Director: J.A. Bayona
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Jeff Goldblum, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, BD Wong, Geraldine Chaplin, Isabella Sermon

I didn’t think we could get much worse in the Jurassic franchise than the first sequel, The Lost World, in 1997. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom attempts to reach such lows. To be quite fair, it’s been years since I’ve watched The Lost World, so I can’t accurately assess which ranks as the worst in the franchise’s history. Since we were last on the island of Isla Nublar, the island is in rough shape. Heavy rains have had a lasting impact on the land and there is an active volcano that could erupt at any moment. There are a few dinosaurs remaining on land as well as living in the depths of the water. It’s become a heated debate on whether the government should get involved in saving them or let God run its course on killing them with the eruption.

Eli Mills (Spall) is the new head of Hammond and Lockwood. It’s the company that originally founded Jurassic Park under Richard Attenborough’s character John Hammond. Hammond’s best friend Benjamin Lockwood (Cromwell) still lives at the estate but is on his death bed. Mills is looking to rescue the dinosaurs and seeks help from Claire (Dallas Howard) to gain access to the control system on the amusement park. What he’s specifically after is the cherished dinosaur, Blue. It is Claire’s job to then wrangle in Owen (Pratt) to come back to Jurassic World one more time as Blue was his little baby. After they barely escape from the exploding island (that’s given away in the trailers), Claire and Owen find out far too early that all is not what it seems at the Lockwood Estate.

I was a champion of Jurassic World and felt it honored the original Jurassic Park quite well. Others hated it. I would venture you will have the opposite reaction to this sequel, which doesn’t bode well for those in my camp. Do you remember the Wayne Knight character in the first movie? He was the obnoxious, greedy, ruthless businessman looking to steal embryos only to be killed by dinosaurs that spew venom. Imagine a movie with four or five of those characters and you’re counting down the clock until the big bad dinos take them down one by one. That pretty much sums up all of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Rafe Spall (Life of Pi) joins the franchise as Eli Mills, the leader of this band of corruption along with Ted Levine’s bounty hunter, Toby Jones playing another sleazy character, and returning JP vet BD Wong as Dr. Wu. They’re all scuzzy, and yet the script by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow writes them all as stock characters giving them far too much screen time. Trevorrow directed Jurassic World and was part of the writing team with Connolly. The rest of their script is terribly flawed with campy dialogue and absurd situations left and right. Yes, I get that this is a movie about dinosaurs, but go back to the first film and remember how well that one was written and made.

You almost forget that Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are supposed to be the stars of the movie as Owen and Claire, respectively. They’re the heroes we should be counting on, yet Owen and Claire are treated like background figures most of the time. They have a brother/sister type of chemistry as they work together, but any sort of character development is thrown out the window. They’re reduced to running from the volcano, hiding, and trying to figure out a plan of attack. Joining them side-by-side is a young and annoying tech geek (Smith), who screams far too often, and a young and driven paleoveterinarian (Pineda). Another new character is Lockwood’s granddaughter who sneaks her way into the underground lair and finds out what’s really going on. There’s a whole backstory introduced that she’s somehow connected to the original Jurassic Park, but this minor subplot isn’t fully developed and the payoff is a head scratcher. It’s sad when you don’t care about any of the new characters in a sequel.

Director J.A. Bayona is best known for the lovely fantasy film A Monster Calls. He should be the perfect fit for taking over Jurassic World, yet this film feels so haphazard. The pacing feels rushed most of the time, yet you don’t get the feeling like the movie’s really going anywhere constructive. The first section fumbles as it attempts to get everyone back on Isla Nublar and then off again. Its attempt at finding humorous moments falls flat. If there was an adoration and wonder for dinosaurs in the original or even Jurassic World, all of that is gone in this film. It’s lacking the excitement that Spielberg perfectly captured in the original. With the amount of time focused on the villains, the dinos are treated as beasts in cages used for money. Maybe it’s a commentary on how we treat the animal kingdom, but that’s barely made clear with counter dialogue from the Pratt and Dallas Howard characters. It’s only in its climax does it become a thrilling adventure. We’re treated to more of Owen and Claire, and the dinos get vicious including a new hybrid dinosaur called the “Indoraptor.”

Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom is a fallen set back. Apparently it’s just really hard to do a successful and innovative sequel in this franchise. The ending clearly sets up for a third movie, which can still possibly redeem this new trilogy. This brings out Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm who bookends the movie. In typical Goldblum fashion, he’s the best part of the movie and delivers a speech worth paying attention to if you haven’t already given up. If you’ve ever doubted Spielberg, look to this movie to remind you of the genius filmmaker who originally brought Jurassic Park to the screen twenty five years ago. It still enchants moviegoers young and old.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? All the strong moments are in the trailer.


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