“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (2018)

Action

3-stars

Running Time: 128 minutes

Written by: Colin Trevorrow & Derek Connolly

Directed by: J. A. Bayona

Featuring:  Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, B. D. Wong, Jeff Goldblum , Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, Isabella Sermon, and Geraldine Chaplin

Senator Sherwood: “Do these animals deserve the same protection given to other species? Or should they just be left to die?”

Ian Malcolm: “These creatures were here before us. And if we’re not careful… they’re going to be here after. Life cannot be contained. Life breaks free. Life… finds a way.”

I was not really looking forward to “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (2018) as I was not sure what was left in this franchise that would make a compelling story that had not been told before, or that could actually be interesting when there are many story restrictions that exist that make this a ‘Jurassic’ story. I mean even the previous movie, “Jurassic World” (2015), was just a souped up re-tread of “Jurassic Park” (1993) with the added plot development of a gene spliced super dinosaur in the indominus rex which really added very little to the overall plot, just an artificial (both uses) way of attempting to introduce more peril. What Universal Studios as well as much of the public did not see coming was an opening weekend at the US Box office that not only trumped expectations but set a then opening weekend record of US$208 million which meant there would be more sequels to follow. It also solidified Chris Pratt as an A list star as well as introducing writer/director Colin Trevorrow to the big leagues although his own star has fallen dramatically since then, making a panned movie as well as being fired from the ‘Star Wars’ franchise. The question is does this new movie head in some actual new directions or is it like its predecessor just a mix up of previous ideas and presented as something new and original? The bad news is like many franchises based on one idea it is more of the latter than the former.

There is no doubt that much of the plot of “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” has been given away in the trailers that have been released with almost every major scene appearing already but with a promise of a more macro story that would see the dinosaurs leaving their home to be brought to the mainland. What we end up receiving even with all the hoopla as well as the added bells and whistles is a more micro plot that takes pieces from “Jurassic World: The Lost World” (1997) as well as elements from the previous movie, “Jurassic World”, all dressed up as something new with a pair of leads in Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard who share no chemistry whatsoever. Now don’t confuse their own talent with chemistry as the two are mutually exclusive, they are both fine actors if not a little one note, but together as a couple, I am simply not buying it. We also get in the very end an element of blockbusters that I thought may have been played out, that is the promise of a sequel that links to this movie which to me is a cheap trick, one that seems to almost negate anything gone before within the confines of this movie, as well as pointless plots, which they are if this was where we were going to end up anyway.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is directed by J.A. Bayona a Spanish born director whose last big screen effort was the wonderful “A Monster Calls” (2016) a film that delivered on its promise as a child’s story that takes place in the imagination, so his choosing this movie as a follow up had me excited from the beginning. Bayona is a true visualist who does wonders here with some exciting touches not seen before in a ‘Jurassic’ movie, there are certain scenes people are talking about already which will stay in the memory far longer than the actual plot. That is the problem Bayona has, he is operating at another level far above this mediocre and pedestrian script that offers nothing new in favour of plot falling short of being a daring leap into the future. In fact Bayona is such an assured director one could almost forgive the paper thin plot as the way he uses tension as well as the use of the dinosaurs at times is almost Hitchcockian, this is how a dinosaur movie should be directed. Of course he uses manipulation as well as anthropomorphising the dinos to such an extent that they at times are more sympathetic than the humans, but it is their movie so that is a forgivable offense.

The movie is set three years after the destruction of the Jurassic World theme park, Owen Grady and Claire Dearing return to the island of Isla Nublar to save the remaining dinosaurs from a volcano that’s about to erupt. They soon encounter terrifying new breeds of gigantic dinosaurs, while uncovering a conspiracy that threatens the entire planet. This plot is best left here as the viewer should have some kind of surprise going into the movie as there are some minor revelations that could be important to a potential viewer.

As with all the ‘Jurassic’ movies there is no shortage of stars and character actors who appear in these movies, this one is no different. Returning from the previous instalment are Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard who have both appeared in Summer Blockbusters before so this is not new to them, however as I have said I was surprised by how little actual chemistry they have, also to me Pratt was just showing up here doing his thing, not very convincingly and heading off. For all his charisma and self deprecating humour he is capable of I found him flat as well as a little boring, maybe he thought letting the dinosaurs and others drive the personality of the plot was a way to go, for me it did not work. Howard on the other hand seemed to be doing her best even though I was not sure why she was present, she had little to do, apparently they needed her handprint as well as her two assistants but the reasoning was not that clear as were the motivations for her character – there is even an offhand remark on the island when things go wrong that they got the dinosaurs without them or her. The rest of the cast is made up of great character actors in Rafe Spall, B.D. Wong, Jeff Goldblum, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine and Geraldine Chaplin all criminally underused as well as making illogical as well as stupid character decisions that defy what real people would do. In fact their actual decisions as well as lack of decisions are the things that drive this plot which is a narrative shortcut that is a direct result of lazy writing. The final actor and new arrival to acting which shows up is Isabella Sermon as a maguffin of sorts who seems to be the child in jeopardy that all ‘Jurassic’ movies seem in need of. She does her best with a character that is supposed to have some narrative consequence but like most of the movie is not really fleshed out so comes across as an afterthought.

I would have loved to really like this movie but there is so much that within the script makes little sense or is just cribbed from previous movies I could not help but think of all the lost opportunity that was squandered either for a speedy production or to save for the third movie in the now second trilogy of movies. Either way this to me is unforgiveable as it short-changes the audience on something that could have been special. Now because I do care about spoilers I will not go into specifics but I will say that when watching a movie like this what I really do not want to see are paper thin characters that exist for no other reason than to show up to fix a plot problem then completely disappear when they are no longer required much like Claire’s assistants do just randomly which was confusing. I also do not want to see an entire story line that is ripped off from the previous movie, I get it I really do, humans can cross breed dinosaurs. The increasing need to turn this ‘Jurassic’ franchise into some kind of ‘How to train your dinosaur’, and not even being able to get that correct seems like a misstep with the now introduced and ongoing character of the raptor ‘Blue’. Introducing characters whose main purpose is to either die because they are bad, die because they are good or die because they are stupid – have we not had enough of these people from the first, second, third and fourth movies? Finally having the temerity to retcon the entire franchise as to introduce some partner that Hammond had who we have not heard of once but to be introduced to the series like we have known who he is all along, then to kill him off for no reason but for the fact that he could not reach a telephone from his bed. This is a movie that may not have gotten out of the first act if someone could have made a phone call, to have someone who is elderly represented as not having the ability to make a call from his bed is not only insulting to an audience but to the elderly. There are so many more issues but if I spoke to them here it would far to many spoilers.

As with all the ‘Jurassic’ movies the special effects are excellent, they have to be when measured against themselves as well as other blockbusters. All the dinosaurs look incredible with possibly an overreliance on CGI, but there are some great animatronics with an especially good scene with Pratt and Howard in a cage with a T-Rex that was very funny and a highlight, some of this is seen in the trailers. For me personally there is no better special effect than seeing the T-Rex in all its glory, taking up the entire screen either attacking something, eating something or just roaring, making sure you remember who he is, as well as how powerful he is as well. That is why it is boring to see an overreliance on the man made dinosaurs which look made up as well as artificial both on the screen as well as in a design sense, so much so that they take me out of the movie and are an obvious way to attempt to top the T-Rex as well as possibly the greatest addition to dinosaur lore from the first film, the Velociraptor. There was a good reason Michael Crichton chose them as a protagonost and why Spielberg kept them around, they are truly original scary creatures who take hold in the imagination like no other cinematic creation, they were real and deadly, we all recognize that. There is not need to create a hodgepodge of new dinosaurs as the orginals should be enough as well as driving an original story not some some kind of Frankenflm.

It may sound like I am not recommending this movie, on the contrary the ‘Jurassic’ movies still hold a place in my heart, its not because of the actors or the plots, it is because of the dinosaurs as well as the people who actually love them in the movies who strive to protect them or just want to be around them. These movies are still compelling because they do capture the imagination as to what it would have been like to walk with dinosaurs, they inhabit our imagination like no other extinct creature because they dominated the earth like no other creature, we have proof they existed but are now gone. There is a reason what we are obsessed with these creatures and have been since the first fossils were discovered as well as why they will live on far longer than they should have. That is why all of the ‘Jurassic’ movies have been so successful and why after almost thirty years we still pay money to see them, this one is no different.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is out now only in cinemas.

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