Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Directed by J.A. Bayona

Screen Shot 2018-06-25 at 3.30.35 PM.png

Alright, so Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is fine, right?  Or maybe it’s awful, I’m not sure.  I do know what I consider to be wrong with the movie (there’s a lot), but I’m not clear on whether any of it matters.  Your relationship with a movie is as much about what you put in as what the movie gives you.  If you buy into this movie, then you’ll enjoy it much more than someone who scoffs at the notion of any kind of sequel right off the bat.

Jurassic World has a hard time getting into its story because there is no plausible sequel to the last film.  What we’re forced to deal with are contrived scenarios, premises and characters, just so we can find ourselves in a situation like with any of the other Jurassic Park movies.  Once the story gets going, however, I quite enjoyed it.

The characters aren’t great, and neither is the story, but it’s pulpy enough to be entertaining.  If you’re looking for the next Jurassic Park, this isn’t it, but then again neither were The Lost World: Jurassic ParkJurassic Park III, or Jurassic World for that matter.  By now the franchise has become something much different than the original, even if there are some attempts to recapture what made the 1993 Spielberg film so much fun.

This is a long way of saying that I’m willing to overlook many of this movie’s problems, though the first 15 minutes certainly made that difficult to do.  This story about modern day dinosaurs strains believability the most when it introduces us to the characters from the last movie.  Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) runs some sort of pro-dinosaur start up while Owen (Chris Pratt) constructs a home in a beautiful middle of nowhere.  But where these characters are doesn’t matter, because within a couple of conversations they are on a plane to Isla Nublar where all the remaining dinosaurs roam free.

The problem posed by the movie is this: the volcano on Isla Nublar is soon to erupt, and it will surely kill all dinosaur life forms, making them extinct all over again.  Claire is desperate to get funding to save these creatures, but no one will help her… until Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) shows up to make her dreams come true.  He has Claire recruit Owen so that together they can go back to the island to save the dinosaurs, including Owen’s beloved raptor, Blue.

But why would they risk their lives (again) to go back there?  This is the thing I have the most trouble buying into.  We have no real attachment to the dinosaurs, but the movie does an adequate (if cheap) job making us care for the dinosaurs by depicting one of the saddest shots I have ever seen, at least without much context.  It’s a moment that happens at the end of act 1, as the volcano erupts and our heroes are on a ship off the mainland.

But hey it works, even if it kind of pisses you off while you’re watching.  Your response might be to shed a tear and say “f*ck you” to the movie.

The rest of the movie takes place in two locations, a large ship controlled by the bad guys (there are bad guys) and a large Northern California mansion somewhere deep in the forest.

See, Eli lied to Claire.  He wanted her and Owen to lead them to Blue and the others but only so they could sell them to the highest bidder as weapons of the future.  If Jurassic World‘s story was more or less the same as Jurassic ParkFallen Kingdom has the same things to say as The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

In that 1997 film, Ian Malcolm and his team were stuck on an island with poachers who similarly tried to capture all the dinosaurs and bring them back to the mainland.  And that’s what’s happening here!  It’s the same story except that the characters leave the island earlier in the story than they did in The Lost World.

Anyways, the dinosaurs are meant to be admired in these films.  It’s always the humans who screw up, often due to greed, and here they are particularly greedy.

So our heroes must save the dinosaurs and stop the world’s fastest auction.  Within this absurdity (I mean they just received the dinosaurs and were immediately ready for auction.  Their event planner must work well on a deadline) there is some fun.  The dinosaur designs are impressive and creepy in a new way (with spindly limbs, like that of a withered skeleton), but the characters are formulaic, the tension never feels fully wrung out, and the people you expect to die while the others you expect to live certainly do.

So everything follows exactly as you’d predict, and that does end up being a little disappointing.  The characters who die all deserve to, and while there is a certain charm to just how malicious they are (meaning they earn their respective deaths), there is no real character development, and despite the supposed life/death stakes, there never seems to be much at risk.

So why couldn’t this be something more?  I never thought it would be, but it could be, right?

This being a sequel you’d think the audience would have at least some connection to Claire and Owen, but I certainly felt none.  All I remember is that they got together in the end of Jurassic World but now they’re on their own.  Okay.  And she is a dinosaur activist, but that introduction felt like a severe leap in logic from where she ended the previous movie.  Owen building a house in the middle of nowhere is nice enough, but it’s a moment stolen from a Wrangler jeans commercial or something.  There is no substance there.

It’s all fine, but these kinds of movies are made so often that you’d think the studio (or someone) would want to have some more fun with this kind of material.

Up Next: The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959), Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), Code Unknown (2000)

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