What it's about: Claire Dearing has moved on from the failure of her Jurassic World theme park to a life trying to protect the last remaining dinosaurs. A once dormant volcano has become active on the island of Isla Nublar and competing interests are working to evacuate the majestic [and very valuable] creatures to safety. Hired by a wealthy stakeholder of John Hammond's original vision, Claire re-unites with Owen Grady to track down his specially trained Velociraptor Blue. Once on the island, however, they quickly realize that not everyone has the same intentions to protect the inhabitants. There is also a new breed of dinosaur that could pose a threat to everyone's safety.
I wasn't particularly enthused to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, not being a fan of its predecessor. I wasn't even planning on seeing it in the theater but with the holiday break, I had some free time and I caved. My expectations were not high despite J.A. Bayona, a filmmaker I respect, taking over the franchise. I'm not sure they were even met.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was surprisingly unfun. For being a huge production, the epitome of the summer blockbuster, I generally found it dull, bland, emotionally empty, with nothing in particular to latch on to. It might not be fair to put it on the same level as a Transformers film, as Fallen Kingdom has the ability to pare itself down for a coherent setpiece, but the franchises share incredible thin characters, massive narrative holes, a harried script with logic problems. I feel like I could nitpick Fallen Kingdom to death, so I'm going to try and resist that as much as possible, but bare with me if I revel a bit.
There is so much stupidity in the film's cold open scene: humans acting irrationally, technology that doesn't make any sense, dinosaurs used solely like a reverse deus ex machina, no indication of what is happening on a narrative level, and a hurried tone that doesn't make understanding any easier. And, honestly, this is one of the more distinct scenes of the film.
I can't get past the main plot line. In the span of just a few years, Claire [Bryce Dallas Howard] has gone from one of the most important figures in the disastrous opening of the Jurassic World theme park [what was her actual job anyway?] to a non-profit lobbyist to protect the dinosaurs as an endangered species. Let's think about this for a second. A woman responsible for dozens [maybe hundreds] of deaths and $800 million of litigation [as told by the movie] now talks with members of Congress about passing legislation to use taxpayer money to transport and care for the murder machines. Would any serious non-profit group want anything to do with her?
I'm pretty far left on most environmental issues but the questions of animal rights the movie tries to explore with total seriousness is a bit too much for me.
One character mentions John Hammond's dream of letting these magnificent creatures live in peace is a serious next-level retcon.
Mid-way through the movie there is a reveal of a new science fiction element that is a logical step for the Jurassic World franchise and could have some big implications. Unfortunately, it is completely botched by tip-toeing around the subject to death -- even when the reveal is fully confronted, the explaining characters don't even use the precise word, using euphemisms and strange expressions for some reason instead.
There is a major plot point around breaking into a secure underground laboratory only to later show that it is easily accessible by a dumbwaiter that we've seen a child character use to get from one part of the estate to another.
I was shocked by how little humor there was in Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom and the few laugh lines didn't work at all -- there wasn't anything above a few chuckles from my decently full matinee audience. A big spectacle like this absolutely needs some laughter to go hand-in-hand with the wonder and terror and thrills. This definitely came out severely unbalanced.
This is definitely one of Chris Pratt's least humorous turns, on the level with the problematic Passengers. Owen is such a bland tough guy Clint Eastwood wannabe. None of the actor's usually easy charisma comes through. As someone who didn't like him much in Infinity War, either [though he's better there], I'm starting to worry about Pratt.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ted Levine is excellent casting for the hammy hunter villain that has become a type well worn out in the Jurassic Park films. The character is involved in one of the most memorable moments of the film, but I still wish he'd been given more of the film to carry.
I'm wondering what J.A. Bayona really brought to this movie. There are a few sequences that dip into horror but nothing to the degree of The Orphanage -- obviously, a big Hollywood film wouldn't want to get that scary, but these scenes feel like a neutered version of its creator. The spectacle may not even be as great as The Impossible, which is a disturbingly bleak film but had infinitely more stakes.
It isn't really fair to hold this against Bayona, who undoubtedly has better work ahead. I can't see any filmmaker coming in to save this franchise, bring it back to its amazing beginnings. It might not be possible. It might be too big, too broad, too thin at this point. Someone is going to get a shot, though.