Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is insane, and, I don’t mean insanely good.
This is a franchise that now represents the accepted definition of crazy. For the fourth time since 1997, the creative brain trust behind one of cinema’s most beloved series has given moviegoers the same movie with the same characters doing the exact same things with just one goal in mind: To make more money than the previous outing with no regard for making a better film.
It’s infuriating. It’s insulting. It’s a waste.
Get your checklists out, because here we go:
New dinosaur antagonist? Check.
Instead of the genetically-engineered Indominus Rex from 2015’s Jurassic World, viewers get treated to the Indoraptor, a genetically-cobbled super-predator, built from the DNA of both the Indominus Rex and the velociraptor.
Same outcome for the new dinosaur antagonist? Check.
In Jurassic Park, and even The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg made sure that his main Dino-mite, the T-Rex, was freaking terrifying and virtually unstoppable.
In Jurassic World, however, the Indominus Rex wasn’t nearly as scary as the T-Rex and got dispatched during a joint attack by the T-Rex and Blue, the former baby velociraptor raised by Owen Grady (Chris Pratt).
In Fallen Kingdom, it’s once again up to Blue to possibly save the day when Owen, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) are cornered by the Indoraptor during the climatic showdown.
Unnecessary comic relief? Check.
Instead of Jake Johnson’s meta-T-shirt-wearing systems operator from Jurassic World, we get systems analyst Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), who screams like a terrified child, often, and who seems to exist simply to say, ‘Please don’t be the T-Rex. The T-Rex is dead, right?’
Unnecessary evil soldier/big-game hunter? Check.
By now, you would think that someone might have figured out that soldiers and dinosaurs don’t mix. They just end up in a giant monster’s gullet.
To distract from the fact that we’re getting the exact same one-dimensional bad-guy-with-a-big-gun character, Fallen World offers Jame Gumb, er Ted Levine, as military commando Ken, who has no backstory, no personality and a thoroughly unexplained penchant for pulling dinosaur teeth to make a trophy necklace. Ken, those teeth are going to be the death of you. Just saying.
Derivative and Duplicative? Check and Check.
For the first time, since the last time (in The Lost World: Jurassic Park), the franchise puts dinosaurs in cages and transports them to U.S. soil, expecting nothing bad to happen because they’ve been tranquilized. Of course, bad shit is going to happen.
For the first time, since the last two times (in Jurassic Park and in Jurassic World), one or more of our heroes find themselves trapped in either a dinosaur museum or a dinosaur gift shop, while trying to evade a hungry raptor.
For the first time, since the last time (in Jurassic Park), one or more of our heroes has to make a leap of faith onto a ladder or up into an air duct to avoid being eaten by a hungry dinosaur.
For the first time, since the last time (in Jurassic Park), characters have to duck for cover to avoid a stampeding herd of dinosaurs.
And for the first time, since the last time (in Jurassic Park), a henchman is caught trying to smuggle dino-DNA with disastrous and deadly results.
Here’s the thing, I don’t blame director J.A. Bayona, who was a solid choice to replace Colin Trevorrow, who completely bungled Jurassic World.
Bayona has shown flashes of brilliance in The Impossible and A Monster Calls, and he brings a much-needed horror-movie-sensibility to play in Fallen Kingdom’s frantic third act, which takes place entirely inside and on top of a sprawling Northern California mansion estate.
But Trevorrow still co-wrote the script for Fallen Kingdom, so Bayona is pretty much stuck trying to polish a turd throughout.
Trevorrow is also the genius who put Claire in high-heels for much of Jurassic World, a criticism he addresses not once, or twice, but in three separate instances when his script calls for the camera to focus on Claire’s feet. We get it, dude. You course-corrected and put her in boots. Way to go, man. Maybe you should have put as much thought into the plot as you did Claire’s footwear.
And that’s where Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom frustrates the most.
There are four truly interesting ideas left on the table with little to no consideration or exposition, which, if fleshed out properly, might have made for a better movie, or at least, an original one.
- Weaponized dinosaurs. Now here’s a really good idea for a summer popcorn blockbuster. A key set-piece in Fallen Kingdom involves an auction with the world’s most nefarious and sinister rogues — arms dealers, terrorists, pharmaceutical company executives — who want to buy their very own dinosaur. And there’s a lot of talk about plans to mass-produce the Indoraptor, which has been specifically engineered as a lethal, laser-guided war-machine.
- Human cloning. Do you truly believe that John Hammond and Ben Lockwood, the original architects of Jurassic Park, never considered using their technology for human experimentation? A Lockwood descendant plays a pivotal role in this regard, which should have been a major subplot.
- The Mosasaurus. First introduced in Jurassic World, this monstrous sea creature received one of the best reactions in early trailers for Fallen Kingdom when its shadow is seen beneath a bunch of surfers off the California coast. It gets a little bit more screen time, like seconds, but that’s it. If we can get an entire movie based on The Meg, why can’t we have an underwater Jurassic adventure? At least that would be different.
- Euthanasia by extinction. As news reports analyze whether the U.S. government should save the dinosaurs from a second extinction-level event, this time by volcano on Isla Nublar, a fascinating point is broached and then completely overlooked: What’s it like for children within this universe who have grown up seeing dinosaurs up-close instead of in textbooks? For them, the genetic tampering has rendered 66 million years of history moot. Dinosaurs are real. Letting them die by cruel fate would be scarring and traumatic, and likely inspire some significant backlash.
I still remember fondly the day I sat in a dark theater way back in 1993 and watched Jurassic Park. It was the first time that computer-generated imagery lived up to its promise, and the result was jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring.
That sense of wonder has diminished and/or been rendered obsolete by the ensuing sequels. It wasn’t enough in 1997 to simply haul a T-Rex back to the U.S., a la King Kong, and let him go on a rampage. It wasn’t enough in 2001 in Jurassic Park III to simply add pterodactyls and expect our collective imagination to take flight. And it wasn’t enough in 2015 to finally allow viewers an up-close tour of an actual, thriving dinosaur theme park in full operation.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is just more of the same. Sure, it’s going to make boatloads of money, and we’ll have a sixth film announced likely within days of its early box office receipts, but it’s time for fans to say enough.
It’s time to shout, loud and long, at the screen: Either make a different fucking movie, or stop making them at all.
John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films that often get overlooked and interviews with cult cinema favorites like George A. Romero, Bruce Campbell and Dee Wallace. Contact him at bloodviolenceandbabes.com, on Facebook or on Twitter.