A bold, dark, strikingly-cinematographed shake-up of franchise stakes/storytelling unleashing them on the world outside the island, JWFK is flawed in scripting, lethargically-acted, & light on character moments but pushes franchise boundaries to deliver an experiential blockbuster. 7.5/10.
Plot Synopsis: Set three years after the destruction of the Jurassic World theme park, Owen Grady and Claire Dearing return to the island of Isla Nublar to save the remaining dinosaurs from a volcano that’s about to erupt. They soon encounter terrifying new breeds of gigantic dinosaurs, while uncovering a conspiracy that threatens the entire planet.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
$1.672 Billion. That’s how much Jurassic World made during its theatrical run in the brisk summer in 2015. While Box Office is and should never be used as an indication of a film’s quality, it does say something about the concept, marketing, and overall interest in it as a product for consumers. The first Jurassic World was a stunning modern take on the classic Dinosaur tale, with a scale as epically big as mountains of money could buy and the result paid off as a jaw-dropping biology/jurassic love-letter that made long-time fans and people in scientific fields like yours truly ecstatic. I was absolutely intrigued to see how they would follow it up, especially after seeing the brilliant trailers tease things like dinosaurs escaping to our modern world. After seeing JWFK, I was not let down as it is a visually and cinematographically jaw-dropping, epically scored, bold, dark take that has its flaws but pushes the franchise’s boundaries and delivers what we go to the movies for.
Let’s start with all the things Fallen Kingdom gets right. For one, the visuals and cinematography are absolutely STUNNING. From surreally green and aquamarine island shots to rain-soaked/moonlit mansion ones to Lion vs. T-Rex apex predator roar mirroring ones, the film’s shots and painstaking attention to shot set-up and artful design is incredible and make it one of the most visually arresting blockbusters I can remember in recent years and worth the price of admission several times over on that fact ALONE. The CGI and rendering of the dinosaurs is unbelievable as well and a testament to the magic of technology and modern Hollywood to be able to make it look (and sound, as I’ll get to later) so life-like you could swear raptors are in the theater with you or were on the set during shooting. If you’re even remotely a dinosaur or biology-lover (guilty), I don’t know how you could possibly be happier with what Jurassic World 1 & 2 are done as their bringing the dinosaurs to life is masterfully executed and sublime to witness.
Also, the sound and score of film is absolutely phenomenal. Giacchino gives yet another bold, triumphant, booming soundtrack that makes the movie about as epic as it can possibly get. The fast-paced drums mirroring fast-paced chase scenes, suspenseful build-ups to go with the almost gothic horror-like pseudo-slasher scenes the film takes on too, and so on are a true achievement and should be celebrated for how well they fit with the movie as a composer. The direction is also great as J.A. Bayona gives a bold, dark take on Jurassic that took guts. From the INCREDIBLE, fast-paced, heart-pounding opening sequence that stands as one of the best scenes in the series to literally blowing up everything the franchise has known up to this point and pushing the boundaries/scale as much as humanly possible by unleashing dinosaurs on the rest of the world, Bayona’s risk-taking pays off tremendously and is the exact type of injection of energy, freshness, and reinvigoration the increasingly tired-looking franchise needed.
The characters (from what they’re given which isn’t enough as I’ll address later) are good too. Chris Pratt is back as the charming and charismatic lead that oozes respect for nature and dinosaurs and fits his role perfectly, Bryce Dallas Howard is better in this movie (a character that annoyed me in the first JW but is gorgeous and character-developed in FK to have a love for the creatures and admittance and at least trying to make up for her wrongs in the first movie), and there is something new this time around: a human villain (really) calling the shots. Rafe Spalls’ Mills (and by extension Toby Jones’ Wheaton and Dr. Wu who, is he ever going to learn to stop making new dinosaurs because THEY’RE GOING TO GET OUT?! -.-) is an unexpected and worthy villain that adds a more human touch to the film than making it just about dinosaurs and is truly sinister doing things like killing Ben and locking his own daughter in, as well as trafficking the dinosaurs in a Bond-esque black market auction that was a really cool addition.
Finally, there are just awesome little touches like great new characters in Zia and Franklin that add much needed humor and awkwardness, as well as diversity in a non-braggadocious or flaunting way, to the palette. Also, there are incredible Easter Eggs like a heartbreaking throwback to Jurassic Park in the fiery death of the brachiosaurus, subtle and just-hidden-enough but noticeable jabs at people like Trump and toxic modern “Christians” (use that term loosely) who are breathtakingly uneducated and ignorant enough to question whether or not dinosaurs even existed because it’s not in their Bible, when it is an absolute fact of life that they were and I love that the film called out those clueless and stubborn enough to say against it. YASSS. The Indoraptor is a phenomenally designed and badass successor to the Indominus Rex, and the film’s artistic and sublime-inducing homage to the power of nature in the Nubar eruption was an absolute experience.
Now, while the pros far outweigh the cons and anyone who says differently is either a science/dinosaur hater/denier, is judging action blockbusters way too harshly as they’re not going or trying to have Oscar-level writing, or is just unknowledgeable about movie, there are some objective flaws in the film. For one, the story could’ve been executed far better. I love the bold risk-taking and direction Bayona took with FK and how it ends with *SPOILER* all the dinosaurs roaming freely and in essence ruling the Earth, but the way they got their was kind of choppy and featured some extensive rehashing of old plots like greedy guy undercover sabotages/double-crosses in capture/care of dinosaurs to sell them for money, they get released free, wreak havoc, rinse, repeat (except for the ending which was a bold new direction).
Also, the movie is overlong and really needed to be ~20+ min shorter to reach peak effectiveness. I don’t know why all modern blockbusters feel they have to be well over 2 hours when films in the past have done it in less and under 2 hours, and here you start to feel it towards the end. Surprisingly though, there aren’t enough character or human moments, probably because of all of the, while jaw-droppingly epic, dinosaur moments that dominate the script. I sympathize and agree that the characters still feel a little half-baked even after 2 films, and it’s a shame with such a strong cast that work wonders with what they’re given, they are put second in opposite to the original Jurassics and Park. Claire does have character development from bratty corporate sell-out to dinosaur lover and respecter, but the rest of the characters need more human touches to match the incredible effects and CGI-driven action and cinematography. Too bad.
Overall though, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a visually and cinematographically jaw-dropping, epically scored, bold, dark take on Jurassic that has its flaws in character moments and story execution, but pushes the franchise’s boundaries and delivers an experiential blockbuster that does a lot to sum up the indescribable thrill of why we go to the movies on a summer night.
Official CLC Score: 7.3/10