I will never forget the first time I watched Jurassic Park. It was at a drive-in and I’d only seen the teaser trailer which revealed nothing about the movie except for the dino-skeletal logo. When we finally got to that scene with the Brachiosauruses and that swelling John Williams theme, I was forever changed. This was the scene that convinced Hollywood, for better or more likely worse, that CG was a viable way to tell stories. I hid under the blankets when the T-Rex began his rampage and nervously chomped on my fingernails when the kids had their climactic run-in with the Velociraptors. Going back as an adult, and enhancing the experience by reading Michael Crichton’s original two novels the films are based on made me appreciate the first film on a whole new level. It was a modern take on that old Frankenstein tale where the monsters get loose and overtake their creators. That first film is deep with philosophical and ethical questions, but the sequels? Not so much.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens up with an exciting sequence where a group of bad guys returns to the Isla Nublar during a storm to secretly retrieve something that will make them a lot of money. This action set piece was one of the only times the film kept me riveted and on the edge of my seat. I was invested, and fairly terrified. Next, we’re introduced to the film’s pathetic attempt at raising the type of questions that made the first Jurassic Park stand above being just a dumb and fun monster feature. The dinosaurs are facing a second extinction due to a once inactive volcano roaring back to life. Since the ending of the first Jurassic World, the dinosaurs have been living on their island without the influence and control of man. Some want nature to correct mankind’s dabbling with genetic manipulation, while others recognize them as living creatures that should be preserved. This is an interesting idea that is sadly dropped for more of that dumb, fun dino-destruction. Jeff Goldblum shows up for a pointless, but admittedly enjoyable cameo, and soon after we rejoin Owen (played by Chris Pratt) and Claire (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) in their quest to save as many species of dinosaurs from the island as they possibly can before it is consumed by lava and ash. I’ll admit that there was one scene featuring a brachiosaurus that was effectively emotional. Looking back on it now, however, it is a visual reputation of the death of everything I used to love about this franchise.
“It’s a standard Jurassic Park franchise sequel…”
There’s a twist that puts a wrench in their plans, but that twist is slapped into the trailers so I’ll be a little loose with spoilers. Rafe Spall plays Eli Mills, the aide of John Hammond’s former partner, Benjamin Lockwood (played by James Cromwell), who is also significantly responsible for funding the de-extinction of the park’s dinosaurs. Guess what? There are nefarious motives for backing Owen and Claire’s rescue mission, but you already knew that, right? Thanks, trailers! Anyway, Owen is motivated by his close connection with Blue, the Velociraptor he helped raise, but it is never truly explained or explored why Claire is motivated to help save the creatures she once only considered as being living attractions. Owen and Claire are joined by newcomers Zia (played by Daniella Pineda), a paleo- veterinarian, and Franklin (played by Justice Smith), a system analyst there to hack into Jurassic World’s old security systems. Zia, in my opinion, is the best new character since the original, and Franklin is absolutely dreadful. I spent most of the time hoping he’d get eaten whenever he’d pop up on screen. To tell you anything more about the film’s plot would give way too much away, but rest assured there are a lot of dinosaurs, some new, and some old. They bite people, wreck property, and leave chaos and carnage in their wake. It’s a standard Jurassic Park franchise sequel, most of you know what you’re getting yourselves into.
“This movie will make a ton of money, it will keep seven-year-olds entertained, but there’s no value past that…”
Chris Pratt is more Indiana Jones than Star-Lord here, which is greatly appreciated. Bryce Dallas Howard is fine as Claire aside from her murky motivations. Rafe Spall plays an annoyingly bland bad guy. At least if they would have cast someone like Sam Rockwell, the character would have been deliciously fun and campy. Rafe is basically doing a bad impression of a Rockwell villain anyway, might as well have gone with the real thing. Isabella Sermon plays Maise, and the character is basically a walking, talking post-credit sequence for where the franchise is heading. She did a great job, much better than the kids from the previous Jurassic World. Director J.A. Bayona stated multiple times that his mission for the film was to bring terror and horror back to the franchise. I didn’t notice anything close to that, aside from some of the suspense featured in the aforementioned opening action set-piece. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is exactly what you think it’ll be. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up to you. The film’s ending could lead to a course correction for this fossilized franchise, or it could lead to a heap of dino-bullshit like human-dinosaur hybrid soldiers, for example. Only time will tell. This movie will make a ton of money, it will keep seven-year-olds entertained, but there’s no value past that. Turn your brain off, lower your expectations, and you’ll survive it just fine.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) Directed by J.A. Bayona. Written by Derek Connolly and ColinTrevorrow. Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, James Cromwell, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Isabella Sermon
6 out of 10