The newest dinosaurs-aren't-extinct-anymore movie has more species of dinosaurs than in any previous Jurassic movie. Surely, you think, that would mean more opportunities for writers Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow (who directed Jurassic World) and director J.A. Bayona to do something truly creative and unique.
How disappointing, then, that Fallen Kingdom is same-old, same-old, and not in a good way. Yes, this is a sequel to one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, and they have to give the audience what it wants. Doesn’t the audience also want, though, at least parts of it to look fresh? New? Innovative? It’s a drag when you spend 128 minutes watching a movie, then as you walk out, it's like déjà vu all over again.
Fallen Kingdom is divided into two parts. In the first half, Isla Nublar, where Jurassic Park and Jurassic World used to be, is exploding. Literally. Dinosaurs run amok as a volcano rumbles, about to destroy the island. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who now runs a dinosaur-rights organization (you read that correctly), and Owen (Chris Pratt), who now lives peacefully in the wilderness, return to the island to get the dinosaurs out. There’s also some jerk mercenaries with a shoot-first-don’t-bother-to-ask-questions-later approach.
Dangerous encounters, near-escapes and some cool visual effects make this the better half of the film, and even this is only “shoulder-shrug slight smile” good.
After leaving the island, the protagonists head to Ben Lockwood’s (James Cromwell) mansion in California, where the “rescued” dinosaurs are. Ben’s assistant Eli (Rafe Spall) runs the estate, and Ben’s caretaker Iris (Geraldine Chaplin, Charlie’s daughter) looks after his granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon). Turns out, though, neither the dinosaurs nor anyone in the house is safe.
The island descending into imminent danger and chaos? Fairly sure that’s in every Jurassic movie. Dangerous dinosaurs wreaking havoc in an enclosed area? This has been in most every Jurassic movie. The point is, everything about Fallen Kingdom feels redundant and unnecessary, completely void of urgency and conviction. Howard and Pratt don’t exactly phone in their performances, but you get the sense they're not too challenged here, either.
The issue, one suspects, is that dinosaurs are an inherently limited species around which to build a movie, let alone a franchise. They’re big, they’re dangerous, they may eat you. The idea of being able to control them, and their exhibiting intelligence, is introduced but is never an integral part of the story. On the big screen, we live in an era of superheroes, dazzling visual FX and otherworldly adventures, especially during the summer blockbuster months. Simply put, the filmmakers of the franchise must be more bold and imaginative than this.
By the time the inevitable sequel opens, it’s hoped they've found a way to expand the story, not rein it in as they did here. The ending lends itself well to several possibilities.
So come on, Hollywood creatives. Do what you get paid jillions to do, and do what we know you can do well. Like, better than Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.