Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

“We’re not compatible.”

Visually breathtaking and obtusely written, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom only stands as a significant improvement on 2015’s Jurassic World because that first film in this new trilogy was so cringe-worthy and clearly lower-tier. It’s not hard to improve on that last blockbuster, a film built from the skeletons of dinosaurs. By that I’m implying it’s massive and mean with a brain the size of a walnut. Granted, Fallen Kingdom is extremely stupid in its own right as well, almost gloriously so, and it’s one of the few examples in recent memory where a director has been able to elevate a bad script with unforgettable imagery.

Continuing the cataclysm of the previous film’s ending, Fallen Kingdom starts off on tectonic, shifting and unsteady footing. The island that the dinos ravaged is about to have a volcanic eruption –  no good business person would decide to build a billion dollar plus prehistoric park on an active volcano – and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is duped into saving the ancient creatures. She recruits Owen (Chris Pratt) to come track down the hyper-intelligent raptor Blue. They’re double-crossed by a machismo military man and left to die. In a better film, this much plot detail would be grounds for a spoiler alert, but Fallen Kingdom is so blatantly bland to start that the insanity and the idiocy of the entire first act lends itself to feeling painfully obvious and bombastic. Very few parts of this film can’t be telegraphed from minutes and miles away.

While the film itself is brazenly foolish – and seriously seems to know so – it does manage to do something rather interesting and invigorating. The action descends onto a sprawling mansion with the forgettable bad guy Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), a young girl named Maisie (Isabella Sermon) who shares some common traits with the resurrected dinosaurs (I truly believe her perspective should have been the story’s main vantage point), and what starts out as a daft theme park ride evolves into a straight-up haunted house adventure. By confining the characters and the creatures within man-made walls, the picture becomes infinitely more intimate and intense, and director J.A. Bayona paints the scenes with irresistible gothic inspired imagery and coloring. Fallen Kingdom never really grows a brain, but it does learn how to adapt and to style itself in a way that’s both frightening and memorable.

One of the great surprises in Fallen Kingdom is seeing a movie that desperately wants to right the wrongs of its dopey predecessor. Mindless entertainment and scoffs at the prehistoric beasts have been appropriately replaced by a re-energized awe at the sight of the dinosaurs. Claire is no longer a distressed damsel running around in heels; an intentional close-up shot shows her stomping a step in combat boots. And perhaps most importantly, the film really considers the pain of an entire species possibly going extinct for a second time, neither circumstance of their own doing. Fallen Kingdom looks like a Steven Spielberg film, and yet because of the doltish script, the looks lack emotion and magic. Jurassic World was dumb and ugly. At least this sequel appeals to the eye and ever so briefly to the spirit of the 1993 original.

“Change is like death.You don’t know what it looks like until you’re standing at the gates.”

Rating: 3 out of 5

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