Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Movie Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

The first PG-13 movie I ever saw was the original Jurassic Park back in 1993. I've been a fan of the franchise ever since--I saw the first sequel Lost World in middle school, Jurassic Park III in high school, and Jurassic World when it came out. I reviewed it and even participated in a podcast dedicated to the film. So even though the advance buzz wasn't so hot, I definitely made plans to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

The Plot

In the aftermath of the events of Jurassic World and the massive payouts the company had to make to those harmed, Isla Nublar has been abandoned again. However, it's not a paradise where once-extinct beasts can roam around freely--at least not for much longer. The island's dormant volcano has came to life and the US government, which based on Jurassic Park III seems to have been doing the lion's share of keeping the islands quarantined, has been listening to Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) and is inclined to let the volcano destroy the dinosaurs.

This doesn't sit well with Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is now running the Dinosaur Protection Group dedicated to protecting the dinosaurs like they're an ordinary endangered species. She allies with the late John Hammond's former partner Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) to transport the dinosaurs to a new sanctuary, with her former boyfriend Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) along for the ride to help find his velociraptor pet/surrogate child Blue.

Unfortunately they--and the timid computer geek Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) and the take-no-shit "paleo-veterinarian" Dr. Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) from Claire's organization--find that the sinister plots to weaponize the dinosaurs (one of Jurassic World's weaker points) are still in play and drastic action might need to be taken to save them...

The Good

*I will give the film credit for taking creative risks. The island gets blown up halfway through the movie and the rest of it takes place in California, with the climax occurring at Lockwood's mansion way out in the woods. No more formulaic "how can we get people to these quarantined dangerous islands" films now. The film also gets pretty dark--there's deliberate murder (or attempted) murder of humans by other humans. Even when Malcolm and his crew sabotage InGen's attempt to capture Isla Sorna's dinosaurs in The Lost World, InGen's mercenaries rescue them from the falling trailers and include them in their attempts to get off the island rather than abandoning them to die or deliberately killing them.

*The visuals are stunning, including the dinosaur effects.

*The last quarter of the film, however ridiculous it often seems, comes off like a Gothic haunted-house horror movie, just with dinosaurs.

*Like before, Howard and Pratt are quite amusing together. And Claire has become quite the bad-ass since then. No more running around the jungle in heels for her. :)

*In general there's a lot of nice laugh-out-loud moments.

*There's a scene with a brachiosaurus that's legitimately sad, just like in the last movie. I think the last movie did it better in terms of eliciting an emotional reaction from me, but a whole lot of people found what happened poignant.

*A new type of dinosaur actually seems to have a personality and almost demonic cleverness.

The Bad

*How is the mosasaurus (really a kronosaurus due to its size) still alive if the park has been abandoned for three years? It doesn't seem like it's capable of climbing out of its pool. It would have long since starved to death trapped in its enclosure unless the pool was already stocked with fish, animals keep conveniently getting close enough for it to snag, or somebody's been feeding it.

*Apparently a tie-in in-world website of the Dinosaur Protection Group that provides a lot of the back-story, but I didn't know it existed. Consequently, I was wondering for much of the movie about Isla Sorna, which should be unaffected by the impending destruction of Isla Nublar. This is a problem--if it's that much of a plot hole, it should be explained in the movie. All they'd need is a throwaway line about how after "the spinosaurus incident" Isla Sorna's ecology collapsed and the surviving dinosaurs had to be relocated to Isla Nublar for the new park.

*There's some needless political commentary, like one of the mercenaries (a villain, unlike the awesome Roland Tembo from the second film) referring to Dr. Rodriguez as a "nasty woman." Where have I heard that before?

*There's a scene involving transfusing blood from one species of dinosaur to another. That's...not going to work. You can't transfuse from one human to another if the blood types are different and humans are all one species. The almighty TVTropes said this was like using rabbit blood in humans.

*Ian Malcolm is even more of an annoying pantheist than he was before. It's my understanding that his worries about chaos theory from the first movie had to do with the overconfidence of Hammond and his entourage that they could control these wild and dangerous animals so easily, but there was still the "nature SELECTED them for extinction" stuff. He's still on that kick in this one, even though he explicitly tells the Congressional committee that God isn't involved here. News-flash: In a purely naturalistic world (Malcolm is not a religious man, something made quite clear in the novel The Lost World), there is no "meant to be" or "wrong side of history. Things happen and people have to deal with them.

*It would have been better if the "rescue the dinosaurs" plot had taken up the entire movie--one last return to the park, rounding up the dinosaurs, some close encounters of the worst kind with big carnivores, etc. could have taken up quite a lot of time. One of the more creative features of The Lost World was the depiction of the carnotaurs as having chameleon-like camouflage, which they could have included in this one. The betrayals that take place halfway through could be a cliffhanger ending to set up the events of a third Jurassic World film, which would cover the events of the second half of the film and the consequences of those.

*Things got kind of draggy after they get off the island all the way to the dinosaur auction going badly.

*They hype up the possibilities of the dinosaurs getting loose as some kind of apocalyptic event when they're really not. Most if not all of the dinosaurs are female and there are so few dinosaurs period they wouldn't be able to create a viable breeding population even if they became established somewhere. And if the lysine contingency is still in the genes of the new batch (it's certainly still there with old-school dinosaurs like the T-Rex), many of them will die unless they can find the proper foods. The only ones I anticipate being a real problem are the kronosaurus, since it has the whole ocean to hide in, or the pterodactyls due to their ability to fly and the fact enough of them escaped Isla Nublar (and Isla Sorna earlier) that they could establish a viable breeding pool. The big carnosaurs in particular will be in zoos or trophy racks within a month or two.

*Weaponizing the dinosaurs is still a dumb idea. Unless they could teach raptors to use guns (or engineer them into creatures similar to the wolf-baboon-human chimera ghouloons from S.M. Stirling's Draka novels), it seems pretty pointless. They need too much food, the fixed costs of creating them are huge, etc. A "war raptor" might be able to do more damage on the battlefield than a "war dog" (more physically destructive, more intimidating) but it doesn't seem like it's worth the effort.

The Verdict

Worth seeing once. It's not a bad movie, but it could have been done better. 7.5 out of 10.

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