Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) – Review

Do you remember Jurassic Park founder John Hammond having a partner? If you don’t you shouldn’t feel too bad, as he didn’t have one up until this fifth entry of the franchise. This is because director J.A. Bayona, along with screenwriters Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, seemingly have no interest in franchise continuity, and have also made it abundantly clear that their sole interest is in getting dinosaurs off the island so that they can terrorize the world — how this comes to pass is definitely not important to them.

With Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom we don’t so much as get another sequel, but something more akin to a placeholder — an installment simply there to fill in the gaps between Jurassic World and the inevitable Jurassic World 3. Basically the whole movie is an airless filler, with everything presented on-screen as just stuff to set up the next movie — a movie that the filmmakers seem more interested in making than the one we are watching today — and so we are all left wondering…

“What was the whole point of it all?”

Taking place three years after the events of Jurassic World, we learn that Isla Nublar’s volcano is about to erupt – which would once again make dinosaurs extinct – and former park manager Clair Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), now working for a Dinosaur Protection Group she founded, is striving to save the noble beasts. We have a nice, if somewhat pointless and very short cameo of Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) in front of Congress where he prattles on with his old rhetoric about how dinosaurs should no longer exist, and that letting the volcano wipe them out may not be such a bad thing. With the many deaths at the claws and teeth of the dinosaurs – especially in the last film – one can’t easily come up with a good rebuttal to Malcolm’s argument, but this franchise has never been short of insanely stupid people doing completely moronic things, so we have Claire leading the charge to save the dinos.

She at least trades in her heels for something more sensible.

Claire is hired by John Hammond’s old partner, billionaire Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) to return to Isla Nublar and help rescue the dinosaurs by transporting them to a remote island where they would be safe from the prying eyes of mankind – they need her biometric handprint to access the islands dinosaur tracking system – and they also want her to convince Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to join the expedition because they need his expertise with the raptors to capture his old dino pal Blue.

Continuity Note: This film seems to have forgotten Jurassic Park: Lost World exists because in that movie we were introduced to Isla Sorna – also known as Site B – which was the “factory floor” to Jurassic Park, and the last time we saw that island, it was still populated with dinosaurs. In fact, the dinosaurs on Isla Nublar were originally shipped from Isla Sorna, so what is the problem with just shipping them back?

In Jurassic Park: Lost World, we had Ian Malcom not wanting to go back to the park – a sane and rational standpoint – but when he found out his girlfriend was already there, he had to strap on his big boy pants and ride to the rescue. Now, in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Owen does not want to return to the park – once again, a feeling anyone could understand – but when ex-girlfriend Claire shows up to convince him to take the job, he caves – after a very weak first refusal – and thus, we get the first of many repeated plot points and call-backs to previous entries in the series. This film is so loaded with nods, winks and blatant call-backs to the first movie, that the end result is a film that simply has no identity of its own.

Cue stirring film score.

The one element this film does ratchet up is the villain quotient. Now, there have been human antagonists in the previous entries – in the first movie we had greedy Dennis Nedry, and in the second Hammond’s idiot nephew – but those characters were always just tertiary to the threat of rampaging dinosaurs. It wasn’t until Jurassic World that we got true villains. In this entry, ailing Benjamin Lockwood may want to preserve the dinosaurs – much as Hammond did in Jurassic Park: Lost World – but unbeknownst to him, his aide Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), an evil capitalist who has teamed up with mad scientist Dr. Wu (BD Wong), plans on bringing the dinosaurs back to America so he can sell them at auction – to other evil capitalists – and use that seed money to create weaponized dinosaurs. Is it just me, or does the plot of this film sound like something you could have come up with playing Mad Libs? Yet those two baddies aren’t enough villains for a film like Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom, so we also have mercenary Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine) – who, if he had a moustache, would be in a constant state of twirling. Wheatley tries to kill our heroes by leaving them behind on an exploding island, and aside from being a duplicitous, murderous asshat, he also has the strange hobby of pulling teeth out of live dinosaurs.

Guess how his story arc ends?

The film’s first act brings us back to the island – where our heroes somehow miraculously survive a volcanic eruption amongst stampeding dinosaurs – but it is in the second act that the film takes quite the tonal shift from previous entries. Instead of our heroes being stalked by a variety of dinosaurs through lush tropical jungle, we now find Claire and Owen running down the darkened hallways of a gothic mansion. It’s these scenes that really set the film apart from its predecessors – director J.A. Bayona is clearly a master of shadowy composition – and it is here where the film becomes a true monster movie.

Wait, I know what you are all thinking, “Aren’t all the Jurassic Park movies basically monster movies?” True, sort of, but the first few films in the Jurassic Park franchise were basically “man against nature” films – even if the particular nature on hand was genetically grown dinosaurs – and so not technically horror films. But, in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, we are introduced to Dr. Wu’s latest creation, an even more lethal combination of dinosaurs trained to kill on command, a creature that prowls the mansion’s hallways like something out of one’s worst nightmares.

“Oh, but, grandmother, what terribly big claws you have.”

In Jurassic World, director/writer Colin Trevorrow introduced the concept of weaponized dinosaurs – we briefly saw them in combat against the genetically created Indominus Rex – but how exactly prehistoric creatures would function as military assets is never made clear. In this movie, we get some half-assed explanation as to how animals in the past have been used as weapons of war, i.e. horses, elephants and even plague rats, but the filmmakers kind of leave out the fact that technology has advanced, so we no longer need to use such animals in war. Yet in this film, mad scientist Dr. Wu creates a new hybrid dinosaur called the Indorapter, and for some reason it is trained to attack laser-designated targets. How does this make it an effective weapon?

  This thing isn’t even bullet proof.

Question: What is the point of the laser targeting system for the Indorapter? Laser designators provide targeting for laser-guided bombs, missiles, or precision artillery munitions, so the idea of using this system for a dinosaur to kill one person makes no sense. If the laser site on your rifle is hitting the person you want dead, why not just pull the fucking trigger, what does a charging dino add to the equation?

If you could train the Mosasaurus, now that’d be something.

If fun dino-action is what you are looking for, then Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will certainly fit the bill – though the complete lack of blood during the dinosaur attacks does get a bit ludicrous at times — and the creatures themselves look simply marvelous, but if you hope to encounter anything more than a series of action sequences populated by two-dimensional characters — and I’m being generous here, as most characters in this film strive to have one dimension — then you will most likely be disappointed. As I said earlier, this film is a placeholder – a “necessary” bridge if you will, to the story that Colin Trevorrow actually wants to tell – and thus, the resulting movie is rife with characters doing pointless and idiotic things that will leave many a viewer scratching their heads. That all said, I will admit to having some fun watching Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, it was a big, fun-filled dinosaur extravaganza – and I’m a sucker for those – but I just wish they’d spent a little of that extravagant CGI budget on a few more rewrites.

Jurassic Notes:

  • Lava in this movie doesn’t actually harm you; it has no radiant heat and can even drip on your arm without so much as leaving a burn.
  • Our heroes outrun a volcano’s pyroclastic cloud – with Owen briefly being encompassed by the ash – and survive this despite gases in those clouds reaching temperatures of about 1,000 °C.
  • In Jurassic World, we learned from Jimmy Kimmel that the gyro-sphere vehicles are impervious to gunfire, but good ole Owen – while underwater – is able to put two bullet holes in one.
  • The villains keep Owen and Claire alive for no particular reason.
  • Once again the series includes the now apparently required “small child in danger” element.
  • And how come the pteranodons – who we saw freed in the second film – didn’t make it to the States until film five? Were they stuck at bloody customs this whole time?
  • Half of the cool shots from the trailer take place during the film’s epilogue.

This film is basically a 128 minute commercial for Jurassic World 3.

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