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REVIEW: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Nowadays, movie sequels (much like life) always seem to find a way – to theaters, that is.

Some fly under the radar. Some do well enough to bring in good money. But then, there’s some that come crashing in to become box office hits like a tyrannosaurus rex through a de-electrified metal fence. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom seems to be on track to do the latter, and with good reason.

This new, dinosaur-packed film marks the fifth film in the overarching Jurassic franchise, released just a month after the twenty-fifth anniversary of the original Jurassic Park, and in classic Universal fashion, it’s one rollicking ride of a time.

(Source: Universal Pictures/iMDb)

Whether you’re going for the dinosaurs, the escape from a self-destructing island, or simply the five-minute Jeff Goldblum cameo, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has something for everyone. This second installment in the sequel franchise veers away from strictly battling for survival against dinosaurs, bleeding into something between an action blockbuster and a spy thriller.

A race to save the dinosaurs from an erupting volcano quickly becomes a race to save them from greedy businessmen and lawyers hell-bent on turning a profit, and there isn’t a moment of downtime in the film. Audiences are kept electrified from start to finish, all the way from the dark, incredibly cinematic opening right down to the post-credits scene. The story crackles and sparks and keeps viewers on their toes, entertained by piles of the dinosaurs they’ve come to know and love.

The new additions to the film’s cast are a welcome change from the mildly unenthusiastic tertiary characters of Jurassic World, giving levity and depth to an already complex story. Justice Smith’s Franklin Webb provides bursts of relatable humor in times of crisis, and Daniella Pineda’s Zia Rodriguez, following in the footsteps of Ellie Sattler and Sarah Harding, proves to Jurassic fans that women in STEM get things done. Others mix themselves into the fray as well, including Ken Wheatley, a Roland Tembo-esque military man played by Ted Levine of The Silence of the Lambs fame, and Benjamin Lockwood, John Hammond’s aging ex-partner, played by veteran actor James Cromwell.

The returning cast is just as charming, though with some slight deviations from the first film. Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady feels a bit more Star-Lord this time around, with fewer raptor-accompanied motorcycle rides, and more Indiana Jones-style sequences of punching bad guys and running headlong away from danger. He retains his humor and personality from the first film, but it seems as though several years in isolation post-Jurassic World have made him a bit more of an action hero.

(Source: Universal Pictures/iMDb)

And if that’s the case, then Claire Dearing has gone full-on Gamora, and it works in her favor. She is one hundred percent hands-on in Fallen Kingdom, trading in her bob for a ponytail and fighting dirty to defend the lives of Isla Nublar’s dinosaurs. She stands tall with the rest of the strong women of the Jurassic Park franchise, and Bryce Dallas Howard delivers the standout performance of the film. Women inherit the earth and the JP film franchise, apparently.

And what a franchise they’re inheriting, indeed.

Echoes of The Lost World: Jurassic Park creep into the film’s plot, but Fallen Kingdom feels like a true Michael Crichton story in its twists, playing on the same dark concerns of gene science and genetic manipulation as the original novel. This film is darker than its predecessor, and pulls its punches more effectively because of it. Perhaps this more sinister feel can be credited to director J.A. Bayona’s background in horror, but it takes the franchise in an entirely unexpected direction, opening up possibilities no audience member could ever see coming. Had this not been intended to be a widely marketable summer blockbuster, Fallen Kingdom could easily have gone the way of a thriller or a horror film. But, even though it doesn’t, the satisfaction isn’t lacking.

Some sequences may be frightening for younger children, especially those involving the film’s newest genetic hybrid dinosaur, but overall, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is an action-packed, fun-filled ride perfect for a summer night at the movies. So sit back, relax, and watch out for that t-rex.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is now playing in theaters worldwide.

Maggie

I live my life with the same grace that Anakin Skywalker did approximately ten seconds before he got his legs lightsabered off.