Movie Review: ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ a Franchise Low
In Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth and weakest entry in the series of films that began with Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park in 1993, dinosaurs are no longer awe-inspiring sights or fear-inducing threats, but helpless, hapless, pitiful creatures who are about to go extinct. Again.
After the events of Jurassic World brought an end to their theme park home, a currently-erupting volcano threatens to do in all of Isla Nublar, wiping out the dinos for good. The ones who can’t swim or fly, at least. (And good planning, by the way, by the original Jurassic World creators: an active volcano really is prime real estate for a billion-dollar theme park.)
But not if spunky save-the-dinos activist Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), in a 180° turn from her corporate-motivated character in the previous film, has anything to say about it. While attempting to wrangle funds in the face of a senate hearing - where Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm, in a one-scene cameo, recommends re-extinction for the dinos - she gets a last-ditch offer she can’t refuse.
It’s from the estate of a dying Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), hitherto unmentioned original Jurassic Park co-founder along with John Hammond. His associate Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) is currently organizing a mission to Nublar to rescue as many species as he can, and he needs Dearing’s security handprint to get full access - - and the help of raptor whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to track down one of the island’s most intelligent creatures, a raptor named Blue.
But can Eli really be trusted? And what’s up with Lockwood’s precocious granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon), cared after by nanny Iris (Geraldine Chaplin)?
The answers to these questions may or may not grab you, but I know one thing for sure: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom spends a good 90 minutes on story exposition during which the dinosaurs themselves pose no threat. I hope you’re invested in the human story in this movie, because that’s what you’ll be stuck with for most of it.
On Isla Nublar the dinosaurs themselves are tracked, shot, tranquilized, and/or caged by the devious big game hunter Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine). In case you had any doubt as to his true character, he also yanks a tooth out of each dino he captures to make a gnarly necklace.
The dinosaurs are also driven off the island by the erupting volcano, and in one of the film’s most upsetting scenes, stampede down a hill and off a cliff into the raging ocean waters below. If you thought seeing that sick triceratops in Jurassic Park was sad, just wait till you see a triceratops frantically struggle to swim during its fleeting final moments of life before drowning.
The filmmakers want to get the audience to feel for the poor creatures, but go so far overboard their movie becomes a miserable experience to sit through. The few surviving dinosaurs are caged, strutted out for show, auctioned off, and ultimately gassed; were these real creatures and not CGI creations, the movie would be unwatchable.
As it is, the dinosaurs get their briefest of comeuppances, in a oceanic cold open and an extended finale at Lockwood’s estate, which features the wonderful image of a modified raptor - the Indoraptor, to rival the previous film’s Indominus Rex - silently stalking and creeping up on a young girl tucked away in bed.
These scenes are brought to vivid life by J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, The Impossible), who brings some of the most suspenseful sequences to a Jurassic Park film since Spielberg bowed out as director. Unfortunately, his efforts are generally wasted on a story (by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, director of Jurassic World) that is alternately dull and offensive.
I’d much prefer to have seen the film that this one sets up, which must immediately take place after Fallen Kingdom’s climactic events. Unfortunately, we are deprived of a fun dinosaurs-on-the-loose story in favor of seeing something that more resembles a dino snuff film.
While some may applaud Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom for taking the series in a genuinely new direction after four movies of more-of-the-same, the results fall well short of the standard set by the previous films. In a year when the Northern White Rhino has officially gone extinct, I can think of better ways to spend a couple hours than watching mankind wipe out the dinosaurs, too.