We’re almost midway through 2018, and the world’s already seen a “Star Wars” movie, an “X-Men” movie, two Marvel movies, yet another “Insidious” film, and that “Cloverfield” sequel nobody asked for but exists anyway. To those who assumed that would be all, producer Steven Spielberg gifts you a hard nope with “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.”
Directed by J. A. Bayona (“El Orfanato;” Eng.: “The Orphanage,” 2007), who takes over from Colin Trevorrow, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is the second film in the “Jurassic World” series and the fifth in the “Jurassic Park” franchise. Picking up where the 2015 first installment left off, the film kickstarts with a global political upset in the aftermath of Isla Nublar. Fate brings Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard; “50/50,” 2011) and Owen (Chris Pratt; “The Lego Movie,” 2014) back to the dying, volatile island to save the dinosaurs from extinction, only to discover they’ve been set up and there are more sinister goings-on than they bargained.
The great thing about Bayona is that he clearly understands how, and how much, to play up the fear in the film’s set pieces. Much of that translates well on-screen—his patient, careful treatment of spectacle ably marries DOP Óscar Faura’s (“A Monster Calls,” 2016) solid hold on cinematic movement, dramatic lighting, and a constant focus on the subject of any frame. And that’s only part of why “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is fun while it lasts.
There’s a good deal spent on atmosphere-building before we get to the chaos—so when we do, it has a considerable emotional impact compared to the previous one, which was in a real hurry to get to the finish line because—you know—reasons. Then again, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” highly depends on Bayona’s visual storytelling skills. Unfortunately, like “Jurassic World,” it’s penned by the same writers and comes with the same problems. We still have Pratt’s lovable sexist Owen Grady with no character arc, a miscast villain in Rafe Spall (“The Big Short,” 2015), and some hollow filler characters nobody asked for.
If there’s anything that does benefit from a marked improvement, it’s Howard’s Claire, who isn’t under the shadow of Owen anymore. She now has the agency to decide out of instinct, empathy, and the need to let life (uh) find its way. Take her out of the equation, and you’ve got cameos and cookie-cutter character tropes that didn’t deserve to exist in the first place. But, in this case, something’s better than nothing.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is a blast (on the most giant screen possible), but with weak foundations, it’s hard not to feel disappointed and wonder what could have been.