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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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