Directed by J.A. Bayona
Written by Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow
A lot has been made of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in the early reviews from well respected critics across the country. A lot of negativity, specifically. In fact, some have gone so far to deride the entire series, save the 1993 original by Steven Spielberg, as being completely ludicrous and ridiculous movies. And yet, Jurassic World was a smashing success at the box office in 2015. Moviegoers flooded the theaters to see the latest dino-romp adventure, and I can’t really blame them. While Jurassic Park is indeed a classic, a perfect example of how to make a smart, entertaining blockbuster, you can’t criticize the entertainment value of dinosaurs. So while Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is getting flack for being a poor movie, just remember, it still has dinosaurs terrorizing the populace!
A few years after the disaster chronicled in Jurassic World, it is revealed that a long dormant volcano on Isla Nublar is set to explode, which rallies pro-Dino lobbyists to plead for the rescue of the genetically engineered dinosaurs. Led by Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), these “animal” lovers are recruited by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), the man in charge of Benjamin Lockwood’s (James Cromwell) estate, John Hammond’s partner, to lead an expedition to Isla Nublar to save the dinosaurs from re-extinction. Claire must first recruit trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to join them, hoping to rescue Owen’s best student Blue. But it is soon revealed that Mills does not have the dinosaur’s best interest at heart.
When Jurassic World came out and was the buzz of the summer, I counted myself among the few that found it sort of underwhelming. It was fine. It was entertaining. But it was nothing special. Fallen Kingdom is worse. True! It is still entertaining, but for very different reasons. The stories have never been a strong point of the Jurassic Park series, what with dumb characters making dumb decisions and generally doing dumb things (like making dinosaurs and then thinking it’s a good idea to show them to people, or take them to San Diego, or show them to people again, or take them to California again). So suffice it to say, the story here is pretty dang dumb. But, the good news is, since that’s never been why we like these movies, it could still be a good movie! It’s not.
The problem is Bryce Dallas Howard gives a nothing performance. But there’s Chris Pratt! We all love Chris Pratt! Unfortunately, it feels as though Pratt is simply playing a caricature of Owen Grady from the first Jurassic World, with no real signature moments to remember. The problem is there is zero to hold on to from this film. The problem is the scenario is even dumber than normal. I could probably write a whole piece just on how I don’t understand how anybody within this fictional world would think saving the dinosaurs would be a good idea. And yet, director J.A. Bayona does include some very nice filmmaking to give the film a fleeting chance to at least be entertaining. I would say that there is enough here to deem it entertaining, but the story sinks the whole endeavor from the outset.
There are still dinosaurs doing dinosaur things, which is a big draw for a large swath of the target audience of this film, and I am sure they will be entertained because, despite the stupidity on display here, I still had a pretty good time watching this movie precisely for the dino-antics. Add to that, Bayona, as previously mentioned, has some nice directorial touches which enhance the horror aspect of the haunted house sequence which makes up a good portion of the film. Great use of imagery, lighting, and cinematography, great use of negative space to build tension, etc. What this movie amounts to is a mixed bag. It’s easy to see why critics would hate it, and I even hate it for how stupid the story is. But doggonit if there isn’t enough exciting and thrilling sequences peppered throughout for me to call this movie entertaining as well. It’s too bad for the series that they’ve yet to recreate the magic of the first film, to be able to craft a smart AND entertaining film, instead of forgetting to craft characters that even remotely have a brain.