There’s one thing that’s accurate in the marketing for the followup to 2015’s “Jurassic World”, it’s the subtitle of “Fallen Kingdom” as this entry hits a new low for the franchise. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
I have a great fondness for Dinosaurs, in fact, I even own one. I also have an unreasonable love for Jurassic Park. (Yes, all the movies, but just the first novel.) I can also appreciate how difficult it can be to conjure up new and exciting ways of putting people in prehistoric peril. But, even the critically panned “Jurassic Park III” had some moments of ingenuity. When the series was brought back to life in 2015, “Jurassic World” followed a similar template as “The Force Awakens.” While it may have followed a very similar template as the film that spawned it, it was still its own creation. It had a pleasant freshness to it, a modern energy. When “Fallen Kingdom” was announced I suffered the same conflicting emotions I feel with all of my favorite series: I want to see MORE of what I loved, but how can they tell a compelling story from where they left off? Apparently, all of the talented people involved with Jurassic World 2 had the same questions.
In a prime example of the “whole is not the sum of its parts”, the cast and crew who came together for this project are top-notch. Director J.A. Bayona previously helmed two early episodes of “Penny Dreadful“, the haunting Guillermo del Toro-produced “The Orphanage“, and the underappreciated “A Monster Calls” Writing credits were split between Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, who penned “Jurassic World” together, and each have other highly respected and creative films to their name. The cast is also stellar, reuniting “beefcake” Chris Pratt and red-hot ginger Bryce Dallas Howard, while introducing a few new characters: Rafe Spall plays a sleazy estate custodian, Eli Mills. Justice Smith is the token nerd/IT guy, Fraklin Webb (I see what you did there…) And Daniella Pineda plays the
lesbian (redacted) Dino-Veterinarian, Zia Rodriguez, even though she’s never seen an actual dinosaur in her life… which leads one to wonder what her education consisted of. There’s also a surprise appearance by James Cromwell in a role that never requires him to stand on his own two feet. By this point, every fan of the series is likely thinking, “Why hasn’t he mentioned Jeff Goldblum yet!? The rockstar mathematician Ian Malcolm is BACK and this critic hasn’t even mentioned him yet?” Unfortunately, my suspicions about the marketing campaign were confirmed. If you’ve watched the trailers, you’ve seen pretty much every line Jeff Goldblum stutters. With a grand total of screen time under 5minutes, like Cromwell, he never has to use his feet.
With all this amazing talent, how could this film go so wrong? In a word, “Money.” Fallen Kingdom is not a movie, it is a marketing product. If one were to guess, it was likely neutered at the producer’s level, because everyone below them is doing their very best. Each is visibly making the best with an absolutely dismal script that lacks any sense of reason or time! The script itself falls well below the writers’ previous works, simply stringing together random snippets of amazing visuals with a completely nonsensical story. The only movie that jumps to mind so readily is 2014’s “Godzilla” or to a lesser extent “Star Wars: Rogue One” Each of these films had absolutely beautiful moments, masterfully crafted shots, cobbled together with scripts that threatened to take numbers off my IQ. Like a horror or comedy flick that’s predicted to fail, all the very best moments have already been shown in the trailers. Must ado about Goldblum has been made, and yet, he only bookends the film with a bit of narration that is wholly unnecessary! The very last line of dialog in the movie is “Welcome to Jurassic World”, a line I suspect many people will hope to hear at the beginning of the movie, not at the end as a tagline for whatever the next entry in the franchise is.
Most films, especially in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre, require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, a state of mind I am happy to afford any reasonably entertaining movie. But a movie should never take that for granted, or worse yet, mock the intelligence of its fanbase. You can’t continue to state a Raptor can “smell you a mile away” while later trying to amp up tension with it being unable to smell its intended victims hiding meer feet away. And while it’s important to maintain a good pace in a +2-hour thriller, a story can’t completely ignore time. Why bring in a character that is -needed- meer hours before a literal-deadline? Then, doubling down, have a transport ship cross the Pacific in under 24 hours when it usually takes 6 to 7 days. The plot holes and absurd changes in behavior continue to mount, one upon another, until the closing moments of the film when you realize “Oh! That cool shot from the trailer is actually just a part of the ending montage…”