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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Movie Review

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) movie poster Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Theatrical Release: June 22, 2018 / Running Time: 124 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: J.A. Bayona / Writers: Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly (screenplay); Michael Crichton (characters)

Cast: Chris Pratt (Owen Grady), Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire Dearing), Rafe Spall (Eli Mills), Justice Smith (Franklin Webb), Danielle Pineda (Zia Rodriguez), James Cromwell (Benjamin Lockwood), Toby Jones (Mr. Eversoll), Ted Levine (Ken Wheatley), Jeff Goldblum (Ian Malcolm), BD Wong (Dr. Henry Wu), Geraldine Chaplin (Iris), Isabella Sermon (Maisie Lockwood)

 

There are two important things to note right off the bat here. First, I consider the original Jurassic Park to be one of the greatest movies ever made.
Secondly, I maintain that my previous assertion is the principal reason that 2015's franchise-reviving Jurassic World was so wildly successful on a commercial basis. The combination of twenty-two years cementing Steven Spielberg's 1993 Michael Crichton adaptation as a film for the ages and fourteen years passing without a new entry to the line allowed World -- technically a sequel but essentially also a reboot -- to prosper like few recent movies have outside of Disney's lucrative Marvel and Lucasfilm universes.

Claiming the biggest opening weekend on record (though it has since been surpassed by two Star Wars episodes and Avengers: Infinity War), Jurassic World was not a great movie, but it was as fun and entertaining as it needed to be, more closely resembling the original Park than its two forgettable sequels. As the third highest-grossing film domestically and worldwide (since bumped to sixth and fifth), of course Jurassic World was going to yield a sequel and it arrives now, three years and a week after its predecessor.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is not great movie and it's also not particularly fun or entertaining by any standard. Since serving as director and one of four credited screenwriters on the last World, Colin Trevorrow has caught flak for making an atrocious movie (2017's The Book of Henry), getting fired from the helm of the ninth Star Wars episode, and failing to check his privilege as a white male filmmaker. This time around, he and Derek Connolly alone take screenplay credit, with the Planet of the Apes trilogy's Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver moving on and Spain's J.A. Bayona (The Impossible, A Monster Calls) filling the director's chair.

None of that may matter to the typical viewer, but it does not seem to benefit this sequel in any way. Neither the writing nor the directing we get here compares to exciting, powerful summer blockbusters like Park and the Apes movies. This is more on the order of a Rampage or Transformers.

Owen Grady (Chris PRatt), Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), and Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) hide from a hostile genetically engineered dinosaur in "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom."

The genetically engineered dinosaurs that have brought death and destruction to those simply wanting a fun, faintly educational theme park experience are now endangered in part by an active volcano. Some, like Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), are pushing to save these creatures, but the island where they reside is private property owned by a corporation. Nonetheless, Claire enlists her old friend the raptor whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to journey to the perilous ruins of Isla Nublar to try and spare these dinos from a return to extinction.

Funding Claire on this mission is the aging Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), John Hammond's old partner in cloning, and Eli (Rafe Spall), Lockwood's charismatic right hand man.

Not all is as it seems, but even if they wouldn't be considered spoilers, the specifics are not even worth going into, because Fallen Kingdom is threadbare narratively. You know how the second hour of Jurassic movies typically delve into action: Laura Dern limp-running, Jeff Goldblum's daughter doing gymnastics, those types of things? Well, Trevorrow and Connolly seem to think that's all that moviegoers care about, because they do virtually nothing to set any stakes or develop any characters. There's a lot of dinos threatening people and sometimes one another. It's really quite boring.
Bayona is not an action-seasoned filmmaker. Given his résumé, you might expect him to devote some energy to imbuing this with emotion. But Fallen Kingdom is entirely lacking in that department and really any department in which you hope it could compensate for that deficit.

There is little attempt to connect this to the original movie. Yes, Jeff Goldblum reprises his character Ian Malcolm in a single bookend scene that has been prominently featured in the marketing. Remember how much fun Goldblum was in the original and in last year's Thor: Ragnarok? Better think back to those because there's nothing like that here. BD Wong's geneticist Henry Wu, the previous film's unlikely one returning figure, is back and continues to be unrecognizable from his good-natured introduction.

Jeff Goldblum's chaotician Ian Malcolm appears in the film, but just barely.

There's a young girl who is more than meets the eye. There are two twenty-something quasi-comic relief side characters. There's a mercenary who might remind you of the dearly departed Muldoon. Geraldine Chaplin extends her Bayona streak by appearing in her fourth of his four films. Michael Giacchino returns as composer and gives a little more than the recycled motifs you would expect.

But really there is nothing to savor about this, a sequel whose primary reason for existence is to make inordinate amounts of money for Universal Studios and everyone else involved. Opening just one week after the admirable Incredibles 2, which arrived fourteen years after its predecessor, the lack of care and love is quite pronounced here. The last World was impeccably timed, and became the first huge summer blockbuster in years. This one just feels obligatory and likely to play far shorter to much more modest demand and worthier competition. The next Jurassic World movie is already scheduled for June 2021 and this would have to bomb in a spectacular way for that to get cancelled. But it's tough to think of another big movie in a once-lovable franchise that is as dumb and unappealing as this.

It's true that there is a surprisingly short distance between a masterpiece sci-fi adventure like the original and a straight-up B-movie, but Fallen Kingdom certainly makes that journey.

Related Reviews:
Jurassic World • Jurassic Park
Now in Theaters: Incredibles 2 • Avengers: Infinity War • Tag • Deadpool 2 • Solo: A Star Wars Story
Chris Pratt: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 • Passengers | Bryce Dallas Howard: Gold • The Help • Pete's Dragon (2016)
Jeff Goldblum: Independence Day: Resurgence • Thor: Ragnarok • Isle of Dogs
Kong: Skull Island • The Book of Henry • Safety Not Guaranteed • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Directed by J.A. Bayona: A Monster Calls • The Impossible

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Reviewed June 20, 2018.



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