“Scientists were so preoccupied with wether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should”. This line from the first (and classic) Jurassic Park feels oddly prescient. While this speech can be applied to the scientists and politicians of our world, this applies to a few more people: the executives and creatives behind Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Hitting theaters this week, the fifth instalment in the ultra-popular franchise suddenly finds itself functioning as cautionary tale of its narrative… just because something can be done, it doesn’t mean it should.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom follows the continuing adventures of our titular characters Owen (Grady!) (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) when they are pulled back into Jurassic World when the volcano on the now abandoned island begins to erupt. They team with a former business partner of John Hammond (James Cromwell) and a Donald Trump Junior wanna-be (Rafe Spall) to save the dinosaurs so they can be sent to a nature reserve for protection. However, nothing is ever really that simple. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is directed by J.A. Bayona from a script by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow.
Watching this movie, its quest for nostalgic appeal seems apparent almost from the beginning. Every Jurassic Park film for the last twenty years has tried (in vain) to capture the awe and wonder most of us felt when we saw the original in theaters. In this film, things start almost immediately with Jeff Goldblum’s cameo as Ian Malcom. Throughout the movie there are a number of moments drawn from the original Steven Spielberg film. This is wide ranging from a close callback to the iconic “Welcome to Jurassic Park” scene from the first movie, to the final scene which has influenced every cinematic tyrannosaurus rex for the last two decades.
However, what seems to be missing is the film’s heart and emotion. Rather this is, at heart, a cash-grab of the highest order. While we could immediately feel and identify with Dr. Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Sadler (Laura Dern) and even Ian Malcom in the first film, it is a struggle to feel anything for this new group of characters. They are thinly developed (to the point it’s a struggle to remember their names) and our supporting characters are little more than cartoonish caricatures. Millenials… am I right? While you fear legitimate worry for the individuals in the first film, at no point is there any tension that anything will happen to any of these people. This even extends as far to a lack of knowledge of how volcanoes work as Owen survives some relatively fatal looking action while on the island. We can’t kill them! They need to return for the third movie we know is coming.
In fact, the peak of the emotion stems not from the characters we should care about, but the dinosaurs. There’s an overarching (and very 2018) theme of dinosaur rights, and the treatment of the animals in the narrative hits harder than anything involving Owen and Claire. While these scenes are well done (and even a little tear inducing), this is a flaw in the story-telling. Ultimately, there needs to be this level of emotional weight surrounding the human characters as well.
The film also finds itself suffering from sequel-itis in the structure of its script. There’s a lot of (poorly developed) bad guys. The villains range from Donald Tr… Eli Mills (Spall), Ken Weatley (Ted Levine), Mr. Eversol (they dragged Toby Jones into this) and finally the ever fiendish Dr. Wu (B.D. Wong). While all the performances are fine, there’s just too many of them. Perhaps with a few less people competing for screen time they could have actually developed these respective stories instead of throwing them at the screen in an incoherent hodgepodge.
Ultimately, the biggest strength in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the visual effects. This ranges from some more subtle horror sequences (think the raptors in the kitchen in the original film), to scenes of massive, unrestrained dino destruction. Looking to see dinosaurs running amok on screen? You shouldn’t be disappointed. The creative team seems to have upped their game in this film, incorporating the water creature from the first film, the velociraptor Blue and even the age old T-Rex.
Anyway, at least Claire is wearing sensible shoes this time…
Ulimtately, the Jurassic Park series has become a parody of itself. While at their heart, these films are about rich people putting questionable plans into action (involving dinosaurs) for financial gain, you can simply substitute the word dinosaurs for feature films and the sentence is suddenly relevant to the producers behind the new Jurassic World series. Just because you can make a movie… it doesn’t mean that it needs to happen.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is playing in theaters around the country now.