Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Review

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
(1.5 STARS)

Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park stands the test of time. It’s a remarkable action-horror hybrid that knows its greatest strength is the sense of awe. When Sam Neill turns Laura Dern’s head toward the real, live dinosaurs for the first time, it’s transcendent.

The series only ever reached that point again once—in the extended opening sequence of Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World when the children first glimpse the amusement park through the window of their hotel room. Everything else, over the course of four sequels, is basically rubbish.

The franchise hadn’t devolved into complete inanity until 2018, however. Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom is the nadir of a series of films with stiff competition in that category. There’s no sense of awe, no sense of purpose. It just doesn’t appear to exist for any other reason than its predecessor made a shitload of money.

The film is directed by J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, The Impossible), and it picks up some time after the disaster on Isla Nublar that shut down the amusement park run by Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). The dormant volcano on the island is dormant no longer, and the U.S. Senate is debating whether action should be taken to save the island’s dinosaur population or if, as it’s argued by Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum in a fun reprise of his role from the first two films), we let nature correct our mistakes.

That’s where the politicians land, but Claire can’t believe it and won’t accept it. She’s recruited by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), a close associate of John Hammond (Richard Attenborough from Jurassic Park), to join his team of scientists who will rescue some of the dinosaurs and relocate them to another island. They’re especially interested in Blue, the lone velociraptor still on the island who was trained by Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), so Claire recruits him to join their expedition. Unfortunately, the intentions of some of their benefactors’ intentions might not be as noble as they seem.

The film is broken into two distinct halves. The first sees the team come together, arrive on the island, and struggle to survive the volcano eruption, which is a totally perplexing narrative decision. It makes for a lovely looking sequence, but it’s completely tension-free, considering we’re not even halfway through, and it’s inconceivable to lose a major human character in the carnage.

The film also makes the mistake that we care about individual dinosaurs and their personalities. That wasn’t a part of the original Jurassic Park formula for a reason: Dinosaurs are dinosaurs! They’re all threatening and majestic in their own right. It’s foolish for Bayona and his screenwriters (oh, hi, Colin Trevorrow!) to assume any dinosaur means more to the audience than any other. And as the film transitions to its second half, this becomes increasingly problematic.

It’s hard to say too much more about how stupid the film gets as it proceeds, but there’s a lonely little girl, some cartoonish villainy, and another very mean-spirited scene of human destruction. Jurassic World had a bad subplot about the military wanting to use dinosaurs as weapons of war, and as stupid as that was, it was at least a reason to behave recklessly. Fallen Kingdom has no such motivation. Things just happen. The plot needs them too.

The film also wastes Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. The former is robbed of all the charm that makes his Star-Lord a character worth spending time with (even when the film around him fails him). The latter’s character is actually less insulting than she was in Trevorrow’s film, but it’s a small upgrade over something that was wholly unacceptable previously.

I’m sure we’ll get another Jurassic movie in a few years. This one was far too big for Universal to let the proverbial volcano come and wipe away the series’ mistakes. But to be fair to that movie, it’ll be hard for it to be worse than this one.

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