Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
“Dinosaurs had their shot and nature selected them for extinction,” Dr. Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum), a young chaotician with jet black hair and a suave, leather jacket argues with capitalist dreamer John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) at a dinner table located within Jurassic Park’s visitor center. 25 years later, Dr. Malcom stands before a senate. The same man we once knew, in an all black suit but with greying hair and a handsome beard, once again pleads his case. “Change is like death. You don’t know what it looks like until you are standing at the gates.”
The debate, the reason for the hearing, the case Ian is pleading for is for the death of Hammond’s creations. A volcano is erupting on Isla Nublar, which will kill all of the living dinosaurs on that island. Nature has yet again selected them for death.
Leading the charge to save them is Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who like John Hammond, has gone from capitalist to naturalist in less than four years. She has been commissioned by Hammond’s former business partner, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), and his his underling, former idealist Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), to extract the dinosaurs from the island and transport them to their new refuge with the help of Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). But things don’t go as planned.
Directed by J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, A Monster Calls), Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a fast-paced, efficient thrill ride with well-crafted sequences and imagery clearly molded by a love for Steven Spielberg and gothic horror movies. With visual love letters to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the original Jurassic Park, Bayona takes us on a wild adventure with plenty of action including, but not limited to a chaotic stampede chase, a thrilling escape with a truck, and a harrowing underwater rescue sequence framed within one amazing, continuous shot.
Later in the film, Bayona transports us to a magnificent, but foreboding mansion. The Lockwood Estate is home to many shadows and devious activities on the inside, while surrounded by a haunting redwood forrest and bathed in dark clouds and turbulent rain on the outside, an atmosphere that is very much at home with Universal’s “Shock Theater” legacy.
Lurking about this mansion’s many corridors and secret labs is a devilish creature with gnarly claws that slyly creep, grab oblivious shoulders, and make your skin crawl in freakish shadows. This isn’t an animal like the other dinosaurs. This is a monster.
Like this creature, composer Michael Giacchino is set free, navigating this chilling landscape with rich, operatic cues comprised of a rising chorus and suspensful shrieks and stings. Giacchino expands upon his previous Jurassic World themes with an emotional score that doesn’t lean upon John Williams’ iconic music, paralleling Bayona’s navigation away from Isla Nublar, closing the bay doors on the traditional “dinosaurs amuck on an island” scenario, and quite literally opening the gates to fresh new territory for the series to roam and conquer. As Malcom once said, “Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers.” Indeed it does, Ian. Indeed it does.
Despite all the frantically-paced action and “castle thunder” frights, the franchise’s core philosophical debates, going back to the original Jurassic Park and Michael Crichton’s novel before it, remain at the heart of the film. Should the dinosaurs be allowed to live and if so, what will happen to us? More importantly, as Dr. Malcom suggests, have we created our own extinction? Perhaps in a subtle way, perhaps not in a subtle way, those “gates” Malcom refers to do make an appearance at a pivotal point in the film. But who is standing before them, dinosaurs or man?
Fallen Kingdom is a wild rollercoaster with ups, downs, twists, turns, and doesn’t stop until you’ve reached the station. There are screams and laughs along the way, but it is also dark, brooding, twisted, and contemplative. Most importantly, it opens a world of possibilities for the next film to explore.