"The Dinosaurs Still Have Some Bite Left in them."
By Jonas Schwartz
Director J.A. Bayona has infused fresh blood into the Jurassic Park saga. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom won't be on anyone's top ten list this year, but compared to the last film, in which Steven Spielberg appeared to be spoofing the franchise with stale dialogue and countless sequences of Bryce Dallas Howard beating Jesse Owen's Olympic record running in high heels, the latest contains believable performances, heart-racing sequences, and some exquisite shots.
Three years have passed since the events in the Spielberg reboot. The dinosaurs roam free on the isolated amusement park but are now facing a catastrophic event. A volcano threatens to wipe out the species for the second time. Claire Dearing (Howard) has become an advocate for protecting the animals and fights Congress to remove the creatures, both herbivores and deadly carnivores, to a protected shelter. Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell, Babe), who originally partnered with Richard Attenborough's character John Hammond on the dinosaur's creation, has decided to fund the removal and salvation of his creatures. His protégé, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall, Shaun Of The Dead), hires Dearing and raptor-whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to return to the island on a rescue mission. Because they're lead by a mercenary (Ted Levine, acting more callous and inhuman than as Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs), Dearing and Grady quickly realize that the mission has a nefarious goal.
Writers Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, who created the charming sci-fi comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, have written a cookie cutter sequel with heroes brimming with gold and villains dripping with drool. The bad guys are so repugnant, the audience can't wait for them to be dino-chow. They even TWICE rely on the Jurassic cliché of one deadly beast attacking another to save our protagonists.
Bayona raises the level with tightly shot horror sequences and memorable visual images. Known for both compelling horror (The Orphanage), fairy tales (A Monster Calls) and disaster dramas (The Impossible), Bayona brings suspense and a necessary tragedy to the monsters who are too large for this world. His shots of the island reveal cervices that tie the home to the inhabitants. There's a gorgeously poignant shot of a brontosaurus engulfed in a cloud of volcanic ash, and one where a glass wall separates a little girl from a vicious monster. We see her head and a reflection of the dinosaur's teeth encompassing her face.
Pratt and Howard appear to be having a blast in their roles. As imitation Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, they never wink at the audience, infusing pathos to their interactions with the creatures. As the villains Spall, Levine and Toby Jones eat enough scenery that the Nexium bottles must have been flowing on the crafts table. In a small role, esteemed actress Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie's daughter) brings elegance to the proceedings. Young newcomer Isabella Sermon is never cloying in the youth-in-danger role so audiences genuinely want her to remain safe. And the film opens and ends with the prosaic warnings from Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcolm, grinning with an “I told you so” smirk.
Bayona ambitiously goes for broke with the ending, launching a full apocalypse now, which takes a
C-level film and raises it a whole grade. It's ballsy for a popcorn film, and succeeds. The juxtapositions of ancient and modern world are hair raising and leave audiences desperate for Jurassic World 3.
Check out Jonas's other reviews at www.theatermania.com/author/jonas-schwartz_169