I loved 2015’s Jurassic World, the reboot of the Jurassic Park “franchise” starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, directed by Colin Trevorrow, and co-authored by Trevorrow and Derek Connolly. Jurassic World blew away the Jurassic Park films. It is highly entertaining and also surprisingly wholesome. Along with the main attractions, the dinosaurs, Jurassic World is pro-masculine, anti-feminist, and pro-family, with an overwhelmingly white cast and virtually no political correctness. White audiences loved it since it was not calculated to offend them — and everyone else loved it too. It as close to a perfect movie as one can expect from Hollywood, and a very tough act to follow. But a movie that popular was bound to have a sequel.
That sequel is the runaway global blockbuster Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which I am delighted to announce is a superb, flawlessly entertaining film. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return as the leads, Owen Grady and Claire Dearing. The script is again by Trevorrow and Connolly. But this time Spanish director J. A. Bayona is at the helm. Fallen Kingdom is thrilling and scary (but not terrifying and gross). The special effects are on such a high plane that one no longer sees CGI dinosaurs. One simply sees dinosaurs. The movie is well-paced, with lyrical and touching interludes that allow you to catch your breath between the action sequences. The diversity consists of two likable and white-presenting minorities. There are a number of extremely funny scenes. The cinematography is stunning, delivering the sublimity of nature with enormous impact. And there are sequences of pure visual magic, such as when a dinosaur transforms into a storybook dragon menacing a damsel in a tower.
As in the first movie, Claire Dearing is a stressed-out career woman. In the first film, she was running the Jurassic World park. In the new film, she is lobbying the US government to DO SOMETHING to save the dinosaurs now roaming free on Isla Nublar, who are threatened by extinction yet again by the imminent eruption of the Island’s long dormant volcano. As in the first film, she turns for help to her ex-, Owen Grady, a paleo-masculine frontiersman type. The reason they are no longer together is that Owen’s unpretentious, nature-centered lifestyle does not accord well with Claire’s feminist-urbanite idea of the good life. But Owen’s courage, mastery of machines, and literal alpha-maleness — he’s the alpha of a pack of velociraptors — prove indispensable. As in the first movie, human greed and hubris are no match for dinosaurs. All hell breaks loose, and Claire and Owen team up for survival, forming a surrogate family by protecting two boys in the first film, a girl in the new one.
When the film began, I was sad that Owen and Claire’s on-again, off-again romance was off again, as it was at the beginning of the first movie. There’s a huge amount of wholesome sexual chemistry between Owen and Claire, and we really thought it was going somewhere. Fortunately, there will be a third film. So no more on-again, off-again. No more surrogate families. We want the real thing. People this good-looking need to breed. And if Trevorrow knows what’s good for him, he needs to deliver in the third installment, which he will direct and which is due in 2021.
In truth, Fallen Kingdom is a very close and calculated remake of Jurassic World, with the same larger themes, dramatic conflicts, and dinosaur antics. But Fallen Kingdom is not a cynical, clumsy, mechanical remake, like The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi. In fact, I found the movie so captivating that the similarities didn’t even occur to me until the next day. And that really is a testament to what a virtuoso team Bayona, Trevorrow, and Connolly are.
Then again, every sequel is a highly calculated affair. Very few sequels surpass the originals, because directors and studios are afraid to take risks and cover new ground. (The Empire Strikes Back is a significant exception to this.) If you want to assure success, you repeat what came before. But there are two kinds of repetition. The Disney Star Wars formula is to behave like 70-IQ cargo cultists, who have no idea of what is essential, so they just copy everything. The other approach, exemplified in Fallen Kingdom, is to understand what was essential to the success of the previous film, to preserve that, and to make the rest as new as possible.
Just as a virtuoso pianist can take the same dots on paper that he has played and you have heard a thousand times before, and enthrall you with something that seems entirely new, spontaneous, and effortless, Fallen Kingdom recaptures everything we loved about Jurassic World and brings the story forward, ending on a very serious and sublime note, and setting us up for another sequel that I can’t wait to see.