’re going to make it out of dangerous situations alive because they’re hardly in those dangerous situations to begin with. A dinosaur runs at them – oh, a bigger dinosaur came to save them. They’re trapped in a glass pod underwater – oh, they got the door open and swam to shore. Everything is very convenient for them and it starts to get tiresome, because you want to be on the edge of your seat, you want to experience an emotional rollercoaster ride, and you can’t do that when everyone’s always fine and dandy. All the best writers say that when you’re writing a story, you should create these characters that you love as though they were real and then you put them through hell and torture them, because that’s where truly great fiction comes from. Screenwriters Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly could do with learning this.
6. The story takes us outside the park
The Jurassic Park movie series has always been anchored by the titular theme park. The stories are about wider themes, like the ethical issues of cloning and playing God, but they have always been framed in a theme park that never seems to work out. But Fallen Kingdom takes on these issues on a wider scale and takes us outside the park, back to North America! Without spoiling too much about the ending of the movie, it’s not quite a cliff-hanger and it does have a satisfying conclusion, but it shakes things up in a very major way and sets up a bold new world for the further installments to be set in. The third Jurassic World movie, which is set for release on June 11, 2021, is set to be a different kind of Jurassic movie than we have ever seen before – and that promise alone leaves you tingling with excitement as you leave the theater. Sure, it’s kind of a cop out to leave your audience satisfied with the promise that future sequels will be more exciting than this one, but by getting us from familiar territory to new, frightening territory, this is an exciting and refreshing movie in its own right.
5. Claire actually has stuff to do
In the first Jurassic World movie, Bryce Dallas Howard’s character Claire Dearing didn’t get an awful lot of development or action scenes or interesting lines. Last time, all Howard got to do was run in high heels and scream at scary things and repent for profiting from the park and rely on the man to save her. It was a pretty insulting character, both to women and to Howard’s ability as an actor. Luckily, the writers realized the mistakes that they made with her, and this time around, they’ve given her a lot more today and made her a much more complex character. She actually gets to shoot guns and hit people and save other people and save herself and get laughs from the audience instead of just being the foil to Chris Pratt’s charming lug and running around like a hopeless sap. In the first Jurassic World movie, Claire was just a typical bitch who complained about everything and couldn’t see the world outside her little bubble of privilege or care about anything other than herself. She was sort of a ditsy damsel in distress. Now, she’s a dinosaur rights activist who runs a charitable organization. In Fallen Kingdom, Howard gets to flex her acting muscles as she expresses affection and anger and love and passion and sadness and despair and badassery.
4. Horror director J.A. Bayona made it scarier than previous installments
There have been tense and frightening scenes in all the Jurassic Park movies, from the kitchen sequence in the first one to the pterodactyls swooping around in the mist in the third movie to the Indominus Rex dragging the military guys around the jungle in Jurassic World. But none of them have ever been a full on horror movie. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom isn’t a horror movie, per se, but with horror mastermind J.A. Bayona at the helm, it is the scariest one yet. Despite what the censors might have said when they rated it PG-13, this movie isn’t really suitable for the little kids that parents will inevitably bring to the theater – but that’s a good thing. Fallen Kingdom doesn’t play it safe with that stuff. Bayona directs this movie in the same way that he directed his chilling modern classic horror film The Orphanage. The movie’s third act turns it into an all out haunted house horror movie, like The Amityville Horror with dinosaurs. It was an awesome choice by the writers to escalate the tension like that, and what with Bayona’s horror chops, he keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the whole tense mansion sequence.
3. The set pieces actually advance the plot rather than slow it down
Shane Black is known as one of the greatest writers of action movies who ever lived. He created the iconic Lethal Weapon franchise and essentially gave us the buddy cop genre and all of its clichés (when he came up with them, they were original), and also wrote the great underrated action noir The Long Kiss Goodnight. His best advice for writing the screenplay for an action film is that your action sequences should serve to advance the plot, rather than just being an arbitrary car chase or shootout. In some movies – take the first Jurassic World movie, for example – the big action set pieces are just there to put in the trailer and excite the audience, but they don’t really need to be there. That tour guide who got swept off her feet and tossed into the water tank, where she was devoured by a giant aquatic dinosaur, didn’t really need to be there. It wasn’t essential. In fact, it became a kind of mini controversy. But it looked cool, so they wrote it in the script and shot it and it ended up in the movie. Thankfully, in Fallen Kingdom, without giving anything specific away, the big action set pieces (although most of them were spoiled in the trailer) actually do serve to advance the plot.
2. It’s nice and dark
In the lead up to the release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the film’s producers were comparing it to The Empire Strikes Back and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in that it was the second chapter and it would have a much darker feel. Jurassic World was pretty dark as it is, so there was a lot of pressure for this to be really, really dark. And luckily, it is! Director J.A. Bayona infuses a suspenseful gothic element in the film’s production design and it’s cinematography – and it makes the whole thing deliciously dark. Plus, the movie is one of few that portrays the U.S. military in a negative light. Usually when movies with this big of a budget get made in Hollywood, the Department of Defense sticks its nose in and assigns a liaison guy to keep an eye on how the military is being portrayed. However, here, they’re shown as a bunch of ruthless killers who will betray any moral values or belief system just to get their hands on a quick buck. Okay, that’s not quite an accurate representation of people in the military, but at the least the movie has the balls to portray them as the villains instead of the heroes.
1. It’s a popcorn summer blockbuster
Popcorn movies are the best, when the filmmakers aren’t lazy and the visual effects don’t look flat and the whole thing doesn’t feel uninspired. Sadly, that is the cast for a lot of big summer blockbuster movies these days. But not Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, thankfully. The visual effects are incredible, which is what you might expect from a movie with a budget of $170 million, but still, it’s very impressive. The volcanic eruption doesn’t just look good – you can almost feel the heat coming off the lava. It all looks so real and exciting and the sound effects and the visual effects and the actors all work together to make it feel real. The same goes for the dinosaurs and the underwater sequence and everything else. Director J.A. Bayona has committed himself to giving you a fun time at the movies – and, on the whole, a few minor flaws aside, he has! The movie is a huge, explosive, entertaining spectacle. The running time might drag on a little bit and some of the environmentalist messages might get a little muddled, but so what? You get to see dinosaurs fighting with each other and roaring at people. That alone, 25 years after the first Jurassic Park movie, is still worth the price of admission.