Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Directed by J.A. Bayona
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Rafe Spall, James Cromwell
Rated PG-13 for intense scenes of science-fiction violence and peril.
2 hrs. 8 min.
At every theater, prior to any feature, there are previews, reminders to turn off all smart phones, an admonition not to talk during the film and maybe a brief quiz about the movie. In this case, a math equation: dinosaur plus globe, an equals sign and a crown having obviously crashed to the ground. The answer, of course, was the feature presentation: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. An easy test, and a representative one on several levels.
As movie franchises go, this saga of reanimated paleolithic creatures has been a smashing success. Five films, over $2 billion dollars at the box office worldwide. I’ll not soon forget my anticipation of seeing prehistoric reptiles come to life on screen in so realistic a way. Until the original Jurassic Park, depictions of dinosaurs were limited to animation, papier-mâché robots and the B-movie nonsense of gluing prosthetics to lizards and filming them on a miniature set. Michael Crichton’s novel was visionary; Stephen Spielberg’s concepts and direction were groundbreaking; and the movie, utterly fascinating. Fred Flintstone wasn’t going to zip down the neck of any of these brachiosauri, and yabba-dabba-doo would be a cry for help, not the end of a work day.
That was 1993. Now, 25 years and millions of toy raptors later, it’s all as firmly etched into pop culture as the bones of real dinosaurs themselves. The goal of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, it seems, is to keep the fascination brewing for another generation.
Directed by J.A. Bayona, scripted by Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, it succeeds at keeping the franchise alive. West of Costa Rica lies Isla Nublar, once the home of Jurassic Park, now a shambles, with a dormant volcano ready to blow and incinerate the dino-life that remains there. Aging, sickly billionaire Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), a one-time partner of the park’s founder, John Hammond (the late Richard Attenborough), engages a team to save the animals from a second extinction. Bryce Dallas Howard returns as Claire Dearing, a former park employee who joins forces with her ex-boyfriend and erstwhile raptor-whisperer, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a paleo-veterinarian (Daniella Pineda) and a tech nerd (Justice Smith) to form the moral core of the effort to relocate the beasts to another island sanctuary — with the same protections as other endangered species. What could go wrong?
You might have guessed that there’s more afoot here than preserving reanimated life that should have remained extinct in the first place. Villainous shenanigans abound, lest the film’s only antagonists be rexes, raptors and the eruptions of red-hot magma that threaten them.
To those not yet jaded by the sight of giant paleo creatures filling a 30-foot screen, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom makes for bristling excitement. Director Bayona and writers Trevorrow and Connolly revisit all the frights and foibles, the cinematic splendor and uncanny computer-generated images. It’s not dull. But like an actual paleo dig site, it’s ground that’s been gone over. The startling, sharp-toothed, formerly extinct leviathans that ruled the planet again rule the screen, darting out of nowhere, blasting their gale-force breath, drooling a river of saliva and baring those ski-sized teeth, putting them to work gnashing flesh and sending jolts through the crowd. Once the malevolent human types have been munched like a bag of dino-chips, you know another film will be in the offing. The higher-than-expected $150 million it made over the weekend in the U.S. and Canada would ensure that. One can only hope that the series, as it moves forward, will somehow regain a modicum of the wonder it projected when it all began.