JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM – an Alternative Lens review

Starring: Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy), Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help), Rafe Spall (Life of Pi), Justice Smith (Paper Towns), Daniella Paneda (Sleeping with Other People), Isabella Sermon, James Cromwell (Babe), Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger), Jeff Goldblum (Thor: Ragnarok)

Director: J.A. Bayona (A Monster Calls)

Writers: Derek Connolly (Safety Not Guaranteed) & Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World)

Runtime: 2 hours 8 minutes

Release Date: 6 June (UK), 22 June (US)

I haven’t bothered to rewatch Jurassic World since it came out it theatres three years ago. In fact, what little I remember about it at this point is all the negative stuff; invisible dinosaurs, raptors being trained for military service, Bryce Dallas Howard running through the jungle in heels, etc. I had to look at my old review of it to even remember I gave it a 7/10, but reading my thoughts then suggest it probably should have been a lower score. Without even seeing it again, I think this is another Star Trek Into Darkness situation for me.

Whatever the case, the fact I haven’t exactly been compelled to revisit it shows how much of an effect it had on me. But the film made a bajillion dollars based purely on nostalgia, so of course a sequel was inevitable, but at least my expectations were much lower going in this time. Maybe with this one, they could address the problems of the first and make a film truly deserving of comparison to the original Jurassic Park. Well, scratch all those expectations, because Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom doubles down on the stupid and easily takes home the title of worst film in the franchise. Yes, worse than the third one with the talking dinosaur dream sequence.

Picking up three years after the events of the previous film, Fallen Kingdom in its initial premise just seems like a retread of The Lost World, but quickly reveals itself to be something much different and, well, dumber. It seems like nobody got the memo that everybody thought the whole “dinosaurs as weapons” malarkey from Jurassic World was ridiculous, because they’ve taken that concept and made the whole sequel about it. The film takes absolutely no time in hijacking the story away from the familiar and into its bizarre new approach, in the process losing everything that made the film even remotely feel like a Jurassic Park movie. This could at least be OK if it acknowledged how outrageous it was getting; the last movie at least attempted to lampshade itself a bit. But nope, the movie treats it all completely seriously. Not an ounce of irony. At its best, this movie feels like Alien: Resurrection but without the fascinating quirkiness. At its worst, it’s a Sharknado movie that was accidentally given a blockbuster budget.

The script is so haphazard in its pacing and plotting, I swear it must have been hashed out in a hurry based on a rough outline thrown together over a weekend…on cocaine. Plot threads are introduced and go nowhere, characters make Prometheus-level stupid decisions purely to force a gag or move the story forward, and what isn’t ludicrous about the film is just boring and uninspired; I predicted a good chunk of the story within the first act. By the time it reached its preposterous climax, I had basically checked out. There was nothing it could do to save itself at that point. I know all of this sounds really vague without context, but trust me. If for the sake of morbid curiosity you go see this thing after reading my thoughts, I want you to experience the audacity of this movie without spoilers. My words won’t do it justice.

The characters in Jurassic World were already paper thin, but they at least hired charismatic actors in the lead roles who could carry it all. But here, all that charm has worn off, and now it is blindingly clear there is nothing going on under the engine. Chris Pratt comes across like he’s on autopilot, throwing out smarmy quips like afterthoughts, whilst Bryce Dallas Howard feels like she’s trying but the script gives her nothing to work with. The two of them barely even feel like the same characters from the previous film; they have no chemistry comedically or romantically, their motivations are limp and basic, there’s barely even any sign of a character arc for either of them. Heck, even calling them characters at this point is generous. They’re just chess pieces with pretty faces on them.

In terms of new faces, there’s not much to rave about here either, as they’re all pretty much reduced to stereotypes too. Here, I’ll run them down for you. You’ve got Rafe Spall as the generic “I’m totally not a bad guy, honest” rich guy, Justice Smith as the geeky comic relief who is just here to scream a lot and be a coward, Daniella Paneda as the “strong independent woman” who you know is such because she has, like, glasses and a short hair cut and stuff, James Cromwell as Not John Hammond, Ted Levine as Muldoon but evil, and Toby Jones as…the other evil guy who…talks loud and…runs the auction in the third act. I mean, wow. Way to waste your Toby Jones, movie.

Oh, and there’s also Isabella Sermon as the generic precocious kid, but she deserves special mention because of what they do with her. See, they constantly build up that there’s going to be this big twist with her; they try to hide it, but it’s obvious from her first glimpse on screen. They keep building it and building it, and when they finally reveal it, it’s…really underwhelming and has absolutely no impact on anything other than a way to justify its facepalm-inducing ending. It…I mean…seriously? This script got approval for filming?

Ah, and also before I forget: remember how they’ve been really playing up that they got Jeff Goldblum back to play Dr. Ian Malcolm again? Remember how he’s been all over the marketing and doing the press tours and that, and this was giving some people hope he’d be getting some kind of important role? Well, sorry, but nope. He’s in two short superfluous scenes as bookends. You could cut them out of the movie and you’d lose nothing. Well, except for getting to hear Goldblum’s dulcet tones. Really, we need to get this guy in more good movies instead of just rehashes of his 90s heydays. I mean, the fact that this movie makes Independence Day: Resurgence look decent by comparison is giving me hives.

I’ll give this movie this much: it has a couple of shots that made me go, “Oh, that’s a clever shot”. That’s about it though. On all other technical levels, Fallen Kingdom falls short. For all the pretty little moments it captures, the cinematography completely misses the mark in feeling like a Jurassic Park movie. Even in broad daylight, the whole picture feels murky and dour, which isn’t especially helpful when most of the film takes place at night or indoors. (Yes, they made a Jurassic Park movie mostly set indoors. Still think this sounds any good?) That’s not even mentioning the decision to shoot the film in 2.39:1, the widest aspect ratio in the series so far, which completely robs all the dinosaur action of the sense of scale and immersion all the other movies created with their fullscreen presentations; yes, aspect ratio choice is pretty damn important for this kind of thing. But it doesn’t matter ultimately. It’s not like better camerawork would have made any of these generic and/or absurd action sequences any better.

[Damn, I’ve not gotten this angry writing a review in a long time. Then again, a movie hasn’t ticked me off like this in a while.]

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is maybe not the worst summer blockbuster I’ve seen, but is easily one of the laziest and most absurd I’ve seen in a long time. It takes everything that didn’t work about the last movie and makes that the focus, telling an incoherent and laughable story that feels like it was written by an eight-year-old; if this is the same quality of writing Colin Trevorrow & Derek Connolly were offering on Star Wars Episode IX, no wonder they got fired. It can’t even rest its laurels on nostalgia factor like the last movie did, because it barely even feels like a Jurassic Park movie to begin with.

Just to be clear, that necessarily isn’t a bad thing. The Last Jedi recently proved you can make a movie that completely upends everything about your series and still create something amazing, but that movie did two key things Fallen Kingdom doesn’t: it paid respectful homage to its forbearers, and what it gave us in return was intelligent and brought a whole new perspective to the material.

I am still in awe of how much this movie completely misses the mark. I can’t believe what I just watched. I didn’t think I’d ever see a franchise collapse this spectacularly after Alien: Covenant, at least not for a while, but here we are.

Please, just let his franchise die before it embarrasses itself any more. Only the first one was any good. But just watch. They’re already planning another one, and if this film does even semi-decently we’ll be seeing it in about three years. And when that almost inevitably gets greenlit, ask me about it then. For now, if you need me, I’m going to be screaming into a pillow.



Author: Jennifer Heaton

Aspiring screenwriter, film critic, pop culture fanatic and perpetual dreamer.

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