Some things never change. In 1993, the world looked a lot like it does now: America’s relationship with Russia dominated the news, lovers of music prepared for Radiohead’s upcoming tour, a new Robin Hood movie was on its way to theaters—our world is full of cultural constants. What else from twenty-five years ago stuck around in 2018? You guessed it: the fact that there’s only one good “Jurassic Park” movie.
The original “Jurassic Park”, one of Spielberg’s seminal masterpieces, changed the blockbuster scene forever. Its two sequels—well, they didn’t do the scene any favors. 2015’s reboot “Jurassic World” was meant to be a return to form, but instead it was an adaption to the modern blockbuster: bombastic mediocrity with a brainless plot and badly written characters. These misgivings were largely blamed on writer/director Colin Trevorrow, whose track record following “Jurassic World” continued to be so poor that Disney fired him from directing Star Wars IX. Perhaps we dodged a bullet.
But there’s good news for those who enjoy being shot! Trevorrow and his writing partner Derek Connolly stuck around to write “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”! There was hope for the film due to its new director J. A. Bayona, the mind behind triumphs such as “The Orphanage” and “A Monster Calls”. Watching the movie, however, was a mass extinction of all the hope that this franchise was in safer hands.
“Fallen Kingdom” starts strong—or rather, it emulates something that started strong. The opening scene intentionally mirrors a shot pattern that opened the original “Jurassic Park”, albeit with larger dinosaurs and zero of the restraint that hid them from view in the original. There are a number of scenes that try to steal the glory of a quarter-century ago: the first dinosaur that the protagonists see on the island is a brachiosaurus and they stare at it in awe, but the surprise factor is gone and the moment is over in a flash. Remember in “Jurassic Park” when the velociraptors undermine their intelligence by running into the reflection of a screaming girl? Now, there’s a raptor running headfirst into a closing door because it’s somehow slower than a screaming girl.
So why doesn’t it all work this time around? Well, “Jurassic Park” had a brilliant script—Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly wrote “Fallen Kingdom”. The plot is historically ludicrous. Dr. Ian Malcolm famously said, “God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.” In this sequel, it’s “idiots keep creating super dinosaurs. Super dinosaurs kill idiots again.” All the franchise’s usual plot beats are rehashed again and it’s utterly predictable—but this time, the child with parent troubles (there’s one in every “Jurassic” movie) has a preposterous secret. It’s old hat plus needless complication.
The dialogue is insufferable. It’s like every character was injected with a truth serum that makes them say whatever they’re doing or thinking or wanting out loud. Not that anyone could call them characters: none of them have character arcs. None of them undergo change. Two characters make decisions near the end that are unlike their decisions near the beginning, but there’s no progression. At least “Jurassic World” had dumb arcs—now they’re just dumb. Especially when romance appears out of absolutely nowhere.
The movie’s only genuine idea comes from J. A. Bayona’s dynamic direction, which adds to the franchise’s theme of man’s folly coming back to bite mankind. His work with cinematographer Óscar Faura emphasizes this addition with haunting clarity and provides visually interesting senses of scale. These are the only great things about “Fallen Kingdom”. Well-composed shots are like a few train cars coasting away from a wreck.
The practical effects team deserves praise for creating dinosaurs that are more lifelike than Chris Pratt’s performance. The humor falls so flat that it hurts. And worst of all, it threatens us with another sequel. Actually, that’s not the worst thing—at one point a velociraptor is in emotional distress and it sheds a single tear. This is a garbage fire. “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” has ruined dinosaur movies. Jeff Goldblum’s shameless cameo can’t save us now.