For its $170 million budget, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” won’t make you feel like you’ve wasted your money when you walk out the theater, but as soon as you get to the parking lot, you might have already forgotten all about it.
“Fallen Kingdom” takes place a few years after the shutdown of the Jurassic World theme park from the previous movie, “Jurassic World.” The dinosaurs in the theme park have been left unattended, but when the dormant volcano on the island is set to explode, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) arrive on the scene again to save the dinosaurs from extinction.
The movie starts out with a drag — heavy on the world-building, low on action. Sitting through all the exposition made me wonder “Where’s the action” and more importantly, “When is Pratt going to appear?” However, when the action finally picks up, it sure picks up quickly. That being said, before you get to the good stuff, get ready for some cringey dialogue that is obviously supposed to be funny, but doesn’t quite hit the spot.
If you are a fan of the franchise, you can expect “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” to deliver all the suspense and thrill that you loved from the other movies. The movie is a sensory feast, true to the Jurassic Park tradition. Along with a great musical score, the movie keeps the franchise’s signature sounds of bone-crunching, heavy breathing, ominous footsteps and screaming, lots and lots of blood-curdling screaming. The visual impact of blood flying in the air and saliva shooting out of roaring dinosaur mouths will surely evoke the visceral dread and disgust that you crave.
Although the “Fallen Kingdom” got the trademark elements of the franchise down, it still flopped in several other important departments.
The sequel changed the traditional setting of the wild safari to a gigantic castle with stained glass windows and hardwood floors. A bunch of dinosaurs in a freaking castle? The creative setting builds high expectations, but other than a few scenes that fully utilize the architecture of the castle, the rest of the scenes doesn’t take enough advantage of the castle’s structure.
In most scenes it makes no difference if the dinos were parading around in a safari or in a castle. The change of setting could’ve offered something different from the previous movies, something original and exciting that takes the audience a step beyond the previous movies, and thus makes the audience want more of the franchise. The “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” could’ve become a new classic and kick-started a new era in the Jurassic Park saga, but unfortunately, it missed its chance.
The waste of setting is only part of the bigger problem that “Fallen Kingdom” has — it fails to offer the audience anything original and insightful. Although the film continues to pose the question that is at the core of the entire franchise — how should humans use genetic technology morally and responsibly — it doesn’t provide any thoughtful commentary. This question is more relevant today than ever due to the innovation of CRISPR, however, this important question is quickly pushed aside after the exposition.
In the first 10 minutes of the movie, Jeff Goldblum returns in a cameo as Dr. Ian Malcolm and gives a dramatic soliloquy in front of a group of congressmen about the dangerous consequences humanity faces with reckless genetic engineering. He only appears for a few minutes in the beginning, setting the false expectation that the movie will seriously explore the topic of genetic technology in a nuanced way. Although, when the dinosaurs start to stomp and bite the whole issue is abandoned. Dr. Malcolm disappears until the last 10 minutes of the movie, where the audience gets to hear the second half of his speech.
“Fallen Kingdom” could have given the audience some new insights into the topic of genetic engineering in the last two hours. Instead, the dramatic speech is a cheap trick that tries to fool the audience into thinking that the movie was actually exploring the topic.
In a franchise that originally dedicated itself to the exploration of the moral and environmental consequences of genetic engineering, shouldn’t each new sequel gets deeper and deeper into discussion? “Fallen Kingdom” only mentions the topic by name, and hopes that the audience won’t notice its laziness and nonchalance towards the meaningful topic.
Other than the half-hearted attempt at being intellectual, the movie is also utterly ridiculous at times. When Dearing learned that the government wasn’t going to save the dinosaurs on the island, she said with tears in her eyes “They’re all going to die and no one cares.” Why should anyone care? Didn’t Dr. Malcom just give a speech about how dangerous the dinosaurs are? The only way the audience stays invested is with the assumption that if someone is watching a dinosaur movie, they must care about the dinosaurs’ fictional survival.
Realistically, however, there is no reason to care. Unlike bees, whose extinction would mean the end of the world, the dinosaurs’ death wouldn’t disturb the environment, in fact, it eliminates a huge threat to the existing food chain. The original purpose of creating the dinosaurs was to entertain humans, a reckless action that has sown countless tragedies throughout the franchise.
The dinosaurs’ inception have been portrayed as a monumental mistake ever since the original 1993 “Jurassic Park” movie — hence the famous quote: “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
This installment could have been a perfect opportunity to reverse the mistake once and for all, but instead the cast continues their irrational protection of the monsters.
Which side is the movie trying to take? The revival of dinosaurs representing the dangers of playing God, or the conservation of an endangered species and a great scientific venture that needs to be preserved? The dichotomy between the two sides could’ve been interesting, but the movie doesn’t even seem to realize that it is sending out conflicting messages, let alone discussing them.
Since the main characters are fighting for their lives in their grand rescue mission, I had no choice but to ride along with them. However, it is hard for me to accept why they wanted to save the dinosaurs, since the movie only offers a limited explanation of personal attachment or obsession that the main characters feel for the prehistoric creatures.
Despite the lack of compelling character motivation, Pratt and Howard do an admirable job in their leading roles. Pratt in his leather vest plays a charming and heroic Grady, while Howard’s portrayal of Dearing is compelling despite her character continuing to be sidetracked with those ridiculous heels.
However, if you assumed that the romance between them that the first movie set up would be continued in this installment, you will be thoroughly disappointed. Grady and Dearing have no chemistry between them whatsoever in this movie. The romance seems to be shoved into the plot just so the hero has someone to kiss before the final challenge (is there anything more cliche than “the kiss”?)
Overall, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” doesn’t leave the audience with anything of substance. Even the action, the film’s only strong point, becomes less gripping near the end of the film. It’s useful for passing the time when you are bored, but for those looking for something more, “Fallen Kingdom” isn’t the one.