Stupidity…uh…finds a way
I didn’t think much of Jurassic World when it graced our presence three years ago. While there was some decent set pieces to it, I found the film to be tonally all over the place, wildly inconsistent, and just a plain mess of ideas that on some initial draft had a kernel of a decent story. So hopes weren’t exactly high for me that the director and writer of the last film, Colin Trevorrow (aka the man responsible for The Book of Henry), also composed the screenplay for the dinosaur sequel, Fallen Kingdom. Nonetheless, as I have done countless times before, I decided to give this new film a chance to prove itself despite my reservations about Trevorrow and the fact that I have never liked a Jurassic Park film outside of the first. And hey, Trevorrow wasn’t directing this installment and instead gave the reins over to J.A. Barona, he of A Monster Calls fame. So really…how bad could it be?
Alright, so the “initial” plot of this film concerns the fact that Jurassic World has been abandoned for three years following the disastrous events of the last movie on account of the park owners settling all lawsuits for somewhere close to $800 million. Nonetheless, nefarious people have wanted to exploit dinosaurs to be weaponized (since this worked sooooo well for Weyland-Yutani), and people still have an interest in seeing these dinosaurs safe. Of course, this is slightly problematic on account that Isla Nubar where Jurassic World resided has a now active volcano ready to blow at any moment and wipe out the dinosaurs once more.
Enter Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the former operations manager of Jurassic World now turned dinosaur-rights activist, trying to get the cloned creatures off the island before they become re-extinct. She catches the ear of Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who was the former partner of John Hammond that developed the cloning technology which brought the dinosaurs back to life, who wants to save his creations and put them in a sanctuary. But Lockwood’s right-hand man Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) wants to save the last elusive velicoraptor alive: “Blue,” the same raptor that was trained extensively in the last movie by Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). So the two race off to Isla Nubar with some nerdy scientists (Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda) to rescue Blue in the nick of time. But Mills has some nefarious plans bubbling just under the surface of this supposed humanitarian mission.
On paper, this isn’t a bad setup at all for a Jurassic Park film. And true to the film’s promotional tag line, “The Park is Gone,” this sequel makes good on that promise by obliterating it from the map by the end of the first act. In the end, it’s a solid hook to get you invested and it makes you wildly wonder where the movie could possibly go after this. Well bad news kiddos, the film goes into a complete insanity from this point forward. And the reasons for this ludicrousness begin and end with the script.
Now before I tear this ending into shreds (with appropriate spoiler warning), let me first pay the film a few compliments. For instance, I liked how the movie re-characterized Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard’s personas into something more likable and more relatable. Howard is no longer the focused businesswoman with no time for a family and runs through the jungle in high heels, but is now a more practical activist trying to correct the mistakes she made in the past (for those keeping score: she was the person responsible for commissioning the Indominous Rex that wiped out Jurassic World in the first place). Furthermore, Chris Pratt’s character isn’t a chauvinistic Mary Sue who’s great at everything, but more of a rugged every man who formed a powerful bond with an animal he trained (very similar to what was done with the Rock’s character in Rampage (2018)), and doesn’t talk down to others anymore but simply makes timely jokes to lighten the mood.
On top of that significant change, the direction has also been bumped up as well in terms of quality. Barona is much more adept at wrangling down larger-than-life CGI than Trevorrow was, so action set pieces do feel more exciting as well. And Barona delivers one genuinely heart-tugging moment in the middle of all this chaos that affected many a movie-goer online, a compliment found even among this film’s harshest critics. And it seemed to me he was able to reign in Trevorrow’s horrid instincts in the screenplay to become “meta” and criticize the concept of a sequel to Jurassic Park and instead focused on making the protagonists likable and the antagonists hateful enough for you to know who to root for by the end of the movie. But it’s likely Barona wasn’t able to change much of the actual plot which unfortunately threatened the doom all the good work he had done.
Look…this is not the worst film in the world. I’m an expert in watching awful films, and this sequel doesn’t come close to some of the worst I’ve seen, hell it won’t even rank among the bad I’ve seen in 2018 alone. But this movie has major problems with it that slowly eroded my patience with it. Which is especially galling as the first act had me hooked and the movie even featured some pretty fun and impressive set pieces. But the final act is such a mush of ideas that I can’t help but talk about them at length and in critical detail. So let’s get the actual review out of the way first and dive headfirst into extravaganza. Ready? My review for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a high…
Now, jump past the picture below to go into full blown spoilers.
So after the park is gone, we get introduced into about half a dozen sci-fi subplots that the movie tosses with the reckless abandon of a toddler throwing his toys out of his drawer. We get the aforementioned militarized dinosaurs, we get to dabble into some mad scientist territory of yet another mutated dino, then the movie clumsily throws in a a subplot about human cloning with this young girl named Maisie (Isabella Sermon) running around a mansion, an auction gets underway with the dinosaurs “rescued” from Isla Nubar to a bunch of Russian mobsters and pharmaceutical giants, all before capping off with a chase from a rampaging monster.
The problem with all of this is that none of it fits with what you were watching in Jurassic World previously. One of these separate subplots could have made a fine ending to Fallen World, but cramming in a mess of these ideas leads to a severely uneven production that varies wildly in terms of quality. While I see why these elements were “necessary” for purposes of the ending they were going for, more than half of them could have been scrapped entirely and you would not have even noticed. Hell, you might enjoy the movie a hell of a lot more had the film popped some Ritalin and developed one of these further to land on a more emotionally and satisfying ending.
Speaking of which, the final minutes of this film almost made me turn against whatever positives I found here and would have indeed branded this film with a fierce SOME OL’ BULLSHIT had I not sat down and wrote out my thoughts of the movie as a whole. See, many of the most terrible things that happen in this movie occur because some of the characters are flat out idiots (parading a highly unstable and dangerous creatures before salivating mobsters, opening the cage of said unstable creature because a character wanted to claim a tooth from it to complete his collection, and outright murdering the only person who could have saved this whole debacle for increasingly idiotic reasons). But then the protagonists make the even more moronic decision to save all of the dinosaurs from a toxic gas leak and unleash them upon the continental United States. That would be enough but then this also leads Jeff Goldblum (in a frankly wasted cameo) to close the film off with “Welcome to Jurassic World.” My question to the filmmakers is now: why the hell didn’t you make THAT your sequel rather than this conga line of stupidity? I honestly had flashbacks to Independence Day: Resurgence as it too closed off with a stinger for a much different and possibly better sequel than what we were presented with. It frustrates me to no end when I see such solid potential wasted, which explains why I went so low as a RENTAL for a rating on this.
The film can thank its lucky stars for its strong director, but now that I know Trevorrow is returning for the next movie…my faith in Jurassic Park as a franchise is all but extinct.
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