“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” dir. J.A. Bayona
Four years after the Jurassic World theme park was closed down, Owen and Claire return to Isla Nublar to save the dinosaurs when they learn that a once dormant volcano on the island is active and is threatening to extinguish all life there. Along the way, Owen sets out to find Blue, his lead raptor, and discovers a conspiracy that could disrupt the natural order of the entire planet. Life has found a way, again.
“Jurassic Park,” one of the greatest blockbusters ever made, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and we’re now on the fifth installment of the franchise. After the disappointment of “The Lost World” and “Jurassic Park III,” director Colin Trevorrow stepped in and attempted to breathe new life into the series with “Jurassic World.” The film ended up being one of the highest grossing movies of all-time even if it cheated by relying way too heavily on nostalgia. Now J.A. Bayona, who previously directed critically acclaimed films such as “The Impossible” and “A Monster Calls,” is taking over while Trevorrow is still on board as screenwriter with his co-writer Derek Connolly. Is “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” the first great sequel in the series? No. Hell no.
To start on a positive note, the film has an extremely well executed opening sequence. This opener just might be the closest that any “Jurassic” sequel has gotten to recapturing the level of intensity that Steven Spielberg achieved during the most suspenseful moments in his original film. The visual effects looked impressive as Michael Giacchino’s haunting score set the tone beautifully. This sequence was such an incredibly strong start right off the bat, immediately giving the audience the feeling that they were in for something special. Unfortunately, everything falls downhill from here.
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return as the leads and just like in the first “Jurassic World,” they have zero chemistry with one another. In fact, the development of their supposed relationship on screen goes through the exact same beats as they did in the previous film with nothing new brought to the table. Both actors are obviously talented, but neither one get a chance to rise above the material, causing both performances to be bland and uncompelling. Pratt ends up having more chemistry with the CGI raptor, Blue, than he does with his co-lead and even that relationship has no additional progression than it did previously.
All of the new characters are either thinly written or made to be so over the top that they come off as cartoon characters. The ones who get off worst of all are Rafe Spall, Toby Jones, and Ted Levine who all have the most generic motivations and play up their roles so much that they never once feel believable or authentic. There’s also the horrendous comedic relief with Justice Smith who feels like the kind of side character you’d expect to see in a Michael Bay “Transformers” movie. It got so unbearable to the point that it made me miss watching the ridiculously cheesy performance Vincent D’Onofrio gave in the last film. Oh, and if you’re wondering if Jeff Goldblum can add some energy to this, prepare to be horribly disappointed because he’s completely wasted.
One of the biggest problems with “Jurassic World” was that there was an overreliance on CGI, taking away a lot from the magic of seeing dinosaurs on screen because the effects weren’t convincing enough. With “Fallen Kingdom” there was supposedly more practical effects work done, but clearly not enough because there’s an unbearable amount of spotty CGI throughout the entire film that somehow looks even worse than it did in Trevorrow’s film. A lot of the dinosaurs don’t look properly implemented into the environments and some of the larger, more destructive sequences look incredibly fake, a staggering step down from the solid work done in the opening scene. It’s sad that both of these “Jurassic World” films already look dated while the 25 year old “Jurassic Park” still holds up wonderfully.
The action scenes themselves are dull to watch, lacking the suspense needed in order to keep the excitement going. There’s no emotional investment with any of the characters, making each scene feel inconsequential. This is especially harmful during the film’s atrocious, elongated climax where instead of delivering thrills and fun, we’re left with a set piece that’s completely boring and lifeless. At least in the first “Jurassic World,” the attack on the park attendees and the final dinosaur fight were constructed in a way that they passed the time with maybe one or two fun beats sprinkled in. There’s not an ounce of fun to be had here.
By the time the third act rolls around, things become more and more ridiculous and laughable that it’s shocking to believe that it actually made it past the scripting stage. Characters make insanely dumb decisions, there are multiple deus ex machina saves in a row that defuse any and all tension that could have possibly been earned, there are last minute revelations that are staggering and baffling, all culminating in what just might be the single worst ending of the series, one that promises a future for the franchise that directly spits in the face of the original.
“Fallen Kingdom” feels the need to bring in themes about animal cruelty and the preservation of endangered species. These are interesting themes that should be brought up within a “Jurassic Park” story, but it’s done with no subtlety or nuance here. There are several unbearably heavy handed moments throughout the film that constantly hit you over the head with these messages while simultaneously never making sure that they actually register and leave an impact. It honestly felt very similar to the experience watching the Canto Bight sequence in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” but instead of it being a brief side story in that film, it’s spread out across the entire two hours here. In one particular instance, the film becomes grossly manipulative, using the nostalgia for the original “Jurassic Park” to force an emotion out of the audience with no shame whatsoever.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is the worst movie of the summer, continuing to further stray away from what got audiences so immersed into this series in the first place. “Jurassic Park” was an awe-inspiring adventure film with compelling characters and a primary focus on capturing the magic and wonder of seeing dinosaurs roam the Earth. Now it’s just a monster movie franchise more concerned with delivering nonstop action and CGI rather than anything to bring emotional attachment or spark imagination. Giant spectacle just for the sake of spectacle shouldn’t pass for solid entertainment, especially if it directly hurts the story and characters. The way that the film concludes shows that the creative team behind this franchise has no intention of going back to those roots so that just leaves one question. Can we please just finally let these dinosaurs die already and move on?
Have you seen “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” yet? Are you excited with the direction the franchise is going? Leave a comment down below with your thoughts.
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