Movie Review: Jurassic World — Fallen Kingdom
The DNA of the franchise may remain the same, but the species of blockbuster spawned by Steven Spielberg continues to evolve as dinosaurs move from villain to man’s best friend in Jurassic World, a tarry-eyed pitstop before the next extinction.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeff Goldblum, James Cromwell, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, Geraldine Chaplin, Toby Jones
Directed by: J.A. Bayona
Running time: 2 hrs 8 mins
By Katherine Monk
The DNA of Michael Crichton’s bestselling dinosaur thriller is still governing the function of the Jurassic franchise, but the generations are beginning to show.
With its original screen inception in 1993 under the direction of Steven Spielberg, who essentially coded the blockbuster genome with Jaws, Jurassic Park started off with a strong narrative map that worked as timeless, and timely, cautionary tale: A benevolent scientist looking to realize a childhood fantasy used genetic engineering and his personal fortune to turn the remote island of Isla Nublar into a theme park populated by dino-GMOs.
With its original screen inception in 1993 under the direction of Steven Spielberg, who essentially coded the blockbuster genome with Jaws, Jurassic Park started off with a strong narrative map that worked as timeless, and timely, cautionary tale…
We knew things would go wrong because that’s what happens when you fool with mother nature. Yet, even the idiom seems out of date. Mother nature has been serially abused for the past century, and we’re still fooling around with all her sacred bits.
The problem is this movie doesn’t really know what to say about it. When Jurassic Park was rebooted into Jurassic World in 2015 with the red hot Chris Pratt, the Frankenstein formula started to shift. The monsters were now developing deeper characters, and one velociraptor — typically the franchise’s stalwart villain — was turning into a dog-like pet named Blue.
The idea of a misguided macho man looking to tame dinosaurs for research purposes was believable. So was the notion of rebooting the old theme park. Yet, the moral compass of the premise started to fade: We were normalizing the tinkering.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom takes us one step further into the metaphysical forest. Isla Nublar’s volcano is active, and the whole island is about to disappear into the ocean. The dinosaurs left alive will all die, unless human beings band together to save them. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is now a lobbyist trying to prevent re-extinction. Owen (Pratt) is building a cabin in Colorado by hand. Of course he doesn’t want to help Claire go to Isla Nublar to rescue dinosaurs, but when he learns his old Blue is still alive, he agrees.
The men behind the mission are Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), a business man looking to create a secret nature reserve, and Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), a passionate advocate for animal rights who helped Dr. Hammond (Richard Attenborough) create the original beasts back in the day.
Writers Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed, Jurassic World) and Derek Connolly are brave enough to get into the grey zone, but they’re also trying to make a coherent action movie with huge special effects. Inevitably, the roar of a T-Rex followed by a million-dollar minute of destruction will drown out nuance.
…the roar of a T-Rex followed by a million-dollar minute of destruction will drown out nuance.
We expect that. So we need character to flesh it all out, and while Pratt and Howard both have their respective skill sets, they have no palpable chemistry. Owen seems to generate more intimacy with Blue, the computer-generated velociraptor, than he does with anyone else.
Director J.A. Bayona uses all kinds of dog-like sounds to make Blue feel like a sweet pet, so when she gets shot, we’re supposed to worry about her well-being. Yet, if raptors could go down with a single bullet from a handgun, that whole first movie would have looked a lot different.
First they were impervious, now they’re vulnerable. It’s frustrating when you change the rules in a movie like this because if we’re going to believe in the alternate universe where dinosaurs roam, you have to be consistent with the laws.
The team gets a freebie because of the genetic modifications clause. The raptors now have quills, so maybe their skin thinned, too. Also, we’ve got a new dinosaur created to be a weapon — and instead of little T-Rex hands, he’s got giant claws. But who wants to sit there arguing with the silly things when we’re supposed to be thinking of the impact of human actions on the planet.
Pull the bones of this story apart and the core dilemma of the Jurassic premise — to fool or not to fool mother nature — turns to dust. The heroes are now enablers. The monsters are now friends. The only consistent evil is the force of commerce, a T-Rex sized irony in a franchise that keeps replicating for the sole purpose of profit.
Pull the bones of this story apart and the core dilemma of the Jurassic premise — to fool or not to fool mother nature — turns to dust. The heroes are now enablers.
Jurassic World grossed more than $652 million worldwide and sits in the top five of all time. Fallen Kingdom is poised to kill the box office again. Yet, while it provides a decent two-hour distraction and lays the ground for the grand finale, it also feels like we’re lost in a bit of a loop — repeating history, and forgetting every lesson.
Main photo: Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt adrift on a sea of green screen. Credit: Giles Keyte, courtesy of Universal Pictures.
THE EX-PRESS, June 22, 2018