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Review: 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' reaches for new heights

Posted Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at 3:47 PM Central

by John Couture

When it comes to franchise development, there really isn't much in the playbook when it comes to the fifth installment. Attack of the Clones gets most of its street cred by not being as terrible as The Phantom Menace. The Final Frontier is a place that no self-respecting Star Trek fan ever wants to experience again. And don't even get me started on Friday the 13th's "New Beginning."

The fact of the matter is that many franchises fizzle out before they even get to their fourth sequel, so at best, the fifth film is a hail mary to try and resuscitate a decaying corpse. Perhaps the lone exception up until now that I can think of on the top of my head is Fast Five. That franchise has defied all of the odds and the fifth installment introduced Dwayne Johnson to their cinematic universe and it gave them an adrenaline shot to the arm that continues to this day.

That's all a long way of saying that by the time you get to movie five in a series, there's not a whole lot of expectations on it. Jurassic Park III is easily the low point of the franchise, so much so that there would be a 14-year pause in the story to allow a whole new generation of kids to be born before introducing Jurassic World in 2015.

That film's unbridled success guaranteed another one and voila here we are with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The franchise's new leads Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return to Isla Nublar with the stated purpose of helping to save the dinosaurs which have become threatened by an inevitable volcanic eruption. Of course, it wouldn't be a Jurassic Park film if there weren't also devious schemes afoot.

I am convinced that the success of the Jurassic World falls squarely on the shoulders of its lead actors Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. In the original films, the main attraction was rightfully so the dinosaurs themselves. They were a giant leap in terms of special and practical effects in that as audience members we truly believed that these creatures that we saw on the screen were as real as the actors opposite of them.

But the novelty wore off and there wasn't an uptick in story investment. The result was the abomination that is Jurassic Park III. When filmmakers went back to the drawing board for the latest two films, they spent a great deal of time developing story and character and the results speak for themselves.

Not only are the stories more interesting, but the development of character enhances those moments when the dinosaurs are not on screen. Besides, the real peril of the first act of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is augmented by our level of care and investment in these characters. If they were simply cardboard characters, there would be no real tension and the entire movie would fall apart. Instead, the emotional payoff hits with a one-two punch as they make their escape from the destruction of Isla Nublar.

The interesting thing about Fallen Kingdom is that the film isn't just about action and stunts. Don't worry, there are plenty of those too, but this is really the first film in the franchise to pause and ponder the ethical ramifications of man playing God. The entire extended cameo from Jeff Goldblum not only ponders our responsibility to prevent their second extinction, but it also hints a bit to the underlying meddling of man in the natural course of things that has been explored in great detail in the many Frankenstein incarnations.

Of course, I would have much preferred them to linger longer on this ethical discourse, but it seems that the purpose of Fallen Kingdom is to simply introduce such concepts so we can expound upon them in the future. There's a great parallel revealed between the dinosaurs and human genetic manipulation and cloning that warrants more discussion, but it's quickly swept under the rug here so that they can get back to the dino action.

That's not necessarily a bad thing as I give them props for taking that next step in the narrative, but I feel that had they could have done more to better set up events in the next film. In many ways, the third act of Fallen Kingdom gave me flashbacks to the original Jurassic Park where they throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.

Just as there were many ways to take the story in The Lost World, the possibilities for the next Jurassic World film are likewise plentiful. The end of the film (and the franchise's first post-credits stinger) set up a myriad of paths for the direction of the next film. My only suggestion would be to take the time to develop the best arcs and invest in the story and characters that have made these last two films so successful.

The one thing that the Jurassic films have always delivered is a superior home entertainment product. All of the films stretch the limit of the discs they are printed on to give the audience incredible access to the film and its universe. This ideal is once again present in the home entertainment options for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

The Blu-ray is replete with various behind-the-scenes videos and featurettes ranging from the special effects to the return of Jeff Goldblum's Dr. Ian Malcolm. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by Goldblum's involvement in several bonus features. Given that his part was little more than a cameo, I was excited to see him show up in several of the featurettes.

One really special inclusion in this home entertainment package is the partnership with Facebook to create augmented reality (AR) experiences with Blue the dinosaur from the film. I'll be honest, I haven't really experimented much in the realm of augmented reality. No, I never got into the whole Pokemon Go hysteria, but I have to admit that the underlying technology is intriguing.

Using a special insert, you can trigger an AR experience with Blue through Facebook and Facebook messenger. It was pretty neat, but I was astounded by how much enjoyment that my kids got out of it. They are at that age where they are becoming more independent with their tablets and they played with baby Blue for at least an hour over a few different sessions.

While the AR experience was purposely limited, it definitely opened up some interesting possibilities down the road for Jurassic World and other intellectual properties. With AR and virtual reality still in their infancy, it will be exciting to see how these technologies grow and augment the film industry.

While the individual films in the Jurassic series vary in quality, each film provides purchase value. With Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom not only do you have a film that extends the mythology of the franchise, but you have plenty of extras that justify the purchase.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is now available on 4K UHD, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD.