Movie Review – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Director J. A. Bayona made a film, A Monster Calls (2016) that clearly shows he likes monster movies. As everyone, he probably also liked Jurassic Park (1993) and of course this film is a direct sequel to that ’93 blockbuster, but Bayona specifically apes or copies specific shots from Steven Spielberg’s classic from 25 years ago. As a sequel, that’s almost unavoidable or it’s at least encouraged that things previously done are aped, copied or simply repeated. Colin Trevorrow did so for the last film, but he really didn’t add much artistically to the franchise. Bayona attempts to add something or provide somewhat of a perspective or a stamp. Trevorrow perhaps laid the groundwork and as a co-writer continues that work here, but Bayona shows more his edge as a director.
Bayona definitely has his inspirations from horror films and horror classics. Luckily, a lot of horror classics are owned by Universal Pictures, the same distributor as this film, so it’s not sure if Bayona brings those inspirations personally or if it’s the studio bringing those inspirations. Regardless, one inspiration I saw was King Kong (1933), a film that did include dinosaurs but this movie removes the titular monkey and has it be all about the prehistoric creatures.
The plot of King Kong is all about bringing this large, dangerous animal to the United States and in the middle of a huge city. This idea was done to some extent in Spielberg’s sequel, The Lost World (1997), but imagery from King Kong seems to be mimicked specifically in this film. One such is a climactic showdown on top of a tall building. The building in question here isn’t the Empire State Building. It’s instead a mansion in the countryside, but there are other parallels to make this feel like a King Kong wannabe.
Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy and Parks and Recreation) reprises his role as Owen Grady, an animal trainer who works with the dinosaurs and even tames one of them. In a sense, he’s akin to Fay Wray’s character in King Kong. Given how ineffective his character was in the previous film, it’s not that far-fetched a comparison. Yet, he’s more a combination of Fay Wray and James Franco’s character in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), which makes Owen’s trained dinosaur named Blue equivalent to the character of Caesar in that 2011 film.
Of course, Blue isn’t a fleshed-out character. Blue is no more than an overgrown dog or really, skillful horse, skillful at killing. The plot machinations of whether Blue and the other dinosaurs should be preserved or rescued from the volcanic island that contains them is an argument that an extreme version of PETA might have. The secret twists in the narrative are all just pretense to get the dinosaurs to the same place as the ending to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, so much so the title of this film could have been “Rise of the World of the Jurassic.”
I suspect that if there is a sequel to this film, the follow-up will be a version of this year’s Rampage with Pratt filling in the Dwayne Johnson role. This movie unleashes its dinosaurs but nothing to the level of that Johnson film or even the previous Jurassic World. There is a mimicking of the famous stampede sequence from the 1993 classic, but, for the most part, the attacks are usually one-on-one and intimate. Bayona wants to sell the idea of a dinosaur creeping into a child’s bedroom. Unfortunately, when it comes to creature features, he can’t come close to the terror in John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and peril.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 8 mins.
Available on DVD and VOD.