Time for another confession.
I’m just not a big fan of the JURASSIC PARK series. While I loved the original JURASSIC PARK (1993) when I first saw it at the theater upon its initial release and was blown away by its spectacular and genre-changing special effects, it’s one of those films that for me hasn’t aged all that well. I tend to like it less each time I see it. And while its two sequels were okay, I didn’t love them either.
That being said, I did have a fun time watching the Chris Pratt reboot JURASSIC WORLD (2015), and I generally liked that movie, but now that its sequel has arrived in the form of JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM (2018) I just wasn’t feeling the love. I didn’t really feel like seeing this one, as it had inferior sequel written all over it.
Sometimes these instincts are right. Other times they are wrong. In this case, they were right on the money.
Yup, JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM is just another inferior sequel. Sure, it has some nice moments, but they are few and far between. In fact, JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM is one of those movies that doesn’t get its story right until the final frame, wasting the audience’s time with a story that should have been cut after the first draft and rewritten to tell the tale which the end of the film unleashes.
In JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, the dinosaurs left behind on Jurassic World are about to become extinct again because a deadly volcano is about to erupt and destroy everything in its path. Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), dinosaur creator John Hammond’s former partner, wants to rescue the creatures and relocate as many of them as possible to a special sanctuary he has developed just for them. He hires Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) to help him, mostly because he wants her to reach out to Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) because he’s the only man alive who can get close enough to Blue, the last living Velociraptor.
Since this is a sequel, everyone quickly agrees to help out but there are sinister forces at work. Lockwood’s assistant Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) has plans of his own, and he’s given the aggressive soldier Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine) instructions to do whatever it takes to get the dinosaurs back, and these instructions do not include taking back any human survivors.
Which means that Claire and Owen and their team are on their own, and it’ s up to them to save the dinosaurs from the clutches of the evil Eli Mills.
As stories go, the one told in JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM just isn’t a very good one. It gets off to a slow start and things are rather dull early on as the plight of the dinosaurs and Claire Dearing’s concern for them just never really drew me in.
The screenplay by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow offers little in the way of new ideas nor does it succeed in doing much towards character development. These guys also wrote the screenplay to JURASSIC WORLD, the previous entry in the series, and I actually enjoyed that screenplay more.
The film does have one really good sequence, and it’s the highlight of the movie. It’s the escape from the doomed Jurassic World, as Claire and Owen and friends, and the dinosaurs, race for their lives to get off the island before it is decimated by lava. As movie sequences go, this one is very exciting. And the final image of the unfortunate Brontosaurus which doesn’t make it, is the one time in the entire movie that the story resonates emotionally. It’s also the film’s most cinematic moment.
Director J.A. Bayona does an okay job. He starts us off with a generally exciting opening sequence, but it’s nothing spectacular and certainly doesn’t give one the feeling that what is going to follow is going to be something special. On the other hand, the movie looks good throughout and the special effects are top-notch.
If you’re a fan of Chris Pratt, you won’t be disappointed, because he does his “Chris Pratt” thing throughout, and he’s generally entertaining, but on his own, he’s not enough to save this one.
Bryce Dallas Howard is okay as Claire Dearing, but compared to other recent movie heroines, she doesn’t do all that much, and she seems to need Pratt’s Owen to get her out of jams.
Daniella Pineda is enjoyable in a supporting role as Zia Rodriguez, a paleo-veterinarian, and as she says, “yes, that’s a thing.” She has a stronger personality than Claire, but she’s not in this one a whole lot. Justice Smith is fairly entertaining as Franklin Webb, the oftentimes frightened former park technician who for most of the film serves as its comic relief.
Rafi Spall is a fine actor, but he’s stuck playing a one note character, as the villainous Eli Mills. We’ve seen him before in films like PROMETHEUS (2012) and THE BIG SHORT (2015). Spall was particularly memorable in the decent low-budget horror movie THE RITUAL (2017).
Talented character actor Toby Jones shows up as a shady auctioneer, helping Mills sell off the captured dinosaurs in order to raise money to create a dinosaur super weapon. Ooooh!
Young Isabella Sermon looks cute and does “frightened” well as Maisie Lockwood, Benjamin Lockwood’s granddaughter, but the character is simply too similar to other children in movies like this to have any real impact. She is involved in an intriguing plot point, but it’s one that isn’t developed at all. It’s mentioned and that is that.
And then there’s Jeff Goldblum, making his triumphant return to the JURASSIC PARK series after being absent for the past couple of movies. Actually, it’s not triumphant at all. It’s basically a cameo, folks. Goldblum shows up for two brief scenes in order to deliver one speech, which if you’ve seen the film’s trailer, you’ve already seen. Very disappointing.
And like I said, this one should have told the story it ends with. See, after sitting through this dull tale of bad guys stealing dinosaurs, and good guys trying to save the dinosaurs from the bad guys, the dinosaurs are eventually released to the world, and Jeff Goldblum’s character finishes his big speech by saying humans and dinosaurs are going to need to learn how to live together, and we see some cool shots of dinosaurs existing in our world, like the shot in the trailer with the enormous sea creature ominously appearing in the surf beneath some surfers.
This has the makings of a really cool story, what life would be like with dinosaurs on the loose in the wild. But alas, we’ll have to wait until yet another sequel to see it, and that’s only if the powers that be decide to tell that story.
I enjoyed the previous film in the series, JURASSIC WORLD, because it was a lot fun. JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM really isn’t all that fun. It’s kind of a snooze.
As such, JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM is a largely forgettable movie. It might satisfy hardcore JURASSIC PARK fans, but for the rest of us it’s hardly worth the trip.
Visit a different park instead.
I think I only watch the franchise for the muppet/puppet dinosaurs anyway…Still, a shame…