A couple of serendipitous things happened this weekend. First off, I happened to have the weekend off for the first time in a long while; second, I just happened to be randomly in the mood to watch a movie, and it just turned out that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was showing; and, to round it all off, I was the only person in the theater for the early 10.45am showing.
This is only the second time that I've been in a theater by myself. The other time I randomly happened to watch a mid-week showing of "The Grudge II" post-breaking up with my ex, so you know I must have had a death wish. I was alone in the theater for two-thirds of that movie before another soul randomly walked in, and I don't know how I kept my wits together. Anyway, I digress; take home message: I'll definitely be taking advantage of more early showings.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is to Jurassic World exactly what "The Lost World" was to "Jurassic Park". Coming hot on the heels of a catastrophic failure of the dino park, both sequels focused on travel missions back to the heart of chaos. The preface to Jurassic World lets us know that the dinosaurs on Isla Nublar are facing yet another extinction level event in the form of an active volcano that threatens to wipe them off the map in much the same fashion as the dino-kiler asteroid. Being the politically correct world that it is, of course animal rights activists would rally to seek to conserve these genetically resurrected animals; others would rather prefer the expedient death of these animals in light of safety concerns; and, of course, since this is a Jurassic Park movie, someone's always in it for the money.
This is a wonderful way to segue into bringing back Jeff Goldblum's "Dr. Ian Malcolm"back to the mix, with an impassioned speech before the senate. It also serves as the introduction for our favourite heel-wearing heroine - Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). A tad more sympathetic (and heely) since her previous tenure as the island resort's manager, she is brought back on a quest to effect some sort of dino-rescue; because this involves our last outing's stellar empathetic and intelligent dino character - Blue - undoubtedly, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) is not too far behind. Along for the ride are Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) - a paleoveterinarian that has never seen a dinosaur up-close; there's also Justice Smith's Franklin Webb, an IT specialist channeling his inner Dr. Ian Malcolm with a bug-eyed nihilistic approach to the dinosaurs. (The Rodriguez-Webb pairing seems like a throwback to The Lost World's Dr. Ian Malcolm-Dr. Sarah Harding dynamic).
As far as sequels go, this one was bigger, darker, and, most importanly, BETTER. The pacing is adequate to set up the world-building for a post Jurassic World environment; things go into hyperdrive when the movie decided to embrace its disaster movie premise. Usually we've only had the dinosaurs antagonize the humans, but it's a new twist to see the dinosaurs overshadowed by a foe as massive as an active volcano. This time the humans are running and so are the dinosaurs. That massive running with the dinosaurs scene shown in the movie's trailer is epic in terms of scale and the desperation portrayed; fortunately things have come a long way since Peter Jackson's "King Kong", so it looks believable for the most part; you'll still have yourself questioning how the humans thrive through it, but it's not a jarring experience
For a dinosaur movie, this one sure does tag at the heartstrings. Seeing as Blue is a much bigger part of this movie, we get an expansion of Owen's and Blue's relationship. In the course of the franchise, we've also come to love some of these dinosaurs. Most herbivorous dinos have been portrayed as particularly benign in the franchise, and the Brachiosaurus might rank as one of the more iconic. The Brachiosaurus is poignantly used to highlight two specific scenes: the first is an introduction of the adventurers to a Jurassic World where the dinos are roaming free (I think every Jurassic Park has some variation of this scene); the second is one of the standouts of the movie, and I can't even mention it without spoiling it...it is that good.
As much as the carnivores are usually portrayed as vicious killers, every one seems to love the iconic T-Rex, aka Rexy, the original big bad encountered in the original movie. She has come to the aid of humans on more than one occasion, and her survival is always something we look forward to (she barely made it out of her fight with the Indominus Rex in the last outing).
Seeing as this is a Jurassic Park movie, there is definitely the foolish part of humans on display, and this is the idea that they can somehow turn the dinosaur hybrids into weapons. Not to be outdone by producing the killer Indominus Rex in the prior outing, Ingen and Henry Wu manage to produce a more nimble IndoRaptor, which is capable of getting to its prey regardless of where they choose to hide. That probably deserves a Darwin Award right there.
This is a beautiful 2 hour 10 minute spectacle with everything working in its favour; the plot is crammed in to perfection, and it doesn't leave your mind anytime to wander. It's great to see Pratt and Howard channel their chemistry from the last outing, and Pineda and Smith complement the whole team's dynamic very well. I also need to highlight child-actor Isabella Sermon, who portrays Maisie Lockwood - granddaughter to Benjamin Lockwood (Jon Hammond's former partner). She is used very well to propel the plot elements of what's happening at InGen, and, if you're paying attention before the big reveal, becomes a focal plot element herself. She definitely knocked the role out of the park, and it remains to be seen what her role will be in the future sequel.
The movie ending propels this franchise into previously unrecognized ground, and the producers will have their work cut out for them in trying to build a cohesive story about the aftermath...but for now, simply sit back and enjoy a Grade A movie.