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Life, as Jeff Goldblum’s scientist Ian Malcolm pointed out in 1993’s Jurassic Park, finds a way. So, it turns out, do filmmakers, which explains why dinosaurs continue to terrify and amaze moviegoers in equal measure a quarter century later, with J.A. Bayona’s new installment in the series, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
For those underwhelmed by the last movie in the series, Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World (2015), there’s good news: According to The Hollywood Reporter’s John DeFore, things are far better this time around. “Audiences put off by some dumb characterizations in the last film have much less to complain about here, while those requiring only some spectacular predators and exciting chase scenes should greet this outing as warmly as its predecessor,” he writes, going on to praise the new movie’s visuals and pacing. “Kingdom’s closing scenes seem intent on something far bigger, like a Planet of the Apes-style saga that has barely begun. You don’t remake reality in a film’s final frames without intending to milk things for as long as the public will keep buying tickets. If future installments are this rich and exciting, that’s probably going to be a while.”
Certainly, others agreed. Writing for CinemaBlend, Mike Reyes raves that Fallen Kingdom is “a high-class summer blockbuster, with some unexpected emotions, a heap of the action that one would expect from such a film, and a dash of surprisingly dark moments that folks have been waiting for since Michael Crichton’s book first hit shelves. This movie needs to be enjoyed in a setting that is as big and as loud as you can get it, simply because it deserves to loom larger-than-life over its audience.”
Similarly, Richard Lawson from Vanity Fair is unexpectedly happy with what he saw. “Bayona revisits some aesthetics and moods from his lauded 2007 horror film The Orphanage by turning Fallen Kingdom into something of a spooky mansion movie, rainy and atmospheric and full of creeping shadows,” he notes of the movie’s second half. “It’s an unexpected reduction in scale and commitment to specificity, not what we often see in follows-up to smash hits. But these are proportions that Bayona knows how to work in, and from them he crafts something clever and goofy and jumpy. Of course he’s mandated to enlarge the purview of the film — or, really, of the franchise — by the end, but for a while there he gets to play around on his own terms. It’s a surprising delight.”
Not everyone was on board, however; Screen International’s David D’Arcy was far less impressed, writing, “Spain’s J. A. Bayona is essentially stirring the same Jurassic pot here, with little that’s inspiring from his cast, unless you count the dinosaurs. His cinematographer Oscar Faura brings an aesthetic dose in stylish close-ups and brisk storytelling to this horror/adventure tale and Fallen Kingdom should travel on its own momentum to the impressive numbers achieved in the past. With eco-responsibility foregrounded as a theme, the film gets a ultra-thin patina of respectability that could bring in some of the high-minded. But it’s still mostly like a roller coaster that you’ve ridden many times.”
The frustration is shared by Bilge Ebiri of The Village Voice. “There are missed opportunities all over Fallen Kingdom,” he writes. “At one point, I began to get excited that this might prove to be an angrier film than its predecessor, more pointed: There’s a whole bit with arms dealers and slimy financiers at the end that seems to be aiming at something — there are even some vague platitudes expressed about man’s hunger for destruction and weaponry and our inability to handle the power we’ve harnessed — but it all just hangs there like so much else in this movie, undeveloped concepts that could one day be turned into a genuinely exciting, surprising film. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is, sadly, not it.”
And, for some, Fallen Kingdom is simply a sign that the Jurassic World series has, like the dinosaurs it features, lived past its sell-by date.
“In the wake of the box-office lunacy that drove Jurassic World to become the fifth-highest grossing movie of all time, Fallen Kingdom is a frustrating display of overconfidence,” writes IndieWire’s Eric Kohn. “It’s occasionally elevated by director J.A. Bayona’s penchant for taut human-versus-dino showdowns, but fleeting moments of inspired filmmaking can’t overshadow the broader tendency of this material to sag into stupidity. Campy dialogue and ludicrous plot twists abound: The fate of these resurrected creatures remains uncertain, but the formula for their movies will never go extinct.”
Indeed, for at least one critic, Fallen Kingdom managed to be the worst of all Jurassic movies to date. Take it away, writes Pajiba’s Kristy Puchko: “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom gives us no heroes worth rooting for. No action sequences that will stick with us the way [Stephen] Spielberg’s did. What it offers are lazy re-creations, lazier screenwriting, and sneering disrespect for our love of the original. I did not think I could hate a Jurassic Park movie more than I hated the last. But here we are. Trevorrow found a way.”
Of course, Jurassic World was met with equally mixed reviews when it was released, and went on to massively overperform at the box office. Can the same Dinosaur Act work twice? Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens June 22 in North America.
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