Director: J.A. Bayona
Writers: Colin Trevorrow & Derek Conolly
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeff Goldblum
Genre: Action / Blockbuster
Three years after the destruction of the Jurassic World theme park, Owen Grady (Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Dallas Howard) return to the island of Isla Nublar to embark on a mission to save some species of the dinosaurs from the imminent eruption of the island’s volcano and complete destruction of the island. However, in the process they uncover an even greater conspiracy regarding the surviving species that may threaten the entire planet.
“Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur?” – that is a question one character asks in the trailer (and I believe also in this film – though I cannot quite remember), and it is a pertinent question that also applies to the audience and it in some ways actually sums up the status of this franchise. Those of us of a certain age that saw Jurassic Park at the cinema do remember the unforgettable visual spectacle of that film and indeed do remember the first time we saw a dinosaur (well, many) on the big screen. However, once the visual spectacle is dealt with some kind of actual plot is required, and this has always been where the franchise has struggled, and the quality of the original trilogy dipped with each film as they got increasingly generic. Well, Jurassic World was essentially a remake of the first Jurassic Park, and as that was a success (as well as being a decent and very enjoyable blockbuster romp) sequels were inevitable and therefore also the same challenges as with the previous trilogy in terms of what the hell to do with the concept.
Films and the technology behind the special effects have come a long way since Jurassic Park, so there can be no reliance on the visual spectacle of dinosaurs with humans as we have had too many films with giant robots, gorillas or monsters anyway, so those creative minds behind this franchise have to tread carefully in terms of where to take it. These days a film that features giant CGI creatures has to either be dumb fun (and probably star Dwayne Johnson), have a fair amount of allegorical substance or have a low-key, character-driven plot. Well, as the trailers reveal, there is more than a strong whiff about The Lost World in the plot to Fallen Kingdom, and it gives me no pleasure to say that the result is a deeply cynical, lazy and often very boring film that has the script of a shoddy monster b-movie that relies way too heavily on seen-it-all-before clichés while never having any clear focus or goal.
This is all a shame, as director J.A Bayona has a very solid and diverse CV (any director would be proud to have The Orphanage and A Monster Calls on their filmography), but the script he is given to work with is painfully flat and deeply lacking in any clear focus. There are some very vague attempts at delivering a cautionary message about how we should all be careful with the technology we have developed as it could ultimately lead to our demise (mainly delivered by Jeff Goldblum in his two scenes), but this feels like it has been added in as a footnote in a very lazy and cynical attempt to add some substance into what is a very lacklustre plot.
What does not help Fallen Kingdom’s cause is its trailers; they reveal way too much, and it is certainly no spoiler to say that the (admittedly very well put together) sequence of the main characters and all the dinosaurs escaping as the volcano explodes happens in the relatively early stages of this film. This is the high point in a narrative that is after this increasingly lacking in genuine thrills, excitement or substance. It is also produces one of the few truly emotional moments of the film as we see a Brachiosaurus left stranded on the island as it helplessly roars in desperation, as the lonely figure of the confused and helpless gentle giant is increasingly consumed by island’s volcanic smoke most in the audience will struggle not to shed a tear.
After this while the dinosaurs are in transit and then at the Lockwood estate and we just get cliché after cliché in a plot that gets increasingly dumb as we get generic greedy bad guys (usually accompanied with suitably scenery chewing performances) and a painfully predictable plot that just feels like a computer produced tick list. There is only one potentially interesting plot strand which involves Lockwood’s young daughter, but this is underdeveloped, and her character is often there as a narrative convenience. The script has a tendency to increasingly rely on the whole ‘quiet, quiet, BANG!’ technique used by James Wan and the likes in modern ‘horror’ films as people being quiet as they try to hide from dinosaurs becomes an increasingly dull and uninvolving experience.
Basically, all involved treat the good honest film going public with utter contempt, as they seem to think that if they chuck in some preaching about humans being careful about technology, lazy clichés and lots of running and chasing the audience will fall for it, and these writers and producers will get away with their deep routed cynicism and almost offensive laziness.
Everyone seems to be on autopilot here; the usually reliable and charismatic Chris Pratt seems uninterested and is rarely given the witty one-liners that an actor like him usually thrives on. Meanwhile his relationship with Blue should form the emotional backbone of the film, but it is poorly written and just feels a liked a contrived convenience in terms of the film’s narrative. Meanwhile the likes of Toby Jones, Ted Levine and Rafe Spall effortlessly chew scenery in their two-dimensional and cliché-ridden roles as throwaway yuppies / mercenaries. Even the usually excellent composer Michael Giacchino seems to be autopilot with a very forgettable score.
As Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom clunks along with an increasingly boring and predictable plot lacking in any engagement it seems abundantly clear that all involved really do not know where to take the franchise as the plot developments are very poorly thought out and contain flaws a plenty. This is further emphasised by the film’s anti-climactic ending which not only has some very mixed and confused moral messages but promises that if there is to be a third instalment, then it is not one to look forward to. It may not quite be as cringe inducing as the “let’s kick some alien ass!” ending of Independence Day: Resurgence, but it is still just as cynical, lazy and disappointing.
Cynical and soulless; Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a lazily put together film devoid of any ideas, substance or genuine thrills and feels just like a dumb cliché-ridden b-movie, but without the fun.