MOVIE REVIEW: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM-- 2 STARS
Three summers ago, this critic declared Jurassic World to match all of the definitions of “spectacle,” from the positive connotations of “unusual, notable, or entertaining especially an eye-catching or dramatic public display” on down to the more questionable “an object of curiosity or contempt.” The Chris Pratt-led jungle playground reboot lacked most of the awe and wonder of the now quarter-century old Spielberg classic in favor of blockbuster-sized theme park thrills. Its sequel, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, continues the feral frolic only to go a little too far and throw smarts out the window next.
To say the 2015 film was smart is giving it too much credit. However, Jurassic World was a spirited jolt of generous and satisfying action. Colin Trevorrow’s movie wasn’t smart, per se. It was savvy. It “knew the room,” so to speak, on what would sell. Those billion-dollar cash cow returns emboldened Universal Pictures to stick with the roller coaster treatment. What my review called “big, loud, and dumb, but, hot damn, it sure is fun” is now bigger, louder, and dumber, as supported and spurred by tcomposer Michael Giacchino’s operatic and chanted musical score featuring the London Voices. All this noisy brawn muscles out a bit of the fun.
In the three years since the colossal tourist debacle, Isla Nublar has become a hotbed for underground magma as well as the animal rights debate. The island’s previously dormant volcano at its center is on the precipice of a major eruption that would eradicate the surviving dinosaur life on the island. Natural selection or an act of God (or a convenient plot device of peril, you decide) aims to shave the prefix from their colloquial label of “de-extinct” creatures. There are competing sensibilities about whether to spare the animals from this fate or let them perish. A familiar face and the smartest guy in any room, Dr. Ian Malcolm (an aperitif and digestif cameo from Jeff Goldblum) cites unchecked genetic power and manmade cataclysmic change that can no longer continue after it has already been a rampant mistake for 25 years.
On the grassroots political action group against that ideology with a treacly “do it for/what about the children” core message is the returning Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard and her scarlett bangs). When her non-profit’s lobbying comes up short, a benefactor with means emerges in the form of Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), John Hammond’s original partner for the cloning breakthroughs. He and his emissary Eli Mills (Rafe Spall of The Big Short) have developed an off-site natural sanctuary and need Dearing’s knowledge of InGen’s embedded tracking system for a catch-and-evacuate operation. The crown jewel specimen for retrieval is Blue, the sole-surviving pack leader velociraptor trained by Owen Grady (Chris Pratt and his manly henley shirt).
Guess who gets talked into joining the team? Pratt heroically (and preposterously) inflates both Owen’s pragmatic presence and constant luck to an indestructible action hero level. His winning charm remains easy to root for in this kind of summer smorgasbord. Other protein-based buffet options for this sizzler are the ever-looming Dr. Henry Wu (original cast member B.D. Wong), two from Claire’s team, paleo veterinarian Dr. Zia Rodriguez (Mr. Roosevelt’s Danielle Pineda) and out-of-place nerdy system analyst Franklin Webb (Justice Smith of Paper Towns), and two of Mills’ people, hired mercenary Ken Wheatley and hosting businessman Gunnar Eversol (professional movie villain Ted Levine and Toby Jones). Also, it would not be a Jurassic movie without this franchise’s traditional casting and narrative faux pas, an unnecessary and screentime-stealing kid in the form of Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie (newcomer Isabella Sermon).
Bounding through a volcanic eruption, trafficking dangerous animals to the mainland, and exploiting them for money and scientific gains, what could possibly go wrong? The answer is predictably plenty. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s creative conundrums were scripted by Trevorrow and his writing partner Derek Connolly (Monster Trucks and Kong: Skull Island) and directed this time by A Monster Calls helmer J.A. Bayona. Blaming the aforementioned studio urge for volume pushing out brains in all places, these three talented creators are better than this creature-feature that devolves into a haunted house-style finish. The hodgepodge of improbabilities and unintentionally laughable moments chalk up more than a few farcical life lessons.
LESSON #1: AVOID ALL THINGS ABOUT AN ACTIVE VOLCANO — More people in this movie need to take Ian Malcolm’s Nope-Meme-level attitude and leave that island alone. Though quite evident on how the makers of this film never researched higher than a fifth grade science textbook accurately, the spewing lava and scorching pyroclastic flows are no joke, which makes for a thrilling first act sequence.
LESSON #2: DUMBWAITERS ARE AWESOME HOUSEHOLD FEATURES FOR KIDS AND BED SHEETS ARE INEFFECTIVE HIDING PLACES — What a way for an ultra-resourceful (and overused) kid to get around! Yet, when the time for a desperate last stand arrives pick better defensive stealth positions. Gosh, even toddlers know that one (and many other eye-rolling errors in movie).
LESSON #3: WHY DOES IT ALWAYS HAVE TO BE ABOUT MONEY? — This is where the lack of smarts really shows behind-the-scenes. The motives of most every on-screen villain centers on eyeballing dollar signs and zeros. This is a Jurassic Park ancestor. Surely someone could have hashed out a screenplay pitch where the opposition was headier and not hellbent on this petty trope. .
LESSON #4: SOME PEOPLE NEVER LEARN — Go further than Lesson #3. Nature can’t be contained. As unfortunately anticipated, only the protagonists know this doctrine while the antagonists keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Grab another incisive Ian Malcolm dismissal to many poor choices.
Returning to the smirking positives, there is still fun to be had in this sequel. Semi-suspenseful set pieces are engineered by nimble stunt work from veteran coordinator Ray Inch and impeccable special effects from Industrial Light and Magic that spared no expense (had to say it). The gaudy kills lead to an increased body count of human and dinosaur bones at the bottom of the takeout chicken bucket this movie aptly suits. Just as before three years ago, we wish and want those sprinkles of wonderment that were missing from Jurassic World. Most of the manufactured feels in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom do not register strongly. Those that prefer the profound with their prehistoric entertainment will keep adding to their nostalgic disappointment. All the same, the pitfalls and punches will work enough for feverish unplugged fans who liked and now seek out the loosey-goosey sensations and spectacle.