Movie Review - Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
By Matthew Huntley
July 4, 2018
If watching “Jurassic World” (2015) was like riding a renovated version of a classic rollercoaster—exciting at times but ultimately lacking original thrills—then “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is the equivalent of having ridden said rollercoaster so many times that you can now call and anticipate the hills, drops and twists with your eyes closed.
In other words, it bears little effect on our senses, and at this point in the 25-year-old series, the filmmakers' strategy for entertaining us seems to be throwing as many standard-issue dinosaur attacks at us as possible, with substance and intelligence pushed to the side. By the end of this latest adventure, when a Velociraptor roars atop a mansion set against a moonlit sky, the question running through my mind was, has it comes to this?
Yes. Yes it has. And yet, as silly as “Fallen Kingdom” is, it isn't exactly painful. Its frivolity keeps it from being offensive, which isn't to say you should still buy a ticket, but if you do, you'll at least walk away from it somewhat amused rather than angry. And who knows, maybe this type of sci-fi action still provides you a rush—there were plenty audience members with whom I saw it who still clung to their seats and made enthusiastic comments to the screen—but I found it merely repeated the last movie, which itself was just an updated carbon copy of Steven Spielberg's original classic, although “World” did have some rousing moments to call its own. Unfortunately for “Fallen Kingdom,” it doesn't have much to call its own, which probably explains why I also found it somewhat dull.
As far as plot, it isn't terribly far removed from the much-maligned first “Jurassic” sequel: “The Lost World” (1997), which was essentially about members of an evil corporation trying to exploit dinosaurs for financial gain, while a team of mercenaries, including survivors from the first movie, tried to thwart them. That's basically the case here, where it's been three years since the dinosaurs on Jurassic World escaped their manmade clutches, attacked tourists and each other, and left the park utterly destroyed and abandoned.
A new debate emerges amidst word that a volcano is about to erupt on Isla Nublar, the island off the coast of Costa Rica that holds Jurassic World, and whether the remaining dinosaurs should be saved or left to perish. Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) thinks nature should take its course and correct the mistake humans made in the first place by cloning the extinct creatures and bringing them back to life, while Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who now heads the Dinosaur Protection Group, thinks they should be rescued.
Claire isn't the only one. She's contacted by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the former partner of Jurassic Park founder John Hammond, to work with his personal aide, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), in an effort to move the dinosaurs off Isla Nublar onto a private sanctuary. Claire is all for it, but in order to find Blue, the intelligent and empathetic Velociraptor who actually responds to human command, she must seek out Blue's trainer and her former boyfriend, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who's of course quick to argue who broke up with whom.
Eventually, Owen, Claire, and Claire's geeky veterinarian and IT cohorts (Zia Rodriguez and Justice Smith) make their way to the island, accompanied by a team of gun-toting soldiers led by the often bad-doer Ted Levine, to begin the dinosaur transportation process. But little do Owen and Claire know the entire operation is just a ruse put on by Mills to secretly capture the dinosaurs and sell them off as artillery to the highest bidder of international megalomaniacs.
Following the setup of this basic and rather cartoonish plot are your typical dinosaur attacks; moments when characters must hang on for dear life; an out-running of a volcanic eruption; grandiose explosions; gun-pointing stand-offs, etc., all of which get repeated, more or less, during the movie's second half when the dinosaurs are brought back to Lockwood's estate in Northern California. It's here where Lockwood's child granddaughter (Isabella Sermon) has stumbled upon Mills' scheme and tries to set things right (there's just something inside her that makes her see the value of treating other living creatures humanely).
The problem with “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is that, by the end, it's nothing we haven't seen before, only in slightly different form, including the action, the special effects, the moral conflict, the character interactions. It's tolerable because it doesn't take itself too seriously, but even so, this doesn't exactly make it entertaining. It merely goes through the motions of its genre and becomes a movie we merely stare at and wait out rather than respond to.
Why has this series gotten so routine and dumbed down? I understand that because “Jurassic World” rejuvenated the franchise and made such an obscene and unexpected amount of money the studio and filmmakers probably felt compelled to deliver more of the same and not rock the boat as far as adding complicated ideas, intelligence, deeper emotion, and greater character development to the mix, but surely they must know it would be these latter qualities that keep the saga going. And even if they're unaware, audiences will eventually get burnt out by the same old plot and action sequences, often to the point where a movie like “Fallen Kingdom” eventually turns offensive and intolerable, which wouldn't be good for anybody.