- by Jeff Beck
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: An Improvement, but Not Nearly Enough (Blu-ray)
Merely three years ago, “Jurassic World” was unleashed upon the world, marking the long-awaited return of a franchise that had been dormant for 14 long years. To say the film was a disappointment would be quite an understatement, for with its retreaded story, lifeless characters, and monotonous action sequences, it failed to engage on pretty much every level. However, since the film was a gigantic box office hit, we knew a sequel would be coming as soon as one could be churned out, which brings us to “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” There are a few rare exceptions in the history of cinema where a sequel ends up being better than the original, and given what came before, it’s really not that steep of a hill to climb, so there was always the possibility of some major improvement. Would it be able to succeed where the first film failed, or were audiences doomed to sit through another dino disaster?
Picking up three years after the first film, it’s been discovered that the island of dinosaurs is doomed to be destroyed by massive volcanic activity. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) has been working nonstop to help save the dinosaurs, but even congress refuses to intervene. After the disappointing news, she is contacted by an old colleague of Dr. Hammond’s, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who wants Claire to help him get the dinosaurs off the island and move them to a safe location. Knowing that she’d need some help in this endeavor, she asks Owen (Chris Pratt) to come along in order to assist with the raptors. The mission starts off well enough, but Claire and Owen soon discover that Lockwood’s assistant, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), is on a different mission altogether, using the evacuation team to steal the dinosaurs and bring them to the mainland with the hope of auctioning them off for millions of dollars. Obviously Claire and Owen can’t let this happen, and so they must risk their lives to stop him from carrying out his insanely dangerous plan.
Before watching the sequel, there were mixed emotions about its possibilities. It was being handed over to a different director, J.A. Bayona, which was a major plus. After all, he has directed several memorable films that include “The Orphanage,” “A Monster Calls,” and “The Impossible,” so as far as having a capable captain at the helm, he seemed like a fine choice. However, finding out that Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow wrote the script immediately raised several red flags. You may recall that they were two of the four screenwriters of the first film, while Connolly was also one of three writers on the dreadful “Kong: Skull Island.” Yes, they were also responsible for “Safety Not Guaranteed,” which was a decent film, but as far as action spectacles go, these two have not done so well, so there was good reason to be extremely skeptical.
There is this to be said for the sequel: it’s not quite as bad as the original. The first film had been a shameless retread of the original “Jurassic Park” (with a multitude of callbacks to the film), but at least here they tried to inject it with a little more originality. I mean, capturing dinosaurs to auction them off to millionaires is a nutty idea that could have potentially worked. That is to say, in the hands of better writers, it could have worked. The film still ends up being rather tedious, especially when it comes to its elongated second half, where we’re basically following around Claire and Owen as they try to stop Mills and co. from pulling off their evil plan, and this is after a second act that makes the film come to a complete standstill while all of the characters and dinosaurs are brought back to the mainland.
That being said, the first act is pretty crazy, especially when it comes to the epic “escape the island” sequence. In a bit of perfect timing, our heroes and their now-villainous crew happen to be trying to carry out their mission while the island’s volcano is going nuts, spewing lava and rocks all over the place. Not only do they have to get off the island before it’s too late, but, of course, the dinosaurs are trying to do the same thing, making it a mad dash of everyone trying to escape at once. It’s just kind of strange that this is the first third of the film, for it feels like it would have been better placed as a climactic sequence near the end. Even more so because what’s to follow doesn’t even begin to live up to it, turning the rest of the film into a slow trudge downhill.
The main cast (Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) remain likeable, while some new additions (James Cromwell, Rafe Spall, Toby Jones) help liven things up. You even get a very brief cameo from Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm at the beginning and end of the film. However, taken as a whole, the film is just another reminder that this franchise has indeed run its course, and beating a dead dinosaur is not going to bring it back to life, but with a global take of $1.3 billion dollars, we both know the trilogy will gets its final entry. This time, though, it will be co-written by Trevorrow and Emily Carmichael (“Pacific Rim: Uprising), from a story by Connolly. Should we expect more improvement? Probably not, but who knows, perhaps the third time will be the charm.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. As with the previous film, the picture looks marvelously sharp and clear, even in the darkest of scenes. Likewise, the DTS:X Master Audio is top-notch, giving you all of the dialogue, Michael Giacchino’s score, and sound effects (dinosaur roars, miscellaneous destruction, etc.) in outstanding quality. Overall, you get a fantastic experience in both departments, leaving little room for complaint.
On Set with Chris & Bryce (3 Minutes): A brief behind the scenes look at Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard goofing around on the set.
The Kingdom Evolves (5 Minutes): A featurette that mainly focuses on director J.A. Bayona and what he brought to the project.
Return to Hawaii (3 Minutes): A brief look at making the film in Hawaii.
Island Action (6 Minutes): A featurette that explores the film’s enormous volcanic action sequence.
Aboard the Arcadia (6 Minutes): A featurette that focuses on the scene in which Claire and Owen perform surgery on Blue.
Birth of the Indoraptor (4 Minutes): A featurette that takes a look at the creation of the film’s main villainous dinosaur, the Indoraptor.
Start the Bidding! (3 Minutes): A featurette that goes behind the scenes of the auction scene, focusing primarily on Chris Pratt’s choreographed fight.
Death by Dino (2 Minutes): A very brief look at the death of one of the film’s human villains, Wheatley.
Monster in a Mansion (3 Minutes): A behind the scenes look at the dinosaur fight in Maisie’s bedroom.
Rooftop Showdown (4 Minutes): A featurette that delves into the film’s climactic confrontation.
Malcolm’s Return (3 Minutes): A brief featurette focusing on Jeff Goldblum’s return as Ian Malcolm.
VFX Evolved (7 Minutes): A featurette that examines the film’s extensive special effects.
Fallen Kingdom: The Conversation (10 Minutes): An intriguing conversation between Jeff Goldblum, Colin Trevorrow, J.A. Bayona, Chris Pratt, and Bryce Dallas Howard.
A Song for the Kingdom (1 Minute): A pointless inclusion that has Justice Smith performing a song celebrating the film’s wrapping.
Chris Pratt’s Jurassic Journals (12 Minutes): A series of behind the scenes videos that has Chris Pratt interacting with several members of the crew and cast.
Jurassic Then and Now (3 Minutes): Another pointless inclusion that’s basically a compilation of scenes from the “Jurassic” films.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” makes a few slight improvements over the first film, including injecting the franchise with a little originality and kicking things off with a thrilling first act, but quickly finds itself becoming another tedious entry with its static center and elongated climax. Despite the franchise having clearly run its course, it’s certain we will be getting the third entry to this planned trilogy, so in the end, all we can do is hope that they take their time and finally deliver a great “Jurassic” film that’s worthy of the name.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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