Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom doesn’t find a way, it torches it


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom causes the extinction of the franchise’s one true thrill. What’s left is a twisted plot and cautionary tales we already knew.

I am a child of the classic Jurassic Park movies. Simply listening to John Williams’ score brings back fond memories of seeing the original film in theaters with my father and siblings, our eyes widening at the concept of dinosaurs being alive in our timeline. Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park was one of my earliest reads. From his novel to the first movie to 2015’s Jurassic World, one detail remained true: dinosaurs dominated.

In Fallen Kingdom, dinosaurs somehow become small.

With the fifth installment of the franchise, we’re three years after the horrible events that went down at the Jurassic World theme park. Abandoned now, the island the park sits upon is threatened to be destroyed by a volcanic eruption, which would kill off all the dinosaurs still living on Isla Nublar. Jeff Goldblum reprises his role of Dr. Ian Malcolm, but only for a short cameo, and only to say basically “let ’em roast.” Granted, Dr. Malcolm’s been through a lot with dinosaurs — can you blame him?

Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is running a PETA-like “Save the Dinosaurs” campaign when she’s offered an opportunity to truly save them by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), a wealthy old man in a wheelchair who co-created the dinosaur cloning technology. While Lockwood offers us throwback John Hammond vibes, it’s his aide Mills (Rafe Spall) who has bad guy written all over him. The second you yell at a little kid while hatching a plan over the phone tends to do that.

Claire agrees to help Lockwood get the dinosaurs off the island, and she gets ex-boyfriend Owen (Chris Pratt) to come along. The hook for Owen isn’t saving all the dinosaurs, but reuniting with Blue, the velociraptor he trained since she was a hatchling. Thus, the two head off to an island with a piping hot volcano ready to go off, taking along two of Claire’s employees: a spunky pet vet and an unwilling nerd. How could anything go wrong?

The island scenario doesn’t last long, just enough to give this group some close run-ins with lava and dinosaurs and to reveal that (shocker) humans want to exploit the prehistoric creatures. I will give this to Fallen Kingdom. Seeing one Brachiosaurus standing at the edge of the dock as the entire island burns down, crying out as it meets its fate — that was cruel and had many in the theater dabbing their eyes.

Where we end up for the rest of the film is Lockwood’s California estate, which is about to host a dinosaur auction, if you will. Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) returns, and it is clear he hasn’t learned a damn thing. Humans and their horrible plans to weaponize anything and mess with genetics become the main tale — and its an overdone one at that. Anyone else hear Dr. Malcolm’s “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

It is especially overdone since Jurassic World tried this already by introducing us to Indominus Rex, a cross-species that had its terrifying moments. Now we have an Indoraptor. It should be scary to think of a dinosaur that attacks on command and can track you easily, but barring a few cheap scares, it wasn’t.

What happens next at Lockwood’s estate is a massive pile of easy scares, Jurassic Park throwbacks, and some very, very odd twists. All of this hinders any real character development. Claire’s ditched her heels and can run faster now and Owen gets a few witty lines in. Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) assists in getting those easy scares, including one that could actually haunt kids pre-bedtime for awhile. But the breakneck speed of this plot doesn’t offer much for growth, because if we don’t get enough dino battles in, this isn’t a Jurassic film is it?

Overall, there were glimpses but nothing more throughout Fallen Kingdom of what made the previous Jurassic films so great. As I mentioned, that sole Brachiosaurus on the pier was likely the purest emotion I felt through the entire 128 minutes.

As for the ending, it is likely what will make this franchise go extinct. Dr. Ian Malcolm returns with a solemn voiceover of how a prehistoric world and ours are now combined. As much as I love a good Jeff Goldblum cameo, even this fell flat.

It makes one yearn for classic Jurassic scenes detailing the dangers of humans meddling with nature, scenes that summarized so eloquently the fascination and danger of what John Hammond created.

Instead, that fascination has been manipulated. We can only painfully imagine what distorted new world comes next.

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You can see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in theaters now.