(The following is a spoiler-free review of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom)
Every once in a blue moon, I’m delighted to find a movie that has the courage and tenacity to upheave all preconceived notions of what a film should be in an effort to cement its legacy as a cinematic masterpiece. Such a film is bold, daring, and dazzlingly radiates in every single frame the care and passion that all of its creators have painstakingly poured into it. The characters are fully realized human beings, the plot is engaging and tells a story worth your time, and all the minute little pieces come together and form a breathtaking cinematic experience that can potentially change you fundamentally as a person.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is not that kind of movie. But it’s got DINOSAURS! HELL YEAH!
There isn’t much that I can say about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that hasn’t already been said of almost every summer blockbuster before it. This is very much a fluffy popcorn flick designed to make you part ways with that delicious green paper that you worked so hard to acquire. While I usually don’t have too much of a problem with this (my morals have always been questionable at best), I really only let a movie off the hook for this offense if I actually end up enjoying it.
And honestly? I didn’t really enjoy this one all that much.
Despite it making more money in its opening weekend than a real-life Jurassic Park would make over the course of a year ($148 million domestic, $715 million world-wide), I found this to be a pretty underwhelming entry into a franchise that has been careening downhill faster than Bryce Dallas Howard in heels. Well…quality-wise, at least. I guess financially, this is the golden age of Jurassic Park/World films.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Chris Pratt as much as the next guy. I could watch him watch someone else watch paint dry for hours and still be thoroughly entertained. But even he isn’t enough to make this movie all that interesting. And this is coming from a guy who grew up watching BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs and the original Jurassic Park films constantly. All you have to do to entertain me is put an over-sized lizard on screen and I am completely on board with whatever you’re doing.
So, what went wrong?
For starters, any character outside of our two main leads aren’t actual characters at all. They are archetypes. They are the things that you first conceptualize when you want to design a character, but it’s almost like the writers forgot to go back and flesh these characters out afterwards. We have the nerdy, cowardly sidekick. The spunky female sidekick. The slimy, greedy businessman who puts turning a profit ahead of all logic and reason. And it wouldn’t be Jurassic Park without the roughneck military guy who just treats the dinosaurs as trophies to be collected. These are not characters. These are one-off personality traits wrapped up into a bag of muscle and bones and given a name. There is absolutely no depth to any of these characters, and I just wanted to see them all devoured by a hungry T-rex because if they’re going to be talking sacks of meat, they might as well be talking sacks of meat that serve the purpose of giving a T-rex a full belly.
And boy do they do some stupid things. I might be dipping into light spoiler territory here, but would you ever consider it a good idea to just open the cage of a huge dinosaur? Would you do it twice in the same movie? Thrice? If a bad guy so much as looks at you the wrong way, would your first instinct be to open the cage of a biologically perfect killing machine to bail you out? Because I wouldn’t. I’d take my chances fighting the bloke with a gun over a raging whirlwind of claws and teeth any day. And on that note, the main conflict of the movie comes about because the bad guys are trying yet again to weaponize dinosaurs, because we already don’t live in a world chock full of much simpler ways to kill someone. I just don’t understand in what crazy universe a dinosaur is a better weapon than say, a drone strike. The entire foundation of the movie falls apart on that logic alone, but I was willing to overlook it just because it was so silly that I had no choice. I mean come on. The movie has a gun that you can point at someone to make a dinosaur attack them. It’s just like…why? Stop going for style points and just freaking shoot the guy with a normal bullet and save yourself the immense personal danger.
The plot itself is so recycled and predictable that I nailed every new character’s intentions and backstory almost immediately. Don’t believe me? Ask my girlfriend, who had the misfortune of being on the receiving end of all my predictions while we were still watching the movie. I had completely figured out the movie’s “shocking reveal” before it had even introduced characters and evidence vital to that plot point, and I audibly giggled an hour and a half later when a woman behind us gasped at the reveal like it had come completely out of left field. The only way it could have been more obviously foreshadowed is if Jeff Goldblum himself walked into our theater, paused the movie, and explained to us in great detail what was about to happen. I’m not trying to stroke my own ego here (see my Hereditary review if you want to see me be completely confused for the entirety of a movie’s run-time) but the point I’m trying to make is that everything in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is something that I’ve seen before. There was nothing here that was new or surprising.
There isn’t much to say about the acting besides everybody did a decent job with what they were given. It’s hard to show real range when your character is limited to one gimmick, but it was nice to see Bryce Dallas Howard’s “Claire” become a fully realized character after her much-maligned damsel-in-distress performance in the first film. She isn’t pitifully running around the jungle in heels here and is instead taking a lot of affirmative action and even kicking a little ass when the need arises. This is a completely different character from the one we saw in the first installment, so I suppose that means there’s hope for some of the other one-dimensional characters in the franchise. And by the way, if you were hoping for a riveting performance from Jeff Goldblum as the beloved Dr. Ian Malcolm, prepare to be disappointed. He has the opening and closing lines of the film, and that’s about it.
But let’s end this on a high note, shall we? The film looks absolutely gorgeous, and I daresay the dinosaurs look even better than ever. It feels like they returned to the franchise’s animatronic roots a little more in this entry, which I will always take over the lifeless CGI any day of the week. The cinematography especially deserves some accolades because there were a ton of creative shots and clever bits of camera work that you’ll recognize the instant you see the shots in question. The Isla Nublar volcanic eruption seen in the movie’s trailers is probably the best sequence of the movie and one of the shots towards the end of this scene will rebreak the hearts of all of us who grew up watching The Land Before Time. The film has some really emotional moments believe it or not, but they have nothing to do with the humans and everything to do with the dinosaurs.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom isn’t a great movie. It’s not a terrible movie by any means,
but it feels largely unnecessary in a world in which Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park already exist. These were movies that did what Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was trying to do, only they did it significantly better. Those movies had the gorgeous visuals, but they also had the substance to go along with them. If you just want to go into a theater, unplug yourself for a couple of hours, and watch some dinosaurs wreak some havoc on some truly terrible characters…you could honestly do worse than Fallen Kingdom. But for me, this movie was a bit too shallow and didn’t deliver where it counted. It was all roar and no bite.