FILM REVIEW – JURASSIC PARK: FALLEN KINGDOM. With Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, James Cromwell, Toby Jones. Written by Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow. Directed by J.A. Bayona. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril. 128 minutes.
Fair warning: this reviewer is someone who has never been a big fan of this franchise – impressive CGI special effects aside – which makes it surprising that JURASSIC PARK: FALLEN KINGDOM seems much more than an amusement park ride. It raises some interesting questions, all the while providing the requisite thrills from volcanoes, runaway dinosaurs, and duplicitous humans.
It’s several years after the events of “Jurassic World” (2015). The island where the theme park was located is now facing total destruction from a newly-active volcano. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is involved in efforts to save the lives of the dinosaurs who will perish. With the help of Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), who handles the financial affairs for Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), she is ready to provide her expertise to those sent to save them. Enlisting Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), she brings her team to the island to join up with mercenaries led by Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine).
The first part of the story is pretty much what you would expect with that set-up, with some great action sequences. Then they up the ante when the volcano erupts, letting the various twists play out against lots of prehistoric violence. At this point, it’s mostly a thrill ride but pay attention to the Senate hearing where Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, from the original film) is testifying. He points out that just as the nuclear genie couldn’t be put back in the bottle, neither can the genetic experiments that are at the center of this series. In this film, we get to confront where that will lead.
There are numerous twists in the second half, and what makes it work – amidst all the CGI violence – is that the film doesn’t shy away from the ramifications of the technology the series has posited. If one could bring dinosaurs back to life from DNA preserved in amber, would the sole application really be in creating an amusement park? When Mr. Eversol (Toby Jones) arrives as a businessman who dismisses millions of dollars as something he could make on a slow Tuesday, we enter a world where we discover the unthinkable has not only been thought but is about to become very profitable.
As a summer special effects movie, it is slickly done, with the actors, sets, and CGI creatures meshing seamlessly. Those not wanting to see bad guys chomped on by carnivorous reptiles should give this a pass, but for those less squeamish, there is only one sequence that seemed to this reviewer to cross the line, owing more to Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” than his original “Jurassic Park.”
In some ways “Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom” ought to have been the culmination of the series, but in Hollywood franchises never die, they merely set up sequels. This film is no different yet, as Ian Malcolm warns the Senate committee, they’ve entered a new world where dinosaurs are no longer mere entertainment: they may end up having the last laugh on humanity. No doubt another film is being planned. Where it will take us is a question that fans of the series will get to debate in the meantime.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.