Movie Leftovers: Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom.
Dinosaurs are birds, so Jurassic World 2 is the perfect turkey of a movie to celebrate Thanksgiving!
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we empty our fridge of Movie Leftovers – films we missed reviewing before they left theaters. The end of the year fast approaches, and Thanksgiving is nigh on here. Having stocked up on recent movies, we decided it was time to clear our plates. This month we’re going to devote to all of the films of 2018 that caught our eye – for good or ill – but that we didn’t get a chance to review during their theatrical runs. Since we’ll soon be picking the best and worst films of the year, it’s high time we checked off some of the entries on our Most and Least anticipated films of the year lists.
I have to say, Jurassic Park is starting to approach Highlander for ironic misunderstanding of its core message. Highlander had “There can be only one!” and then went on to make a streak of lousy sequels. Jurassic Park has “arrogantly using fancy technology to bring back the dead is usually a bad idea.” Well, the Jurassic Kingdom films are here again, using fancy technology to bring a dead franchise back to life. The first one was a bit recycled but enjoyable. This one is 100% post consumer recycled material, and it really hamstrings the enjoyment. It’s not a bad movie…just an utterly unnecessary one.
Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom (2018)
Jurassic World park has been shut down after the catastrophic failure of the dinosaur containment pens. The status of the park is in limbo as governments weigh in on what to do with the dinos. Push comes to shove when the dormant volcano on the island reignites, threatening to re-extinct the creatures. The wealthy co-founder of the cloning tech used to create the first Jurassic Park approaches Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt), two former employees who survived Jurassic World, with a plan to save the dinosaurs. Together they head back to the island in a race against the forces of nature…but they’re not the only people with plans for the dinosaurs.
Jurassic World 2 looks as nice as the first film. The settings pop, especially the volcanically active Isla Nublar. The palatial estate of the billionaire who recruits Claire and Owen is impressive, from its basement labs to its glass domed atrium, to the museum quality installations that fill the great hall. When the film dabbles with horror elements in the second act, the setting creates the drama as much or more than the stalking dinosaurs.
The dinosaurs still feel hefty and look good with the updated CG, instead of shiny and hollow like some of the later Jurassic Park films. The new beasty (since the studio must have a clause that a new, merchandisable creature be introduced each film) looks good, if a tad generic. It lacks the wow factor of the last film’s Indominus Rex, but it gets the job done. The problem with the menagerie of creatures is that they aren’t used in any thrilling new ways like Jurassic World managed to create. In the last film, the creatures interacted with the cast in a way that felt novel, and which really showed that matching green screen with stunt-work could make the dinosaurs feel as immediate and fearsome as the practical effects T. Rex in the first Jurassic Park.
The lack of novel and exciting set pieces affects not just the visuals but the storytelling. Everything here has been done in the series before. Two survivors are finagled back to the island (Jurassic Park 3). A new island for the dinos is revealed (The Lost World). The money men behind the park want to sell the creatures, using the pretext of a scientific survey to gather them (The Lost World). A new, angrier dinosaur is revealed that scotches the plans of the baddies (Jurassic World). The end result is the creatures reaching the mainland and threatening civilization (The Lost World). Nobody learns a damn thing about attempting to play God with ancient murder machines (Jurassic Park…well, all of them.)
Jurassic World felt like a greatest hits reunion, one more time to see a familiar franchise riff on favorite moments with bigger visuals to make them lively. Fallen Kingdom feels like a geriatric rock band on their “farewell tour” for the fifth time. The Frankenstein/Prometheus moral from the first Jurassic Park has been done so many times that its becoming a farce. Having Jeff Goldblum deliver the very serious warning about tampering with nature at the beginning of the film was laughable. You know damn well we’re gonna monkey with the dinosaurs, and you know damn well they’re going to eat everyone but the stars. Five movies later, Universal has not found anything new to say or show about the subject.
The two things the film tries to inject into the Jurassic Park world feel like lazy screen writers grasping at straws. The volcano is just disaster porn filler that doesn’t even last an hour, and the horror-tinged escape through the mansion is just the Raptors hunting the kids bit from Jurassic Park 1 stretched out for half an hour. Tonally, it feels more like director J. A. Bayona is splicing DNA from the first Resident Evil movie into our dinosaur picture. It works about as well as the story’s “lets splice Raptor and T. Rex DNA together” idea.
Fallen Kingdom isn’t a poorly made film. It has slick visuals, a decent cast, well executed pacing that keeps the action coming, and plenty of dinosaurs. The problem is that resolutely refuses to do anything new and interesting with these things. Claire and Owen don’t grow in any meaningful way. The dinosaurs remain just a blunt threat for scolds to wag their “I told you so” fingers at. The big moments have been reused so often they elicit groans instead of gasps. If I never see a T. Rex save our heroes by unaccountably chomping the creature chasing them again, I’ll be glad. (Seriously, we only ever see the T. Rex when he’s saving our characters by attacking another ferocious creature, roaring, and then walking away. Guess he’s not hungry, just a dick to his neighbors!) Finally, the themes have repeated themselves to absurdity. If the world of Jurassic World is so damn full of idiots all but begging dinosaurs to eat them, I say let the dinos eat and be done with it already!