A ‘Jurassic Park’ film should not be this boring.
In 1993, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park was released in cinemas, and took the world by storm with its groundbreaking special effects, memorable characters, and smart writing. The two sequels that followed were not completely terrible, but they came nowhere close to capturing the thrills and wonder that the first one did. In 2015, after 14 years, the franchise was brought back to the big screen with Jurassic World, directed by Colin Trevorrow. Though it had great cinematography and music, as well as a spectacular scene involving the T-Rex, the film also failed to capture the Spielberg feel of the original. Despite its critical shortcomings, Jurassic World became the second-highest grossing film of 2015, beaten only by Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Naturally, a sequel has been made, but is it an improvement over its predecessor?
Set three years after the events of Jurassic World, the island on which the dinosaurs roam is under threat from an active volcano that is about to erupt at any point in time, which would result in the dinosaurs being wiped out. The previous owner of the park, Claire, is brought in to assist with an operation to migrate the dinosaurs to a new sanctuary. Part of her responsibility is to bring along the park’s former trainer, Owen, played by Chris Pratt, who can help track down Blue, their last remaining Velociraptor, which he personally trained. When they arrive on the island with a team of mercenaries, they find that there was more to this mission than they thought. What a shock!
Right off the bat, the film starts with some promise. The opening scene shows a team attempting to salvage a fossil from Indominous-Rex, the newly created dinosaur from the previous film, only to be attacked by the T-Rex and the Mosasaurus. The scene is suspenseful, and it is one of the best-directed sequences of any Jurassic film. Following that sequence is a compelling debate: should we save the dinosaurs, or should we let the dinosaurs go extinct again? Unfortunately, the film is not interested in actually exploring this debate, opting instead to provide multiple action scenes, which wouldn’t be a problem if they were entertaining. What is even more unfortunate is that what follows those scenes is a completely different movie, and a boring one to boot.
Colin Trevorrow is not in the director’s chair this time (if you have seen The Book of Henry last year, then you would probably agree it is for the best.) This time directing is J. A. Bayona, who previously directed The Impossible. You can see throughout this film that he has the skills to be a great director, but he is not served well by the script, co-written by Trevorrow and Derek Connolly. Honestly, after experiencing the story and dialogue that was conjured up, maybe Trevorrow should take a break from screenwriting too.
As a whole, this film suffers from a lack of intrigue, which, in my opinion, should not even be a problem for a film in this series. There is almost nothing to be invested in, unless it is Claire and Owen’s on again/off again romance, which has returned with a vengeance. And of course, we get the tired references to the first film (objects in mirror are closer than they appear). Even when the viewer is first introduced to Claire, we see her trying to be comfortable in her high heels. Is this supposed to be a response to the criticism of her running in high heels in the previous film? If the film spent more time focusing on its premise and less on these tired references and tropes, maybe we can find something actually interesting to care about.
It is even hard to become invested in the characters. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard seem like they are on autopilot since the last film, and as much as I enjoy watching Chris Pratt, I refuse to believe that he can shake off touching lava and running from a volcanic dust cloud at the same speed as dinosaurs. (Yep, all of that does actually happen!) Aside from absurd scenes like this, they are given practically nothing to do. The new characters introduced in this film don’t fare much better either. How do you waste such great actors as Toby Jones, Geraldine Chaplin, and James Cromwell? Well, this film found a way.
The worst of the film’s new characters is the computer hacker, Franklin, played by Justice Smith. Aside from his hacking skills, the character is practically useless, and his constant panicking and screaming becomes annoying almost immediately. The villain of this film, Eli Mills, portrayed by Rafe Spall, suffers from the same flaws as the villain in this year’s reboot of Tomb Raider; in that he is neither intimidating nor enjoyable to watch. And those who are excited to see Jeff Goldblum return in his role as Dr. Ian Malcolm will be greatly disappointed, because he is only in the beginning and the end, with each of his scenes barely reaching two minutes. They may have been short, but because of Goldblum’s charisma, they were worth it. Hopefully he has more of a presence in the inevitable third film of this new trilogy.
Okay, so the writing and characters are not great, but how is it from a technical point of view? Admittedly, the CGI on the dinosaurs has improved since the previous film, although I still don’t feel like I can touch them, and wasn’t that the charm of Jurassic Park? Strangely, though, some of the editing feels off, such as in one awkward scene transition, where the dialogue overlaps. Now this may be just nitpicking on my part, but even the sound design seems to be a little off. My screening was in IMAX, and I was expecting the T-Rex’s classic roar to shake the entire theater, but surprisingly, Chris Pratt’s whistle seemed to be louder by comparison. All of the other creatures have loud enough roars, but I can’t help but feel that the T-Rex’s roar should be the loudest. Either I am too much of a Jurassic Park purist, or the T-Rex is about as underwhelmed as I am.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is yet another expensive underwhelming sequel in a generation full of underwhelming sequels. If you remember in Jurassic World, Claire states “No one’s impressed by a dinosaur anymore.” If that is true, this film is not doing the series any favors, because if there is any feeling one should have while watching a Jurassic Park film, it should not be “bored.” It is still a mystery to me why modern-day blockbusters are afraid to be entertaining, or give us likable characters, or do anything remotely compelling. In any case, know that there is a reason why people remember Jurassic Park and not Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla.
NOTE: I stayed till after the credits, and, just as I predicted, there was a brief post-credits scene. I won’t say what it is, but afterwards, another audience member stated, “That should have been the movie!” Amen to that.