To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum from the first “Jurassic Park” film: “the executives at Universal were so preoccupied with whether or not they could make a “Jurassic World” sequel, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is the sequel to the 2015 blockbuster that confirmed Chris Pratt as a leading man and (for a time) owned multiple box office records. This time around, with the island of Isla Nublar set to fall victim to a volcanic eruption, Owen (Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) must return to the abandoned theme park to try and rescue the remaining creatures. J. A. Bayona takes over director duties from Colin Trevorrow (who returns to write the screenplay with Derek Connolly) as Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones and Isabella Sermon all join the cast.
I really loved the first “Jurassic World.” It was a fun summer surprise (that I saw three times in theaters) and really thought it captured the fun and thrills that a film of that genre should. Yet despite that, I really wasn’t looking forward to this sequel all too much. The trailers did nothing for me and as we got more and more of them it just seemed like they were struggling to find new places to take the franchise. And after seeing the actual film, it is obvious they are struggling to find new places to take the franchise.
Let’s talk about the good first. There are brief moments throughout the film that play almost like a horror movie and I think that is when director Bayona felt most comfortable, which makes sense since his breakout film was “The Orphanage” in 2007. Dinosaurs are killing machines, there shouldn’t really be a scene in the entire film that doesn’t have a sense of threat surrounding it, and Bayona makes good use of shadows and sound to convey that fear.
Chris Pratt is too good for us and he is too good for movies like this, but he tries his best to make the best of a weak script. Occasionally his charm bleeds through and he gets one fight scene to flex his muscles but most of the time you can see the embarrassment in his eyes and the “this is paying for your beach house” in his line delivery. Isabella Sermon, who plays the young granddaughter of James Cromwell (who in-turn is playing an old partner of Jurassic Park founder John Hammond), does alright keeping up with the likes of Pratt and Howard, although her character adds nothing to the story save for one twist that is eye-rollingly dumb. Also Sermon, an English actress, speaks only half of her lines in American so they literally added a scene where her nanny is struggling to teach her how to speak with an English accent to try and cover for it. It’s funny to realize but lazy by the filmmakers.
The first “Jurassic World” had its moments of cringe humor but it also had some comedic moments that worked (“I was with the Navy, not the Navajo!”). Here near everything is a swing and a miss, from the jokes to the over-the-top acting (mainly by a shrieking Justice Smith). There are moments of possible tension that are ruined by “jokes” and while that is a problem that plagues many Marvel movies, those jokes are at least actually funny and they’re characters we’d expect it from (including Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord). The script here just felt like a first draft, with unpolished dialogue and numerous conveniences, and they clearly assumed this thing would crank out a billion dollars no matter the quality.
What truly hinders this film, however, is just that we’ve seen this all done before and it has either been done better or are parts of previous “Jurassic” films that people noted as not liking. Take the dinosaurs off the island? Didn’t work in “The Lost World” but let’s try it again here. Create a super dinosaur with a grab-bag of powers that work for the plot? Really annoyed some people in the last film but that made $1.5 billion so what do people know? And so on.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is a massive letdown and wastes a great director and charismatic star. There are a handful of thrills and exciting moments, as well as those darker bits I mentioned, but they just never mesh and the sense of “been there, done that” is more powerful now more than ever. As Jeff Goldblum is asked during a senate hearing, “should these be left to die?” and if they’re talking about the “Jurassic Park” franchise then to that I say, maybe it is time.
Critic’s Grade: C–
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