In an age where narratives of superheroes, animation and science fiction rule the box office, there is one fossil amongst the great big box office contenders that audience just can’t quite enough of. In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the park may be gone, but dinosaurs are definitely here to stay.
Fallen Kingdom is the fifth entry in the Jurassic Park film franchise and the second within the Jurassic World trilogy, and while it features the most amount of dinosaurs out of all the previous films, don’t be fooled because the film takes place in only a few very specific locations and features the least amount of dinosaur action out of all of the movies. Yet, despite the very minimal action, the permanent set pieces and of course its fair share of charm and charisma, Fallen Kingdom is a Jurassic film unlike any we have seen before.
Much of this might have to do with the inclusion of the franchise’s newest film director, Spanish filmmaker J.A. Bayona. Bayona, who has previously directed The Orphanage, The Impossible and A Monster Calls, has quite an imaginative and generous eye when it comes to offering the embellished perspective of children, which, for many people such as myself, would warrant well for a refreshing take on a franchise that has been around for almost twenty-five years and on its fifth entry. Also, given the fact that many people who were first introduced to Michael Crichton’s world of dinosaurs with Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park in 1993 were only just children or young adults, really plays well with an audience that is all grown up. Luckily for audiences, Bayona allows all of us old, matured, geeked out, nostalgia driven cinephiles to indulge in a film that is both the epitome of blockbuster/popcorn entertainment film, as well as a self-aware and respectable ode to some of our favourite monster movies.
What makes Fallen Kingdom so consuming is the fact that Bayona treats the dinosaurs like monsters for just a couple minutes, but like any good classic monster movies, Frankenstein for example, the monster begins to resonate with audiences and become much more than just visual and visceral entertainment set pieces. For the first time in the cannon of the Jurassic series, the dinosaurs gain as much empathy as any if not more than the human characters we know or have grown to love.
This love for the dinosaurs sets up the very relevant narrative in very pleasing fashion, especially since, the newly created dinosaurs of Jurassic World are threatened by a recently active volcano on Isla Nublar. And while political and government officials all over the world are trying to figure out if these creatures are actually worth saving from extinction…again, this threat allows a chance for redemption for our characters from Jurassic World.
In comes in Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the former honcho of the recently closed Jurassic World Amusement Park, who now has a career for the preservation of the dinosaurs species. So when the world decides that they are going to watch and allow the creatures to face their deadly fate, Claire is unexpectedly contacted by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the silent partner to John Hammond’s original Jurassic Park. Lockwood’s extraction plan for the dinosaurs is headed by the idealistic pretty-boy Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), whose sharp suits heavily contrasts the safari inspired outfits of all the other human characters. Lockwood, who entrusts Mills with the whole operation, informs Claire that in order for the extraction to be fully successful, it is essential that they retrieve the second smartest creature on the planet next to human beings, Blue the Velociraptor. Yet, as much as they have already tried, capturing Blue seems close to impossible without the help of our Indiana Jones inspired hero Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who aside from being the best dinosaur wrangler on the planet, also has the advantage of raising blue from infancy.
While Owen, Claire and a few more new faces travel back to the Island, and face dinosaurs, active volcanoes and the basis of Murphy’s law, their efforts to retrieve all the animals from the island are never what it seems.
While Fallen Kingdom does take the dinosaurs our of the park, or in this case the fictional island of Isla Nublar, the looming doom and impending danger of the park is never absent and much of this danger is thanks to the wonderful vision of Bayona as well as a masterful score by Michael Giacchino. Giacchino, who elevates the original John Williams score in ways no one would ever think possible, raises the stakes and sonically charges the world of human eating creatures into a glorious manifestation of wonder and beauty. Fallen Kingdom really allows the composer to stretch his muscles and show why he is one of the best contemporary composers in film today.
Thankfully for Bayona, a director who feature film debut is a horror film and a director who realizes the potential the franchise has adding terror and genuine scares to it, allows the newly popular horror genre (thanks to films like Get Out and The Shape of Water) to have such a large impact on a tentpole blockbuster film franchise. Implementing gothic elements of horror to the final act of the film, as well as feeding off his signature motifs of children nightmares and realities blending into the world of creature features, and of course not forgetting his admirable talent to honouring some of his favourite films, Hitchcock’s Rebecca is the obvious one here, Bayona gives us the most deeply embedded, nerdy cinephile Jurassic picture to date.
While many might see it bizarre that the director of Jurassic World was only a screenwriter for this film, Colin Trevorrow along with Derek Connolly (who were both screenwriters on the previous film), allow the narrative to go in many directions but find a nice intersection amongst the plot to tie everything together. Garnishing social/economical/political points into the script at every turn, including issues between the dinosaurs and human beings concerning “animal cruelty” or dino-cruelty if you will, as well as allowing the dinosaurs on being protagonists instead of antagonists, and of course showing snippets of good-old dinosaurs chomping, Fallen Kingdom easily goes down smoother than its predecessor despite some obvious missing plot points.
Bayona’s direction is easily the most visionary and artful of all the previous directors within the Jurassic franchise, really allowing the world to grow and explore new heights without much effort. While the real stand outs in Fallen Kingdom are the dinosaurs themselves, the only other honourable mention for human characters is the only child in the film, Isabella Sermon, who plays Maisie in the film, Lockwood’s granddaughter. Not only is Maisie an integral part of the film’s narrative and some of the biggest surprises in the film, but Maisie is also Bayona’s secret weapon. Through Maisie, the director is able to effortlessly show the nightmares of a child and how they bleed into the world of adults, as well as glorifying disastrous world events with such ease and childhood innocence that, even amongst all the bloody dino violence, human sacrifices and inhumane treatment of such creatures, the loss of innocence and fear of a child is what makes the driving force of Fallen Kingdom so believable, so entertaining and most of all, so spectacular. Fallen Kingdom is easily one of the best entries to the franchise since Jurassic Park and one we cannot wait to explore in the third and final film.
Night Film Reviews: 8 Out of 10 Stars.
What did you think of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom? Excellent entry to the Jurassic franchise or falling quickly out of your memory? Who was your favourite character? What was your favourite moment? Leave your comments below before they become extinct!