Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Caution: Spoilers ahead.

To those in my circle of friends, it's no secret that I'm a big fanboy of the Jurassic Park franchise. As a member of Gen Y, I was in that group of kids that was far too young and impressionable to be watching Dwayne Knight as Dennis Nedry getting blinded and eviscerated by a dilophosaurus in a Jeep. To this day, Nedry's pained screams haunt me.

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You know exactly which scene I'm talking about.

Even being a bit young, I absolutely loved Jurassic Park. It's the first time I can remember being scared as a kid but enjoying that thrill. I had my own toy velociraptor that I attacked my plastic army men with, and regularly replayed in my brain what my exit strategy would be if I were ever cornered in a field by a pack of raptors myself. (My personal strategy involved looking left, because that's apparently where they get you. It is the devil's direction after all.)

RIP Muldoon

This is the point in the review where you usually see a turn. Now that I've underlined my credentials as an ardent supporter of the first film, you're probably expecting me to say something about how the Jurassic World reboots, "totally destroyed my childhood! It took everything I loved as a kid and dunked it in the toilet. It went back in time and retroactively erased the fond memories I had of the film! *SCREEEEECH!*" After all, if anyone is going to be unforgiving of a soft reboot, it's going to be the guy that obsessed over the original.

But, to the disappointment of Orthodox Jurassic Parkites, I have loved both installments of the Jurassic World series so far.

As much as I love the 1993 film, I'm perfectly happy welcoming Jurassic World I & II into the family. I'll agree that the Jurassic World retreaded a lot of similar plot points that were in the original film, but this didn't bother me, for the simple reason that it's taking the story to the next logical step.

Playing on the themes of unchecked scientific progress without progression of responsibility that were established in the original film, the first installment of Jurassic World shows us a park that has seemingly worked out the kinks and is open and running, attracting more visitors than Disneyland. Seeing as the this was John Hammond's original goal, and the public is starting to get used to--and perhaps a little bored of--the reality of living dinosaurs, it makes sense that the owners of the park now crave more and decide to engineer completely new creatures to drum up more interest. As you might expect, this blows up in their faces spectacularly, as the new dino they've put together, an abomination called the Indominous Rex, is extremely predatory, very smart, and downright bloodthirsty.

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What could possibly go wrong?

With the park left in shambles and re-abandoned, we open up Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom with the premise that Isla Nublar is nearing a natural disaster, the active volcano at its center about to erupt and destroy all the feral dinosaurs now roaming the island.

Our main characters, animal trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and former executive of the park Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) are summoned by John Hammond's old friend Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) to use their expertise to round up some of the last dinosaurs to be transported to a nature preserve on another island. However, Lockwood's second-in-command Eli Mills (Rafe Spall, but the whole time I was watching I could have sworn he was James Van Der Beek) has other plans and decides to reroute the captured dinosaurs and auction them off as weapons to international arms dealers. The final piece in their auction is an entirely new breed of tactical, weaponized raptor, engineered using some of the Indominous Rex's DNA.

As this new creature is being brought into the auction hall, and the Mr. Burns/Lex Luthor/Scrooge McDuck-types go crazy bidding for this weaponized animal, I couldn't help thinking, "You know, I really wouldn't mind if this thing got loose and wreaked havoc on these people." Which was probably by design.

In Fallen Kingdom, we see the greed and unchecked progression of the original film taken to its logical conclusion: weaponized dinos, out-of-control genetic experimentation, and the classic Frankensteinian consequences of playing god.

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The main monster of the film, the "Indo-Raptor", is the first one of these dinosaurs that played as not just scary, but also legitimately creepy, and there is a difference. The Indo-Raptor, like the Indominous before it, seemed like it was killing with malicious intent, like it was a serial killer in reptile form. Something in the character design and the expressions and mannerisms of this thing gave me the chills, as well as the savage implications of its use in war. There's something about the concept of a man-made creature designed 100-percent for killing, and not just a reconstruction of what naturally existed, that I found very unsettling, a great way of upping the ante.

Without spoiling the ending completely, I'll say that I thought the ending was a gutsy way to end the movie, which left things open in a very interesting and unexpected way, which entices me for the direction things might take in future installments.

Final Score:

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While acknowledging that it wasn't perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed my time watching Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It was intense and complex, and takes the series in a different but logical path that I'm excited to explore further.

To catch up on the Jurassic Park series while supporting this blog, follow one of the links below.

How CineRater Movie Reviews Work

Film being an extremely subjective experience, rating a movie might seem arbitrary and pointless. One man's trash is another's treasure, so how can you even compare? The only way to give someone an idea of how good your cinematic experience measured up is to rate it on some sort of scale. But which scale? Every reviewer has their own rating scale, and each has it's strengths and weaknesses. Do you use the binary scale of thumbs up vs. thumbs down? Roger Ebert's 4-star system? The pointlessly precise 1-100 scale?

CineRater uses a simple 5-star rating system, with a couple rules:

1. No fractional stars. I prefer rating like this because it gets to the heart of how you really feel about the movie. It forces you to make a tough decision; no fence-sitting. The closest I'll allow to cheating this rule is indicating that a movie achieved a certain star rating, but just barely (saying, "this movie gets 3 stars, but just barely escaped getting 2" instead of "2.5" or "if it had better acting it would have been a 4, but sadly, I have to give it a 3" instead of "3.5").

2. Movies are rated in a vacuum. That is, movies are rated on their own merits, not based on if another movie did the same thing better or worse. Each film is treated as a self-contained piece. Perhaps a movie is derivative and borrows plot elements from things that came before, and that will be reflected in the actual text of the review, but when it comes to star ratings, I'm more interested in two questions: "Was the movie enjoyable?" and "Did the movie achieve what it was attempting to do artistically?" Both of these things taken into account, and processed through my subjective tastes and interests will constitute the final star rating.

Here's what each star rating ultimately boils down to:

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1 Star

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A 1-star review is the absolute floor of the rating system. This is a movie that was agony to watch. A movie that didn't deliver on what it promised on any level. Something you never want to see again.

2 Stars

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A 2-star movie is one that did some things right, but overall is mediocre at best. You probably wouldn't recommend it to anyone, but you didn't absolutely despise it.

3 Stars

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3 stars indicate that a movie is enjoyable. You liked the movie, and you might even recommend it to people. It has its flaws, and it isn't quite "high art", but it does its job, and you wouldn't be against seeing it again.

4 Stars

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A 4-star movie is something you really enjoyed. You'd definitely recommend it to friends, and you were excited and engrossed by the experience of watching it.

5 Stars

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This is a movie that is quite possibly perfect. It blew your mind and, given a decade or two, might be considered a classic. You would recommend it to anyone and consider it your duty as a human being to sing its praises to all within the sound of your voice.