Tuesday, June 26, 2018


(US - 2018)

Directed by J.A. Bayona. Written by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow. Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, Jeff Goldblum, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, BD Wong, Geraldine Chaplin, Isabella Sermon, Peter Jason, Robert Emms, Charlie Rawes, Kevin Layne, John Schwab. (PG-13, 128 mins)

Five films into a 25-year-old blockbuster franchise--let's count this all as one series--and it's understandable that coming up with fresh ideas might be a little difficult. JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, the follow-up to the 2015 reboot/sequel JURASSIC WORLD, recognizes this, and while it includes numerous visual callbacks and shout-outs to previous installments (including the brief return of an iconic fan favorite), it basically opts for the insane route, with a second-half shift into territory that's so illogical and ludicrous that it can't help but make itself oddly endearing. There's enough sly moments throughout--Bryce Dallas Howard's introduction begins with a close-up of her high heels that's so blatant that it can't be anything but a middle finger to everyone still bitching about her footwear from JURASSIC WORLD--that I'm actually willing to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt. Feel free to argue the plot holes and inconsistencies all you want, but I think they're well aware that they've made what will probably be the dumbest movie of 2018. I can't recall another director harangued more for getting a lucky break than Colin Trevorrow was with JURASSIC WORLD three years ago. Though the directorial reins have been handed off to Guillermo del Toro protege J.A. Bayona (THE ORPHANAGE, THE IMPOSSIBLE, A MONSTER CALLS), Trevorrow remains onboard as a producer and co-writer. With that in mind, it's very much Bayona's film, especially with its improbable second-half location change, but the director seems more than willing to help his franchise predecessor troll the trolls with bits like that high-heel intro, and a later shot where Howard's character arrives on an island and Bayona is sure to spend more time than necessary showing the audience that she's wearing boots.

When a raging volcano threatens the dinosaurs still living on Isla Nublar, the home of the ruins of Jurassic World, Congress must decide whether to intervene and rescue them or allow them to perish once again. Arguing in favor of letting them go extinct is Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who briefly appears at a congressional hearing to repeat the same arguments he leveled at spare-no-expense multi-billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) a quarter century ago. Congress eventually decides the US will not intervene, but then former Jurassic World PR head and current dinosaur conservationist Claire Dearing (Howard) is summoned to the northern California mansion of Hammond's previously unmentioned business partner Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell). Lockwood is dying and the day-to-day operation of his empire is left largely in the hands of his right-hand man Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), who hires Claire and two of her staffers--paleoveterinarian Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) and dweeby IT expert Franklin Mills (Justice Smith)--to join a covert operation to rescue numerous dinosaur species and move them to a protected island sanctuary. Also necessary to the team is dino-whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who reluctantly goes along since one of the creatures they want to rescue is Blue the Velociraptor, with whom he's shared an emotional bond since it was born. Of course, once they're there, they realize they've been tricked (who saw that coming, other than anyone who's seen a previous JURASSIC movie?) and that, unbeknownst to the benevolent Lockwood, Mills' team of contracted mercenaries led by Wheatley (Ted Levine) aren't there to save the dinosaurs, but to gather the most valuable ones to sell to the highest bidder as part of a moneymaking scheme engineered by Mills and wealthy asshole Eversol (Toby Jones). Wheatley's job is to return the dinosaurs not to Lockwood's island sanctuary but to his estate, where a three-story, military-industrial-sized bunker exists underneath to house both the new captures as well as other hybrids, like the new "Indoraptor," engineered by original Jurassic Park scientist-turned-improbable supervillain Dr. Wu (BD Wong). Wu stole some DNA samples from Jurassic World with the intent of selling the newly-created creatures as military weapons, an idea first suggested by Vincent D'Onofrio's character in the previous film.

Once the story moves back to the Lockwood estate, JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM more or less becomes THE OLD JURASSIC HOUSE, with Mills and Eversol holding a dinosaur auction for stock types like Slovenian arms dealers and hulking Russian mobsters, presumably taking a break from buying abducted girls from underground human traffickers before running afoul of Liam Neeson. But instead of Neeson, they're forced to contend with dinosaurs who escape from the holding area on one of the lower bunker levels and proceed to rampage through the mansion. Lockwood's precocious granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) ends up teaming with Owen and Claire, who are being held captive but break out with the help of a Stegosaur in the adjacent cell as the Indoraptor prototype wreaks havoc and pursues everyone through the mansion. This allows Bayona to showcase his gothic horror/del Toro influence and somehow turn JURASSIC WORLD into an "old dark house" throwback.

There's also a completely batshit revelation about Maisie that goes nowhere and must be a set-up for the inevitable sixth film in the franchise. JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM is a spectacularly dumb movie with dumb people making spectacularly dumb decisions (we've already established that the Indoraptor is super-intelligent and ready for military use, but yeah Wheatley, sneak into its paddock to yank out a tooth for a trophy while it's unconscious--there's no way it's playing possum with you; and why would Jurassic World have been built on an island with a such a large and dangerous active volcano?), but amidst the idiocy, Bayona still brings his own sense of style and a personal touch. There's the gothic interiors of the Lockwood estate, Maisie being a young girl with no friends and largely left to use her vivid imagination (young Sermon recalls both Ana Torrent in THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE and CRIA CUERVOS, and Ivana Baquero in PAN'S LABYRINTH), and the presence of Geraldine Chaplin--a Bayona regular and fixture in Spanish art cinema since her professional collaboration and romantic relationship with filmmaker Carlos Saura in the 1970s--as Iris, Lockwood's nurse and Maisie's nanny. Given his past films and his experience, Bayona has more of a knack for this kind of genre fare than Trevorrow (whose only feature film prior to JURASSIC WORLD was the 2012 Aubrey Plaza indie comedy SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED) demonstrated and despite being an idiotic franchise installment, it still ends up coming across like a film by its director rather than an assembly-line product and audience obligation. JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM is so stupid that it has to be by design, but it seems hesitant to fully commit to its own lunacy or go far enough in fashioning itself as an auto-critique. Sure, Trevorrow and Bayona call out the tireless keyboard warriors with the Howard shoe shots, but they also drop the ball a few times. As much as Maisie sneaks around the labyrinthine Lockwood manor in the dumbwaiter, you'd think it would foreshadow an inevitable moment where a smaller dinosaur hides in it and attacks someone trying to use it to get away. I was all ready for JURASSIC WORLD: DINOS IN THE DUMBWAITER but it failed to transpire. It would've fit right in with a movie that has all manner of dino species milling about inside a loading dock patiently waiting for a door to open so they can get out. I don't think anyone who made this film took it seriously. This is supposed to be a comedy, right?

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