Well, we’re here at last: the final part in my Jurassic Park retrospective. This week saw the release of the most recent part of the franchise, in the form of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and it’s time to take a look at the movie as a whole and it’s place in the franchise in general.
First off, just a little something to make my fuck of a vegan heart happy: Fallen Kingdom has a subtle but vital animal rights overtone (not least in the casting of notable animal rights activist, James Cromwell). The other movies have occasionally skirted in this direction, but it’s outright woven into the story of this one: without giving too much away, the entire message of the movie is that when we interfere with animals, it’s a bad time for all involved. And I loved that the villains were dastardly because of their plans to exploit these animals for profit, but that the protagonists – who’d exploited them in their own ways in the previous film – got called out on it too. I mean, this is a movie with an outright liberal bent (see that “nasty woman” comment for reference), but I’m happy to see a sneaky wee animal rights message in there too.
But onward, to the actual quality of this film. Well, it’s a good one, if batshit fucking insane – the plot revolves around the abandoned island of Isla Nublar, which is facing an imminent life-ending volcanic eruption that threatens to finish off the dinosaurs left there after the park was abandoned in the previous movie. And you know, if this had just been a disaster movie, I would have been fine with that – the action scenes on the island were breathlessly exciting and well-directed by franchise newbie JA Bayona, lending the film a non-stop visual dynamism that keeps even the slightly saggier moments bounding along impressively. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return to their previous roles and share the same sharp, snappy chemistry as before, while incomers Danielle Pieda and my sweet, sweet The Get Down darling Justice Smith provide a decent balance of audience surrogacy and comic relief (Justice Smith panting “T-Rex, T-Rex, T-Rex” in the face of an oncoming carnivore was the biggest laugh on the film, and pretty much the state I spend most of my time watching these movies in).
But it’s when things move off the island that the movie takes a turn into the inspired. The Lost World tried to bring dinosaurs to the mainland with limited (read: no) success, but that’s because it felt tacked on in the third act and their reasons for getting it their in the first place were thin; Fallen Kingdom goes to great lengths to establish some uber-fun villains (shout out to Rafe Spall, who looks great in a suit and a sneer), and what it builds to is a fucking full-blown gothic horror third act that’s just too much fun.
It’s one of those action sequences that’s so good, so fun, I don’t want to give anything away: I want to sit there in the cinema and watch your face while it happens. A climactic battle feels like something pulled straight from Frankenstein, as the mutated, engineered beast rips clumsily through a gothic mansion in a body it doesn’t yet seem to fully understand: I really can’t overstate how much fun Bayona seems to be having behind the camera here, letting the franchise dip into total horror in a way it hasn’t since the first movie. A solid mix of real effects and CGI give things momentum where they need it, but allows for a more intimate connection with the dinosaurs, which only makes this ridiculous, brilliant third act all the more compelling. And the ending is a jaw-droppingly audacious place to leave the series, not offering the option for a reboot for the next movie, and setting up a new world that just looks rich with possibility.
And how does it fit into the franchise as a whole? Well, given the purgatory the franchise fell into with it’s first round of sequels, this is a really promising step up from the last movie. It doesn’t fall back on tropes the same way The Lost World did, and finds ways to make things bigger without lagging too much from sequel fatigue; Bayona feels excited behind the camera, and it comes through on-screen in a way that’s impossible to resist.
The sharp narrative on animal rights gives Fallen Kingdom a modern slant, and I would make a case for its biggest improvement over its predecessor being a great pair of villains to replace Vincent D’Onofrio’s lethargic bad guy. We’ve had a really solid run of blockbusters this year – well, we were, until Ready Player One, Solo, and Deadpool 2 come along – and Fallen Kingdom is a strong contender for the best. It’s stylistically bold in a way a franchise with this kind of boundary-pushing history can uphold, and at the end of the day: it’s dinosaurs. What kind of saddo are you if you don’t want to see dinosaurs, just strutting about? It’s hard to mess up a premise this inherently fun, but Fallen Kingdom manages to build on its basis to come up with a modern, horror-tinged prehistoric whale of a time.
If you enjoyed this article and want to see more stuff like it, consider supporting us on Patreon, and check out the rest of this retrospective or our Marvel Cinematic Universe retrospective! You can also find more of my TV-related work and personal writings on my blog, The Cutprice Guignol. And be sure to tune in for the start of our genuinely awesome new retrospective this Sunday!
(header image courtesy of Screen Rant)