By John H. Foote
Like a well oiled roller coaster ride, by now the narrative for the Jurassic Park franchise is an entertainment machine Universal has down pat. Memories of the terrible The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) have faded, helped by the fact Jurassic World (2015) was a tight, taut film that worked on most levels.
Those that escaped off the island in the previous film find themselves headed back to save the dinosaurs, about to be doomed by an erupting volcano that will decimate the island and kill all life within range of the explosion. Clare (Bryce Dallas Howard) is now a pro-dinosaur activist hellbent on doing what is right for the creatures she feels she helped exploit when she worked for the park. She convinces Owen (Christ Pratt) her former boyfriend to help her, knowing he is curious as to what became of Blue, the vicious raptor he trained.
The opening sequence is hair raising, involving a dinosaur, a submarine and a chopper…enough said. It will knock your socks off. As Jaws (1975) caused, you might find yourself looking beneath the waves after seeing this.
So back they go, unaware that those higher up the corporate food chain have devious ideas in mind for the creatures, selling them to the highest bidder to use as weapons, in zoos, or for having the pleasure of owning a dinosaur. One look at these people and the word greedy comes to mind, right before you think, the fools.
Once on the island, which is terribly unstable thanks to that volcano, they realize that what Dr. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) stated way back in the first film is true, nature finds a way and indeed the island is teeming with dinosaurs. Getting them off the island is one thing, where to put them once off is quite another. Of course not all of them will survive, as lava and eruptions from the volcano take their toll, and in some cases pit creature against creature.
Lurching from human conflict, a lot, and dinosaur attacks, the film moves at a brisk pace, with lots of action and lots of dinosaurs, which is of course what the audience comes to see. There is a stunning sequence, used in the trailer, where a stampede of hundreds of creatures comes out of the smoke of the lava running at full speen, Owen caught in the middle of it. MInd boggling to think how they created it, it is breathtaking and thrilling to behold, visual effects at their finest.
Getting as many off the island as possible, once back on the mainland Owen and Clare have come to realize what the heads of the company have in mind, and yes it is sinister. Now when they brought the creatures back to America in The Lost World (1997), anyone remember how that went, so why do they think it will go any better this time. And of course it does not, all hell breaks loose.
Watching the strange connection between Owen and the raptor Blue is interesting, though at the end of the day an animal is always going to be an animal.
Pratt is again proving he is a pure movie star. The dude has chemistry to burn with the camera, and is a born hero on screen. Why they do not just cast him as the young Indiana Jones I do not know, and why he was not cast as young Han Solo is a mystery. But he cannot go through his career playing younger versions of Harrison Ford. His performance here is effortless, the same cocky, fearless guy he was in the first film. His face when he realizes Blue is not interested in being his pet is heartbreaking, aware but disappointed. I like the guy, though that said I am aware he not going to win an Oscar anytime soon with the choices he makes.
Bryce Dallas Howard I have always admired from her first great performance in the otherwise wretched The Village (2004). Her performance in that film was wonderfully original, from her delivery of lines, to the mystery behind her unseeing eyes. She can be an extraordinary actress or she can be pretentious and annoying. Here doe does exactly what she is supposed to do, serving the script and the directors vision. She and Pratt have a nice, bouncy chemistry with each other that works magic, but lets face it the dinosaurs are what people have come to see.
There is nothing here to match the T Rex attack in the first film, directed twenty five years ago by Steven Spielberg. That sequence was raw and visceral, genuine terrifying, unlike anything we had seen before. Jurassic Park (1993) is a landmark in that not only did it unleash dinosaurs, it started the digital revolution in cinema, revolutionizing the art of visual effects, altering the course of film forever. The effects in this new film are seamless, better than ever, but it lacks the heart of that original film.
That said, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a wild exciting ride, and a profound reminder that creatures such as this and man could never co-inhabit a world. They tried, it failed. Still makes a helluva movie.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.