Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Director: J. A. Bayona Writers: Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, B. D. Wong, Jeff Goldblum, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, Isabella Sermon, Geraldine Chaplin Distributor:Universal Pictures Rated PG-13 | 128 Minutes Release Date: June 22, 2015
That wide-eyed look of wonder you experienced when watching the first Jurassic Park is something that can only be experienced first hand. Of course, whenever a film like that is loved and successful, you are going to want to continue those adventures with sequels. Unfortunately, the Jurassic Park sequels never lived up to the first film. But just before it met its untimely extinction, it was revived, thanks in part to the reboot craze. Though Jurassic World was a box office smash, it wasn’t as loved by critics. In fact, it was widely panned.
Now we are here with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the second chapter of this reboot. This time J.A. Bayona is at the helm using a script written by Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly. But even with some new blood directing this, it isn’t nearly enough to get the film away from the fact that this franchise continues to have stupid people doing stupid things, over and over and over again. My full review below.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens with a recovery team retrieving various bones, dino DNA samples, and the remains of the Indominus rex. Of course, considering that this is Jurassic World park, nothing goes smoothly, which tells us once again, why do these people even bother going back to the island. But it doesn’t take that long to guess why they are taking these off the island. This entire opening feels like a nod to the original and even has some Jaws-like elements to it.
It is shortly after that, the film establishes that the dinosaurs are at risk of going through yet another extinction because Isla Nublar’s once dormant volcano is about to erupt. And there is a group of people, led by Claire Dearling (Bryce Dallas Howard) who believe that these creations deserve the same protections as any other endangered animal.
While that is all well and good, we see a tired and aged Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) having to explain, once again, that creations that go unchecked and out of our control could lead to humanity’s extinction. Not sure how many times we have to hear this, but it is something that has fallen on deaf ears. And despite the political agreement, corporate greed blinds the rich who want to use these dinosaurs for their own purposes be it hunting for sport or military applications.
So in order to rescue these dinosaurs, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), will use his wealth and friendship with the late John Hammond to rescue these creatures. And he gets his charming advisor Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) to get Claire and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to assist in the rescue. Again, since this is a Jurassic Park movie, nothing goes quite as planned.
And with the (limited) help from Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda), a paleo-veterinarian, and Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), a systems analyst, the four realize help retrieve various dinosaur species. But at the top of Eli’s list is Blue, the raptor that Owen had trained. For it was their connection and training that made the dinosaurs once of the smartest on the island. Unfortunately, there is a double cross – which is pretty much spelled out for you at the very beginning of the film.
The race to save the dinosaurs on the island before the volcano erupts can be suspenseful since there is a time on the clock. But at the same time, it doesn’t really feel like there is any urgency to get off the island. The big moment where dinosaurs are hurling themselves off the edge of a cliff feels wasted when the other side of the island looks completely unaffected. But as tonally dizzying as that first act is, it doesn’t compare to the absolute chaos that is about to happen when they get off of the island.
It’s during the second and third acts where you might just throw your hands in the air because you don’t care how this movie will end or just roll your eyes because it has actually led to this. This is especially true for the underused Maisie (Isabella Sermon), who has a secret of her own. Her sharp humor and sincere interest in dinosaurs are what keeps this film afloat.
But once again, Trevorrow and Connelly’s script undermines itself. There are times where it treats its characters as though they were the less evolved species and the dinosaurs were the smartest in the room. Worse, it takes away some well-deserved moments from the humans and gives it to the dinosaurs, whose CGI is shoddy looking at best. But let’s not forget that this is a franchise that has built upon absurdity and stupid people doing stupid things. Which takes us to what happens when Claire and Owen reach the estate.
The second and third acts is where Bayona’s style truly shines. The director sets up the terrors of the night while also giving us plenty of action to get excited over. So while the volcano may have been the first and only major action set piece, the second and third acts feel more like characters in a haunted house. All of them running up and down the stairs, traveling through dumbwaiters, and even hiding under the bed covers. These elements are all in Bayona’s wheelhouse. There is even a moment where Owen, Claire, and Maisie have to hide amongst a giant dinosaur diorama from the scary Indominus raptor. Yet another call back to the original Jurassic Park.
But part of the problem with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is it does the same thing over and over again. Greed blinds those to the dangers of hostile dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are taken off the island and set in a populated area. Dinosaurs are genetically modified. Dinosaur ex-machina. The film just digs its heels in by repeating the same mistakes. And rather than dive into the ethical problems of keeping these ravenous creatures alive, it gives use these boring old blockbuster moments. While it may have introduced some interesting ideas and concepts about the ethical treatment of dinosaurs, it finds a way to tip those scales to killing them when dinosaurs start eating humans or biting people’s arms clean off.
Yes these are carnivores; dinosaurs are dangerous by nature. But Trevorrow and Connelly’s script fails to give audiences a reason to sympathize with them. And because this is the kind of franchise that thrives on repetition, it’s going to be even harder to care about what happens to the humans and dinosaurs. At which point, one of them will have to go extinct. Because it can’t keep going like this. It just can’t.