Monday, June 25, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom...or Fallen Franchise?

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom artwork
property of the studio.
I caught Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom yesterday for a matinee, and even at the ungodly-movie-hour of 11:30AM, the theatre was absolutely packed.

Very good sign for the latest movie in the Jurassic Park dynasty. But I'm sure you'd like to know what I thought. Sans spoilers. (Which always makes review writing a little tricky.)

Well...

There was good, there was bad and then there was a generous dollop of just plain ugly.

As far as entertainment value, I found the action pretty riveting and for the most part, non-stop. Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard--who I just learned this week is Ron Howard's daughter)--are back, as well as Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) who seems to keep popping back in to various movies as the voice of Chaos Theory.

And he certainly gets his fifteen minutes on the soapbox. Personally, I preferred the much less heavy-handed and non-politically-tainted message in the original film, which was handled with genuine finesse instead of boxing gloves.

But I digress...

I don't think I'm getting too spoilery to say the premise of this film is that three years have passed since the catastrophic failure of Jurassic World, and various bad guys...and bad guys pretending to be good guys...and good guys being misled by bad guys...are on a mission to save--in other words exploit--the dinosaurs and/or their valuable DNA from an island that's about to go all Mount Kilauea.

The opening scenes try to be scary-tense and frightening, but unfortunately that goes somewhat astray by TSTL characters who make idiotic assumptions such as (paraphrasing) "it's been three years since the meltdown of the park, so surely all the dinosaurs are dead."

Of course, everyone in the audience knows where that's going.

Cut to some very edgy scenes featuring cast--human and dinosaur--that you've come to know, followed by an orgy of smashing things, hurtling things, bloody carnage and multiple explosions. Act One was capped with a particularly painful segment that unfolds before the main characters' eyes. If it was meant to really get to you, it worked for this viewer. It was a definite case of show, don't tell, leaving the audience to draw their own emotional conclusion instead of verbally hammering them over the head with it via dialogue. (That came later.)

Here's the final trailer.



The Good

I loved Chris Pratt's reprisal of Owen and I thought the growth of Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire worked--from a strictly business and often heartless what's-the-bottom-line executive in Jurassic World to the leader of what's essentially a high-tech animal rescue organization.

Theatrical release poster, property
of the studio.
Each film in this franchise has sought to redefine the meaning of "dinosaur-overlord" and the latest is no exception. How do you follow the continuous one-upmanship from a T-Rex to multiple T-Rexes to a Spinosaurus to an Indominus Rex? You biologically engineer an intelligent, ferocious and decidedly nasty multi-ton beastie that's trained to attack on cue. Chilling.

The movie was chock full of "harken back" scenes that cleverly interwove all the feels of some of the earlier films in the franchise. The deja vu was obviously intended, and done quite well, IMHO. Your take on that may differ.

The flashback scenes of Owen with his raptors were the absolute highlight for me. They were fresh and added some poignant emotional layers to the man/raptor relationship. In fact, they probably explained Owen's bond to his raptors better than the actual scenes in JW did.

The Bad

The villains. Why is it that all villains in recent films are portrayed as if they were Snidely Whiplash twirling their moustaches while they tie Nell to the railroad tracks? (And one even comes with a voice that still makes my skin crawl decades after first hearing it in The Silence of the Lambs. "It puts the lotion in the basket." Shudder.)

The threats. There were far too many, and from too many different directions, that it actually muddied instead of sharpening the sense of jeopardy. Exploding volcanos, flowing lava, rampaging dinosaurs, malfunctioning equipment, and one-dimensional characters so drunken by absolute greed and mindless ambition that they were totally unconvincing.

The scenarios. Suspension of disbelief was beyond all possibility for much of the latter part of the story.

The Ugly

The twist that wasn't twisted. One of the characters has a big secret, but when it's finally revealed, instead of being an OMG moment, it's more of a huh? Connections should be drawn that aren't, and it seems there's room for some pretty heavy discussion about lines being crossed that clearly shouldn't have been, but it doesn't happen. I think a real opportunity was missed here, and the camera capturing the wide-eyed reactions just doesn't fill in those blanks.

The ending. Though I didn't find it "lame" as one commenter described it, I did find it extremely uncomfortable. Owen and Claire are faced with a Kobayashi Maru scenario where there is no right choice, and whatever they decide will be devastating but at opposite ends of the scale. So neither makes that choice. I can't say more without giving away too much, except that the resolution sets up a scenario that can continue ad nauseum into the future. Which I'm sure is the plan.

In fact, Jeff Goldblum's final line set that stage in no uncertain terms.

For overall entertainment value, I'd rate Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom as four stars. It delivered what the previews promised, a scary, action-packed summer blockbuster, though the finale didn't have anywhere near the emotional punch of Jurassic Park I or Jurassic World I, it also wasn't in any way a waste of the ticket price. It just didn't live up to my admittedly high expectations.

In closing, I have to say that maybe the magic has just worn off for me, because I had to agree with my spouse on this one: "I think I'm Jurassic Parked out."

Of course, I might change my mind before Jurassic World III comes out.

Have a great week.

1 comment:

  1. Great review, Laurie. I think I'll pass on this one.

    ReplyDelete

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