If you read my review of Jurassic World 3 years ago you’ll know that I wasn’t a big fan of it. I felt it was more of a remake of the original Jurassic Park than a reboot, and with that came a lot of déjà vu with none of the nostalgia. I was severely disappointed and haven’t watched it since seeing it in the theater opening night (and I still have no plans to).
Yesterday Universal released the follow-up, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It’s safe to assume that this was not one of the summer 2018 blockbusters that I was looking forward to. The first trailer made it look like it should have been named Run Away: The Movie, and the second a remake of The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Ugh. Not thrilled. Like, at all. But due to my love of the original 1993 film I still had to see it. For all I knew it could have been a surprisingly fun and entertaining flick.
It was not.
The story picks up 3 years after Jurassic World ended. The remaining dinosaurs on Isla Nublar are in danger of being wiped out by an erupting volcano, so Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) are asked by a shady businessman to assist the company he oversees in bringing a small number of the resurrected beasts back to the mainland for preservation purposes. But all is not what it seems… duh!
Yup, the set-up is exactly the same as The Lost World. Big surprise. The movie plays out similarly as well with minor tweaks to events to make them seem new again. I wasn’t fooled. There are only so many times you can make “dinosaurs on the loose” movies before you start repeating yourself. The answer that the writers began using with Jurassic Park III is the “we’ll introduce a new dinosaur” aspect. But Jurassic World and this sequel went one step further and introduce new genetically modified dinos instead. Lame. The IndoRaptor (the mixing of the Indominus Rex introduced in the previous film with a Velociraptor) is lazy in the extreme, looks lame (it resembles a skinny Godzilla) and adds nothing to the lore of the franchise except to sell toys.
Screenwriters Colin Trevorrow (who directed Jurassic World, but passed on this) and Derek Connolly show little interest in developing their returning characters any further and strictly on spectacle. The only thing we learn about them are some hasty introductions where Claire is running a charity to help save the dinos and Owen is retired and building a house for himself. Once that is out of the way we are off to the island and their development halts in it’s tracks for non-stop action scenes. Their romance is forced, Owen is once again written as Mr. Machismo incarnate who just wants to get into Claire’s pants and while Claire has certainly toughened up since the first film she still has to rely on Owen to get her out of tights spots (the lobby posters all seem to focus on the fact that Claire has to cling to Owen for safety). New characters Zia (Daniella Pineda) and Franklin (Justice Smith) are more fun to watch than the leads due to their chemistry and snarky humor. Shit, Blue the raptor gets more character development than anyone else.
Aside form that major issue the “cloning is bad” message is bashed over our heads more than once (especially in one groan inducing scene near the end), we have the usual moustache twirling villain BS and a worthless cameo written for the always entertaining Jeff Goldblum (I’m pretty sure he shot those courtroom scenes in less than a day). It’s all very tiring. There is stupidity all over the place, from people laying 2 inches away from a lava flow with no effect to their person to people being engulfed by super heated ash clouds with none of the death associated with it... it's mind boggling to say the least. And to top it all off, there is zero plot here. It’s just action scene after action scene after action scene.
Director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, The Impossible) definitely shows off some visionary skills with his usual cinematographer Oscar Faura. There were some shots that were breathtaking (that scene on the dock with the Brontosaurus nearly brought tears to my eyes) and he certainly knows how to stage an action scene so that it makes sense with all the rapid style editing required for a film such as this. Everything on the island is colorful, and once the plot moves to the mainland it becomes bleak and dreary in a stark contrast to the outdoor scenes. Visually this flick is a stunner. Bayona just needed to focus a little less on the eye candy and more on making sure his actors look like they are actually giving a shit about what’s going on around them.
I like Chris Pratt. I think he’s a very charming and charismatic actor, especially in the Marvel films. In these Jurassic World flicks he seems like he’s just doing it for the paycheck; playing a frat boy douche whose ulterior motive isn’t to do the right thing, but get a little ass. I can’t stand his character of Owen.
Bryce Dallas Howard fares much better in both films as she seems genuinely into her role, but here she doesn’t have much of one. She’s more of a participant along for the ride who needs to be saved all the time. At least she isn’t running around in high heels this time around (why that was such a big deal in the media still baffles me). Her character is a little more proactive (she shows the beginnings of becoming an Ellen Ripley style character), but her reliance on Owen still annoys the hell out of me. And her kiss to manipulate Owen… what?!
The rest of the supporting cast is fine, with only the aforementioned Daniella Pineda and Justice Smith standing out. Of course there had to be a child in peril played by Isabella Sermon, but she just gawks at things with her mouth agape for the whole movie. Ted Levine (Silence of the Lambs) takes Pete Postlethwaite’s “great white hunter” role from The Lost World and does nothing with it (his character does one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in a film, bar none) and the less said about Rafe Spall (Hot Fuzz, Prometheus) the better. He is flat out annoying as the (uber-predictable) dastardly Eli.
But not all is worthless in this flick. Like I said, the cinematography is astounding. Everything looks fantastic, framed extremely well and there is never any question as to what you’re looking at in any given moment. The movie is supremely fast paced and rarely slows down to catch its breath. I cannot say that I was ever bored (which was a problem I had with the previous film). The action scenes are top notch; exciting and very tense at times. A couple of the jump scares really surprised me and I’m as tolerant as can be when it comes to that sort of thing. The opening stinger is kind of rad with little homages to Jaws here and there. Michael Giacchino’s fabulous, chorus fueled score amped me up on more than one occasion. I was thankful that we weren’t getting 500 reworks of the original John Williams themes here. And then there’s the ending. That super excellent and potential filled ending. If there is another film (let’s be honest, there will be) I will be first in line to see it due to where the film leaves off. The ramifications of what some of the characters do in the finale should make for an interesting jumping off point for Jurassic World 3.
In the end I liked Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom more than the previous film, but it’s still nothing to write home about. It’s a lot of wasted time and effort as far as I’m concerned as it does nothing new and just recycles old ideas over and over again like it’s predecessor. I hope that in future sequels the writers decide to truly run with the ideas presented here in the final frames and make the Jurassic Park follow-up I’ve always wanted to see.