I struggled to have a strong opinion on the previous Jurassic World. The first two Jurassic Park movies were such a huge part of my childhood that I was always going to be hard to please when it came to the sequel/soft reboot in 2015.
While it wasn’t a bad movie by any means, it felt like it was lifting too much from the original movie and not doing enough to differentiate itself from the classics. It was entertaining but ultimately forgettable for me. It goes without saying that I didn’t have high expectations of Fallen Kingdom, especially when the first trailer came out and just looked like more of the same.
However. Despite my reservations, I ended up really enjoying Jurassic World II simply because it does break convention somewhat and takes some adventurous turns for the well worn series. It’s far from being a perfect movie, but I ended up liking it a lot more than I would have ever expected.
Not just another Lost World
Taking place three years after the disaster that followed the escape of the Indominus Rex at Jurassic World, a mercenary team funded by John Hammond’s former business partner Benjamin Lockwood are sent to save the dinosaurs from a second extinction due to the island’s erupting volcano. Claire Dearing (played again by Bryxe Dallas Howard) is recruited by the ageing Lockwood’s protege, Eli Mills (played by Rafe Spall) because of her former position at the park and the privileged park access that position provided her with.
Dearing is now a Dinosaur rights activist who jumps at the chance of joining the mercenaries who claim to be saving as many species of the dinosaurs as possible for the sake of preservation. She is told she must bring Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), along to find “Blue”; the Velociraptor subspecies he trained as it’s the only dinosaur that was trained to follow human instruction.
When they get to the island its revealed the the grizzled mercenary’s goals were not as altruistic as they first appeared and they suddenly cut and run, leaving the main characters on the ravaged island so they can go and sell the rescued dinosaurs as biological weapons to the highest bidder.
It’s an aspect of the first movie that was touched upon, but is really focused on here in the sequel. It’s also a part of the movie that most interests me. The idea of weaponized dinosaurs was really something unique to the remakes, and I’m really glad this movie doesn’t just double down on this, but makes it the core premise of the movie. It would have been easy for them to just make a straight rehash of The Lost World, a movie this does have some similarities with, but it digs a lot deeper into that one idea. Which ultimately makes it more interesting to me.
The core cast are all solid, Chris Pratt feels a little less typecast in this movie than he did in the first, where there were heavy Starlord shades. This time he seems a much more measured character, although he isn’t as much of a focus. Rather, he’s a catalyst to allow the action to continue. The movie would have mostly happened the same way regardless, in spite of him.
Bryce Dallas Howard was much better in this movie than the first, in which she was an irritatingly uptight presence who felt more like a killjoy than a character who could ever, in a million years, end up getting with Christ Pratt by the end. Like Pratt though, her presence feels like a courtesy to the audience rather than a vital aspect of the movie.
The best performances comes from the side characters, who delightfully slime-ball it up as the villains of the movie. Ted Levine shows up as the head of the mercenaries, a gruff hunter type who takes teeth from the dinosaurs as trophies. Also, Toby Jones is great as the underworld auctioneer who shows up to sell the dinosaurs off to the criminal underworld. As is a time honoured tradition in the Jurassic Park movies, the slimier of the characters get the most wonderful death scenes. Something we should never be cheering for, but always are.
To be honest though, in this movie, the characters are secondary to the dinosaurs themselves. I was kind of against the idea of friendly dinosaurs in these movies, especially when it came to Raptors, which where amonst the things that gave me nightmares as a child. But with the inclusion of Indoratpr as the movie’s primary antagonistic dinosaur, which looks suitably like a nightmare creation, the good raptor doesn’t feel as galling. because ultimately, it still feels like an animal.
The Visual Effects
For the most part, Jurassic World is a basic action movie, and is shot as such. But while it is bright and flashy most of the time, it is sprinkled with a number of effective horror elements throughout, and those are amongst some of the highlights of the movie for me. A number of times throughout I found myself appreciating the choice of shots and camera angles that played up the horror elements of the series.
One that comes to mind involves a character standing in front of a long tunnel as a volcano erupts around them. A single lump of lava drips from the roof of the tunnel, giving us a brief flash of the silhouette of a dinosaur in the distance, it’s a great shot. There are a number more that involve the Indoraptor, the dinosaur looks like something that was designed to be the thing of nightmares, with its long arms and huge claws.
The number of shots of it slowly reaching out, massive claws unfurling towards a defenceless child. It’s good stuff. I used to be really scared of dinosaurs as a small child, a lot of the shots and framing in this movie brought those feelings flooding back. They managed to make dinosaurs feel scary again, if only for a few fleeting moments.
The movie continues to use a combination of computer generated effects and model work to fantastic effect too. Ever since the first movie there has been no expense spared to create these giant, physical dinosaur puppets that always make the things feel all the more real. It’s glad to see that in 2018, movie makers are still happy to use practical effects when they’re going to be effective.
Dinosaurs eat man, Woman inherits the Earth
While the themes of the original movie doubled down on bashing humanity for committing acts of god, and whether or not we should be dabbling with such power to create Dinosaurs. The answer would invariably be no, as each time man dabbled with these powers, it would come back to bite them, quite literally. Not to mention the less subtle hints toward this through a lot of Jeff Goldblum’s dialogue.
This movie doubles down on these themes, once again through a number of voice overs thanks to a Jeff Goldblum cameo. He argues that natural selection has chosen to destroy the dinosaurs through a natural event; a volcano erupting. However, humanity can’t help but interfere, for better or worse, by saving the animals from the island.
While the events start with the best possible intentions, those who would rather profit bully their way to the forefront. They abuse the dinosaurs for their own personal gain. Like Goldblum argued in the original movie, the dinosaurs become a product, one that can be packaged and sold. And that very thing happens half way thorough this movie, as dinosaurs are brought out on a stage and sold to the highest bidder.
Obviously, even this goes wrong and a good number of animals that weren’t already sold escape and are let lose over America. Meaning that through all humanity’s meddling with creating life, now they need to coexists with dinosaurs. It’s one of my favourite things about the movie. Dinosaurs are finally loose in the world and now we have to deal with living in a world in which they can show up and eat your dog.
How this movie ends is one of my favourite things about it. Dinosaurs are out in the world. Not only have they escaped and are no roaming lands, seas and air of the United States, but many drug lords, corrupt governments and arms dealers have bought the dinosaurs with the intention of genetically engineering them to use as biological weapons.
While I felt like the first Jurassic World was derivative of the original Jurassic Park to the point it hardly felt worth talking about. This movie, while it does share some common themes and similar events to the Lost World, it feels like a bridge to something very different come the third movie.
The movie does suffer from a number of logical plotholes and nonsensical character decisions, but that’s been a thing in the franchise since the first movie. Instead I focus on the things this movie did differently. While most of the human characters exist simply to either be eaten or cause certain things to happen to ensure more dinosaur inspired chaos, it’s a fun movie for what is it. It’s shot well and my only major issues with it would come from some derivative elements to the story and the main character’s lack of impact on events.
But that’s never what these movie are about. It’s a worst case scenario simulator, and we just go to see how things can snowball into that T-Rex roaring triumphantly at the end.