Film Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (USA, 2018) Is An Action-Horror-Monster Movie Mashup

In 1993 Steven Spielberg brought dinosaurs to life on the big screen in Jurassic Park. And for all its puppetry and animatronics and cinema wizardry then, it astounded us. Now in 2018 Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom establishes that dinosaurs are now part of the world around us. It also makes us want to empathise for the plight of the dinosaurs but let’s be frank here, really all we want is to see them wreck things and eat people.

When a now active volcano threatens the dinosaurs that have been roaming on Isla Nublar, former Jurassic World theme park manager now dinosaur rights activist Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) has to recruit her ex and “animal behaviourist” aka velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to try to get them off the island. But their “rescue mission” is a sham run by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) to sell off the dinos to the highest bidder. And of course let Dr Henry Wu (BD Wong making his obligatory Jurassic franchise through line cameo) and InGen cook up another monster-dino-hybrid – the IndoRaptor, a mix of the Indominus Rex from the previous film and a velociraptor. With of course nefarious intentions of weaponising and throwing this new dino into warfare. Cue the running and the screaming and the people being eaten.

Director JA Bayona with a screenplay from Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly has crafted a weirdly blended action-horror-monster movie mashup that for some inexplicable reason has a number of really good bits in it but the sum of its parts don’t seem to add up. Bayona utilises his horror film experience to really up the fear factor with the new villainous dinosaur, but the true villains of the movie is the humans and their greed. This film is a fun romp for sure, but somehow the political moments and sentimentality of us wanting to care for the plight of the animals seems in stark contrast to our enjoyment of watching them eat people. It just leaves me feeling somewhat emotionally and morally conflicted.

The film has quite a lot of great bits in it that make this enjoyable to watch. The literally explosive sequence on the island with lava streams, falling magma bombs and stampeding dinosaurs is heart racing. Protect precious velociraptor Blue AT ALL COSTS.
A physical comedy gag executed by Pratt that I refuse to spoil is laugh out loud quality.
Our lead human characters, Claire and Owen, are given some character development.
The bad guys do stupid things and get some delicious karmic dinosaur come-uppance.
Rexy is a strong independent dinosaur who strolls in, wrecks stuff, eats a dinosaur/eats a human, roars very loudly, then strolls off again; she knows she’s Queen.
Both Blue and Rexy are given more characterisation in this, which is only fair, we’re probably just as invested in their wellbeing as the human leads.
Stiggy the stygimoloch will be a new favourite dinosaur amongst the kids.
Gunnar Eversol’s (Toby Jones) ridiculous wig and nightmare teeth.
Dr Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is back!
There are a lot of Jurassic Park easter eggs and callbacks for those who love the original film.

And yet for all these great bits, the film struggles with some of its own in-world ridiculousness and obviousness. Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) is a paleo-veterinarian that has never seen a dinosaur, how?
Stereotyping the characters of Zia and Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), the former being the strong, smart, no bullshit female, the latter the nerdy, tech wiz, scared male, is still stereotyping even if the sexes are reversed.
Round doorknobs seem to be sorely forgotten in home design.
Slimy hissable villains like Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine) are predictable and obviously going to snuff it. One of the reasons Jurassic Park worked well was because even a couple of our likeable characters got munched on. Up the stakes on who’s going to live or die to keep us on our toes.
They foghorn very loudly that Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) is unique and special way too early.
Dr Ian Malcolm / Jeff Goldblum is not nearly in it enough, nor making enough quippy remarks.

And whilst they did go back to utilising some animatronics for the dinosaurs here, the reliance these days on CGI means we’ll never quite feel that realism again. Michael Giacchino is back to lend his musical score, once again riffing off John Williams’ original theme in specific points that is its own easter egg. And cinematographer Oscar Faura who teamed up previously with Bayona on The Orphanage gets to tap into the dark gothic ambience once more, particularly for the second half of the film situated off the island.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom raises the moral, ethical and political stakes, and makes us feel emotionally invested in the well being of a bunch of animatronic and CGI dinosaurs. It also doesn’t hold back on some of its more horrific and aggressive moments whilst scattering in plenty of humour to balance it out. The film ends on a particularly interesting note, setting it up for expanding its universe and possibilities even wider, but that of course remains to be seen in the next installment.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 128 minutes

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out in Australian cinemas from 21 June 2018 through Universal Pictures Australia.