JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, the latest film from director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage), brings audiences back to Isla Nublar where we find Owen and Claire fighting for the survival of the remaining dinosaurs before a once dormant volcano erupts. Reprising their roles once again, the film stars Chris Pratt (Jurassic World) and Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World), along with newcomers Rafe Spall (The Ritual), Justice Smith (The Get Down), Daniella Pineda (The Detour), Toby Jones (Atomic Blonde), Ted Levine (The Silence of the Lambs) and James Cromwell (The Green Mile) with a cameo by Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park).

It’s been four years since the horrific catastrophe unfolded at the Jurassic World theme park, resulting in the park being closed. When it’s announced that a once dormant volcano is about to erupt on the island, it prompts the US government to take action in response to if the dinosaurs should be saved or face extinction once again. With the help of the Lockwood estate, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) return to the island in hopes of saving some of the species, including Blue, the raptor that Owen raised from infancy, only to find out that a larger conspiracy is at play that could threaten the lives of all humanity and bring dinosaurs back to the top of the food chain.

I’m going to let you all know, right off the bat, that I love everything and anything Jurassic Park / World related. Does this make me slightly bias – sure, but I’m also going to come from a place in which I know I have to be critical if need be. With that said, I enjoyed the hell out of JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM. Is it perfect? No, it’s far from it, but it’s the perfect summer blockbuster that will take your mind off of all the real horror that is happening in the world. Dinosaurs, non-stop action, exploding volcanoes, genetic splicing, villainous characters, homages, and a whole lot of heart encompass what JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM is all about and I most certainly was ready for all of it.

What I loved most about FALLEN KINGDOM was the amount of tension I felt throughout the entire film. Even though I knew key characters weren’t going to be eaten, I felt like the stakes were much higher in this film than in the previous ones. This may be due to the fact that J.A. Bayona, who directed The Orphanage, The Impossible, and A Monster Calls, all of which have a heavy focus on emotional attachments, knew how to capture emotions in a way that makes the audience connect with these characters. If you’ve seen the three films I mentioned above, you know how well Bayona can craft tension and suspense and it shows in FALLEN KINGDOM, even in the most unbelievable of circumstances.

In terms of acting, Chris Pratt, as Owen Grady, is just as charming as we remember while Bryce Dallas Howard, as Claire, has shrugged off her incessant need to control everything and has begun to let her hair down, so to speak. Their on-screen chemistry is palpable but to be honest, I wasn’t here for their romance, I was here for the dinosaurs. One of the biggest draws to the film was the return of the infamous Dr. Ian Malcolm (played by everyone’s favorite crush, Jeff Goldblum). Unfortunately, he’s in the film for about six minutes which is such a shame because we all need more Jeff Goldblum and/or Dr. Ian Malcolm in our lives. Newcomers Justice Smith, who plays IT tech Franklin Webb, and Daniella Pineda, who plays palaeontologist Zia Rodriguez, carry their characters respectively, with Franklin taking on more of the comedic cues. However, my favorite character ended up being Eli Mills (played by Rafe Spall), the man responsible for handling the fortune of Lockwood estate. Though he’s been in the industry for many years, he just landed on my radar when he starred in the Netflix horror film, The Ritual(based on the book of the same name by Adam Neville) which blew me away. He was one of my favorite parts of FALLEN KINGDOM and I hope with the success of this film we get to see more of him in the future.

My only critique of the film would be that I think the writing needed to be better. Colin Trevorrow, who directed and co-wrote Jurassic World, returned as co-writer for FALLEN KINGDOM along with Derek Connolly. As a whole, I did enjoy the overarching story, but I felt that there were moments where the writing fell flat, especially when certain lines were given to our main characters. It didn’t deter me from the overall experience of watching the film, as there was enough action and suspense to keep me entertained, it just ended up being more of an annoyance. Even though I had some issues with the writing I did appreciate how they paid homage to Jurassic Park, both in the subtle details and the more noticeable moments. Because of this, I do believe that it brought FALLEN KINGDOM full circle by reminding us why we fell in love with the franchise to begin with.

Overall, I truly did love JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM. As a fan of the entire franchise, I think they did a great job of bringing the story full circle while leaving the door open for new experiences in future films. As for the horror aspects, some of these dinosaurs were terrifying, especially their newest creation, the Indoraptor, which solidified the fact that I hope we never create dinosaurs in the future. There’s a lot of fun to be had with FALLEN KINGDOM, and though it’s not perfect, it still has enough going for it that you’ll be hard-pressed not to enjoy two hours of action/adventure and dinosaur carnage. JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, is rated PG-13, and will arrive in theaters June 22, 2018.

Shannon McGrew
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