If one already were to think that the previous Jurassic World film was bad enough, somehow Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom makes said film feel even less lamentable in retrospect. With the predecessor having built itself on cynically cashing in on what were the most memorable moments from the original Jurassic Park film, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom seems to go a complete 180 on its predecessor and somehow managed to leave behind something that was even worse. I was hoping that I could at least doubt that something much worse could come forth given the fact that this was directed by J. A. Bayona, and somehow I found myself deceived the moment I had come out. The idea of a director like Bayona offering his own take on the Jurassic Park franchise was one that almost seemed too good to be true and to say the least, my suspicions were only proven right.
After the incident on the island that was home to Jurassic World, the dinosaurs are now in danger of going extinct once again – because a volcano on Isla Nublar that was once thought to have been dormant is now placing its own inhabitants in danger. The former park operations manager Claire Dearing now leads a movement in order to preserve the lives of these dinosaurs and now that she is being called to ensure the safety of a raptor who happens to be the last of her kind (Blue from the predecessor), she is aided with the help of Owen Grady – but it turns out that her mission may have been sounded too good to be true and comes forth at another price. From the sound of that, I was already left to thinking that after Jurassic World, people would have learned by the ways of John Hammond in the original film but somehow a second time didn’t prove itself to be enough to teach people that lesson of the errors of their own ways and what came forth repeats another problem that The Lost World: Jurassic Park had posed for its own predecessor. As a matter of fact, I was already thinking back about The Lost World because many plot beats only rang as being similar to said film.
Refreshing the memory of Jurassic World, you have one scene in which Bryce Dallas Howard’s character shows a sense of power over the dinosaurs now that they are putting the lives of other human beings in danger, but suddenly she’s written so differently because she’s now an activist who seeks to preserve the lives of these dinosaurs? What exactly caused this sudden change of heart, and better yet, why is it such a bad thing that dinosaurs that have at one point roamed the earth are now going to be going extinct once again? It seems so out of character with the Jurassic Park franchise because the films had previously established to us that bringing back dinosaurs to life for the purpose of capitalizing on the awe that the sight of a living fossil would inspire would only be putting the lives of other human beings in danger – and it’s something that I’m aware I’ve continuously been bringing up but that’s what annoys me most about why these films continue coming around, because it also seems so far removed from Crichton’s intention when telling the story of the failed operation of Jurassic Park. But I bring back this example with Bryce Dallas Howard to point out where everything goes wrong in terms of characterization because it already makes a clear case for the lack of consistency within the Jurassic Park series.
In moments that should feel like they would rack up more tension, predictably, characters would be escaping such dangerous circumstances with ease and often without a scratch on themselves but the fact everything seems so convenient is what eliminates any form of excitement from what more could this series show – since you never feel like these are people who are even in any danger, almost like a really bad disaster movie. But I’m amazed that this was directed by Bayona of all people for this very reason, because he was a director who has a great eye for horror as you would know from watching The Orphanage, and even trying to carry that influence in the film’s final sequences where we turn into a haunted house movie but with dinosaurs in place of the ghosts, it just feels preposterous because the scenario at hand never rings as being believable. Bayona tries his best to elevate that influence into the filmmaking but it never feels able to lift up the already awful writing – because you just know no matter the scope of the danger present, everyone will make it alive either way.
The characters haven’t exactly improved much either, for Bryce Dallas Howard still feels sidelined no matter her own efforts and only there for mere disposal and Chris Pratt still remains a cocky, charmless “tough guy” because that’s what the film wants us to believe out of him. New faces never feel like they have much to do either, because the villainous motivations still remain as confusing as they’ve always been with Rafe Spall still looking confused the whole time and the new characters brought along on the mission never feeling anything more than caricatures in the same way that Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins did as the child protagonists in the predecessor. Justice Smith gets the worst of this though because he feels like bad comic relief because his lines never extend beyond his fear of a T. Rex or potentially dying to the point that it becomes grating. Daniella Pida on the other hand just feels completely unmotivated with what little she has to do. Cromwell doesn’t have much to offer either as John Hammond’s former partner, and somehow he’s not even the biggest waste that this film ever had to leave behind because of course you have capitalistic villains that never seem to have much motivation other than their desire to earn more money than they already have and even that just feels like an overdone caricature.
The worst offender that Fallen Kingdom can provide, however, besides all the preposterous events that come in then and there – one of which even includes an incredibly ridiculous twist that would spoil a major plot point – would be the way in which it brings in Jeff Goldblum to remind me of everything that I hated most about Jurassic World once again. But alas, his presence seems like a more blatant insult to Crichton’s word, because he reprises the role of Ian Malcolm only to recite “Life finds a way,” because it was a line that had been made famous by the first movie, and then this movie continues to contradict the warning that said film had been leaving behind on the world in which it created. But besides completely wasting the presence of Jeff Goldblum, it’s just outright insulting to the original film’s intent if this is all that’s being made of the fact that he returns as Ian Malcolm. It shows the ugliest cynicism on Trevorrow and Connolly’s end because of how haphazardly it calls back to the first Jurassic Park movie, but also on the count that it shows how upon making this they had no care for what said film also sent off to audiences back when it came out.
I’m continuously bewildered by the fact that Jurassic Park was a film that needed to become a franchise because no matter how well-made its sequels may be, it feels completely hypocritical to the message that Crichton had wanted to send off. But if the first Jurassic World wasn’t proof enough of why the initial trilogy should have been left alone (not like it eve needed to be made into a trilogy anyway), I would at least hope Fallen Kingdom would further prove that exact point but of course we’ll be getting another sequel in a few years time. But not only was that a thought that stuck inside of my head when I watched Fallen Kingdom, I was even more baffled by just what it seemed it was trying to go for on behalf of the Jurassic Park series because it seems to break away so far from the predecessor characteristically while retaining everything about said film that never worked so well to begin with. It wasn’t something that I would have expected with Bayona coming in to fill in Trevorrow’s shoes as the director but noting that Trevorrow still remains attached a co-writer, somehow they manage to make what is already so wonderful about Bayona’s direction look awful. Gone is the magic that made you believe that dinosaurs roamed the earth once again, for as we continued milking the brand name, it only shows how reluctant we are to listen to Crichton’s warning. And the “dumb fun” excuse doesn’t work on me, I was only waiting for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom to end the moment the title card showed up. But perhaps that subtitle “Fallen Kingdom” best sums up the state of this franchise, for as Goldblum’s character once remarked from the first film, “that is one big pile of shit.”
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Universal.
Directed by J. A. Bayona
Screenplay by Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly, from characters by Michael Crichton
Produced by Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley, Belén Atienza
Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, B. D. Wong, Isabella Sermon, Geraldine Chaplin, Jeff Goldblum
Release Year: 2018
Running Time: 128 minutes