By Ambar Chatterjee
‘A terrifying and entertaining roller-coaster of a film’
Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, James Cromwell, Ted Levine, Justice Smith, Geraldine Chaplin, Daniella Pineda, Toby Jones, Rafe Spall, BD Wong, Jeff Goldblum, Isabella Sermon
I am a Jurassic Park fan. I have been that ever since I watched the first film and it never ceased to amaze me (re-watched it couple of times when the 3D version released). However, that changed when Jurassic World (2015) released and I did not enjoy it as much as I expected myself to. I was really hoping that the follow up to it would put things in the right perspective and I am so glad that it does in a lot of ways. Keeping all that we have loved about the Jurassic Park films over the years intact, director J.A. Bayona opens up a floodgate of opportunities with this film. How well all that would work out is a topic of a different discussion.
It has been 3 years since the events of Jurassic World. The humans have left alone the Island of Isla Nublar where the Dinos have thrived for years. But the existence of an active volcano threatens their self-contained existence. The humans are divided on whether or not to save the Dinos. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is working to ensure that the government does something about saving the Dinos but her efforts are not enough to bring them into the fold. It is at this juncture that Benjamin Lockwood, a business magnate and an old ally of John Hammond (the man who built the Jurassic Park) walks in to save the Dinos or atleast as many as they can. Claire enlists the help of Owen (Chris Pratt), who is the only one who can track down the super-intelligent Velociraptor, Blue, and lands on Isla Nublar to perform the extraction. In no time they realize that the rescue mission was a hoax and a veil for something much bigger and deadlier.
The film starts off with a cracking sequence documenting a team performing a secret mission on the island. This sequence is terrifying and will border on being a horror sequence more than a monster-action routine. It will rank as one of the best sequences in the whole series. Post that sequence the film shifts to top gear and never changes its momentum for the rest of its runtime. For a film that is 2 hours and 8 minutes long, this felt more like a 90 minutes affair. The plot moves at a ferocious pace and the action sequences keep rolling. While Jurassic World was laced with some comedy which I didn't really like, this film is tense, serious and gritty. Yes, there is comedy but it is mostly situational and never spoils the fear factor of the film.
While the first half is concentrated on the open world scenario of the Isla Nublar where the Dinos are fighting for a chance to survive, the second half changes mood and setting and offers the very best of claustrophobic horror. I just loved the sequences where the team goes to extract the dinosaurs. The lush colors, the vibrant actions and the heartbreaking way in which this whole sequence culminates really made me stand up and take notice. The stampede scene will easily rank shoulder to shoulder with that of the first two films. Once we are back to the city, the nature of the action changes and we are taken to the innards of Lockwood's mansion where the Dinos unleash their terror on the inhabitants.
A lot of the success of that horror has to be credited to the way the film is shot and edited. The director cleverly uses shadows and lighting tricks to show us the prevalent danger when our protagonists are mostly unaware of the same. Be it the sequence where a dinosaur enters a holding in Isla Nublar where he is lit mostly by the dripping lava or a sublimely done sequence in the bedroom of a kid who is targeted by a ruthless and highly intelligent predator whose claws are lit by the lights of the child's room. The director uses the lighting both as an artisticand an affecting tool. The same is also used wonderfully when we see a Brontosaurus fade away into smoke and dust as our protagonists are leaving Isla Nublar.
It is needless to mention about the superb visual effects but for the first time since the first two films, the Dinosaurs are depicted in a manner that is really close to reality. The T-Rex is shown with flies buzzing all around its evidently sticky and smelly skin, the Stegosaurus opens its mouth to give us a glimpse of the buckets of mucus that it holds and of which it unloads a small part on Chris Pratt's Owen. All these little things go down a long way into making the film real and affecting.
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are wonderful in their respective parts. They know they can do only so much in a film like this and they strictly stick to that level trying to bring as much as possible to their respective characters. Pratt is funny and just about the right kind of guy who you would believe to pull off the things that he does. Howard is eye-catching-ly beautiful and yet somehow her beauty is not the least bit distracting. Isabella Sermon plays a kid whose character I believe will have greater implications in sequels to come. For now, she is apt as the scared girl who has to run around a lot. Jeff Goldblum is Jeff Goldblum and I would love him even if he would be a still picture in a film.
Coming to my issues with the film, a total lack of authoritative interventions throughout the mayhem that this film is about was surprising since this film takes the gritty and realistic way to things. Also, the film ends on a note that would burst open primordial carnivores in a world that they hardly know off and neither are a part of. It could go either way for the films to come but for now, it seems a highly improbable way to end the film with. I associate my worst fears of the first 2 films (which also made the film worthwhile) to the thought of the Dinos coming to the real world. That was the hinge on which the story was built. I cannot think of extracting fear from these characters any better than to give us a hint of them coming to our world. That's also what this film is about. But now, evidently, that seems to be spilled milk under the bridge. This was my biggest qualm with this film.
Having said all that, Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom is still a refreshing and affecting horror film that will easily rank as one of the best Jurassic Park films. It is much better than its predecessor and the fact that it provides you with what you are looking for and also gives you horror and entertainment of different natures, makes it a film that's worth checking out. I wouldn't mind seeing it twice or thrice. Watch it on the biggest screen with the best audio system that you can find (think IMAX).