Film Review – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Each sequel of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) – including the spin-offs Jurassic World (2015) and now Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) – have failed to answer the same lingering question: Why on Earth would anyone want to go back to a place where man-eating dinosaurs roam the land? The original film contemplated the dangers of playing God by creating dinos out of preserved DNA, and the characters suffered the extreme consequences of doing so. But with each entry, the justification to go back became more ludicrous. It got worse when in Jurassic World we learned that another theme park was created and yet again the same catastrophe took place. It’s as though this franchise ignores the very warning signs it tries to convey.
Fallen Kingdom is perhaps the worst example of this. Here we see supposedly intelligent people constantly make dumb decisions, putting themselves and others in harm’s way. It’s a mind numbingly frustrating experience, emphasized by the fact that it’s all done as a means to generate a box office return. This time Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) – who ran the ill fated theme park of the previous film – returns as a “dinosaur preservationist,” trying to lobby government officials into rescuing the very creatures that tried to make her dinner. The island where the dinosaurs are located is facing destruction as a gigantic volcano shows signs of erupting. When it explodes, all life on the island will become extinct.
Is this not the ultimate sign that dinosaurs were never meant to last? Sometimes it’s a good thing to let Mother Nature take her course. But as usual, Claire ignores this red flag, and with the help of a wealthy investor (James Cromwell) and his protégé (Rafe Spall) Claire gets the funding she needs to go back to the island and save the dinosaurs before they are wiped out. She teams up with a nerdy systems analyst (Franklin Webb) and a “paleoveterinarian” (Daniella Pineda) to help her. Along the way, she meets up with dino trainer/love interest Owen (Chris Pratt) and convinces him to tag along in hopes of rescuing his beloved friend, the Velociraptor Blue.
Wait, wait, wait. Let’s step back and examine this for a moment. So Claire and Owen, who spent the entirety of the previous film trying not be eaten, are going back to the island to encounter the dangers all over again? Not only that, but they also have to contend with a live volcano that could potentially kill them the instant it explodes? Are these characters supposed to be acting like rational human beings? The challenge that director J.A. Bayona and writers Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow faced was in trying to convince us that these creatures were beautiful enough that people would risk everything to save them. However, the film still wants to be a monster movie. There are two conflicting points of view. Jurassic Park worked because the awe and wonder of seeing magnificent creatures was quickly dispelled when the science experiment ran amok. Here, the production wants us to both love and fear the dinosaurs at the same time. The balance simply doesn’t work.
In terms of direction, Bayona’s style does have some flourishes. In one sequence, Owen and Claire find themselves trapped inside a cage with a tranquilized T-Rex just starting to wake up. The use of the small space and seeing the characters try to maneuver around the dino’s teeth made for one of the more intense – and funnier – scenes. But these high points are few and far between. Many of the set pieces are overburdened with CGI, unimaginative in their conception, and lacking in intensity. When the volcano explodes – as shown in the trailer – the resulting mayhem turns out to be strangely lifeless, as the characters run down a hillside while pixels go flying past their heads.
This scene lands smack dab in the middle of the plot. The remaining story devolves even further, as character developments and plot twists sink the narrative. Decisions are made that leave us scratching our heads, revelations come about that feel utterly meaningless, and it’s all punctuated with what maybe the stupidest decision ever made in this franchise. The choice made by this one character – and you will know what I’m talking about if you decide to see this – is so incomprehensible that there’s simply no getting around how utterly silly it is. Not only does this decision lead to the possible deaths of many people, the explanation left me fuming. The more I think about it, the more upset I get.
I don’t mind sequels, remakes, or reboots. Some of my favorite movies fall into these categories. But the good ones always come with a strong reason to exist. They expand their characters, deepen their stories, and leave us thinking about their themes in ways the originals may not have had the chance to. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom does none of this. It is a cash grab in the worst possible way, stuffed with callbacks, cameos, and thinly veiled fan service. It is a spectacular disappointment. This is the kind of movie that challenges our love of movies, and I don’t mean that in a good way.