With the review embargo for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom freshly lifted, all the pre-release buzz surrounding J.A. Bayona’s treatment of the middle installment in the Jurassic World trilogy is about to lapse into prehistory, and it’s time to get our first glimpse of whether Fallen Kingdom has what it takes to satisfy the appetites of all those carnivorous critics.
The film’s premiere in Bayona’s native Barcelona last month drew raves from an admittedly sympathetic crowd. But now that the reviewers’ claws are out and their teeth bared, how are they responding to Fallen Kingdom’s stakes-raising story of a theme park in shambles, a menacing volcano, a nefarious dino-trading plot, and a reformed Claire Dearing putting it all on the line to right past wrongs?
With more dinosaurs, more lava, more intrigue, and more at stake, Fallen Kingdom appears poised to raise the on-screen action beyond anything the franchise has seen before. It’s sure to be a box-office blockbuster — but is there more to this movie than sulfuric smoke and mirrors? Now that Universal Pictures is finally letting the critics run amok, let’s peel away the scales that have covered Fallen Kingdom in mystery with this early review roundup.
**Spoiler Warning: There are light spoilers for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom below**
In its favorable review, The Hollywood Reporter describes Fallen Kingdom as a film that both acknowledges the best of the Jurassic legacy set down by Steven Spielberg and expands on the familiar with a mind-bending ending that promises to take the franchise into territory that’s even more grandiose.
Bayona “not only nods to the histories of classic monster movies and the legacy of original Jurassic helmer Steven Spielberg; he brings his own experience to bear, treating monsters like actual characters and trapping us in a vast mansion that's as full of secrets as the site of his breakthrough 2007 film The Orphanage,” THR writes, noting later that the movie’s “closing scenes seem intent on something far bigger, like a Planet of the Apes-style saga that has barely begun.”
Entertainment Weekly assures Fallen Kingdom offers “a high degree” of fun in its B+ review, suggesting that “[t]he less you try to dissect it, the more you’ll enjoy it.”
Opining that Fallen Kingdom surpasses even the suspension of disbelief required by the Michael Crichton novels on which the Jurassic franchise is based, EW characterizes it as a “preposterous-but-effective” movie in which Bayona ups the action to an implausible tilt, testing “the laws of incredulity with varying degrees of success. At least, until the final half hour when forehead-slapping absurdity finally win out. Up until then, Fallen Kingdom is exactly the kind of escapist summer behemoth you want it to be.”
More measured is Variety’s take, which suggests a movie that delivers neither more nor less than what any good monster movie promises: thrills as scares. The film, says Variety’s review, is on firmer ground when its monsters menace than when it delves into social messaging.
Fallen Kingdom offers “nothing that we haven’t seen before — and when [the final dino battle] arrives, you realize that this is what these films will always, at heart, be about: not 'social responsibility' but ancient monsters who want to eat us,” the review observes, adding that the movie is an “improvement, but it’s the first Jurassic film to come close to pretending it isn’t a ride at all, and as a result it ends up being just a passable ride.”
The Wrap’s review is perhaps the harshest, calling Fallen Kingdom a “very dull entry in the series” that seems to treat its action with an almost clinical detachment that drains the film of what ought to be its strongest quality.
“The major problem with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” writes The Wrap, “is that the makers treat the action and suspense sequences in the way most of us go to the dentist."
Bayona, the review adds, “goes through the motions of these scenes, even staging a ‘hiding from dinosaurs’ set piece that was the most memorable section of Steven Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park movie from 1993. But what was exciting and scary then feels expected and very hackneyed now."
With just more than two weeks to go before its release, we won’t have to wait much longer to come to our own conclusions about how Fallen Kingdom compares with the other films in the ever-expanding Jurassic Park movie menagerie. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom tears into theaters everywhere beginning June 22.