Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the first film in the Jurassic series to try to break away from the franchise’s format. All of the previous movies essentially consisted of dropping humans in a dinosaur environment. The Lost World (or “Dinos eat San Diego”) played a little with this in the least entertaining part of the second film, and it is the film Fallen Kingdom resembles the most. While I give it kudos for trying to do something different, there’s little else to laud in the latest summer sequel to underwhelm. Fallen Kingdom is burdened with a truly awful script from Colin Trevorrow and serves as little more than a pothole infested bridge from Jurassic World to 2021’s Jurassic World 3.
Fallen Kingdom picks up three years after the events of Jurassic World. Isla Nublar, site of both Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, is facing a catastrophic eruption from its volcano that threatens to wipe out the remaining dinosaurs. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is working with a dinosaur rights advocacy group trying to save the animals when she’s contacted by John Hammond’s old partner about a rescue mission to the island to save the dinosaurs that will also require her ex-boyfriend/employee Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). What, indeed, could possibly go wrong?
Colin Trevorrow, who directed the first film, wrote Fallen Kingdom’s screenplay. Jurassic World relied heavily on nostalgia to work to the extent it did. The follow-up is marked difference both in formula and tone. It’s a darker film in the sense that everything is dimly lit and humorless, but it never succeeds in being either gripping or frightening. The original Jurassic Park was Spielberg’s last great summer blockbuster and managed to mix intelligent thrills with genuine scares. All of the sequels have been a mixed bag of cool moments in flawed films. Fallen Kingdom attempts to staple a disaster movie first hour (Jurassic World: Isla Sploda) to a horror movie second half (Jurassic World: Dinosaur Infested Mansion Mayhem 2018) and fails to deliver the good from either genre. The back half of the film seems like it’s trying to do an homage to the old Universal monster movies…but with dinosaurs…in a California mansion. I have to admire the ambition, but it just ends up as misguided excuse to set up what undoubtedly is the plot of the third film (Jurassic World: Hangry, Hangry Dinosaurs Munch America).
The nostalgia well gets a less intense workout than the previous film, but in case you were hoping for a special cameo from the “Objects in the Mirror are Closer than they Appear” rover rearview mirror…then you are in luck. As far as cinema cameos from quarter-century old SUV mirrors go, it blazes new territory. The legacy characters teased in the film’s trailers have next to no screen time in the actual film. Mocking incredibly inept geneticist Henry Wu is usually one of the best parts of a Jurassic film, but he has maybe five minutes of screen time. That’s a lifetime compared to the minute or so Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm gets. Despite being the anchor of all the marketing, all he does in the film is give two snippets of Congressional testimony that’s fairly dry even by the standards of Congressional testimony.
One of the most amazing things about the original Jurassic Park is how well the dinosaurs have held up over 25 years. I still think they’re the gold standard. Fallen Kingdom’s CGI dinos still fall short of the blend of CGI and animatronics employed in the first film and the confluence of them on the island and especially in the mansion really show the seams of the F/X work. The scene in the first film where you see the brachiosaur for the first time and goggle along with the main characters embodied all the wonder and joy of having these animals come to life on the screen. Seeing them auctioned off as weapons in a basement is just a depressing path to end up on from a franchise that has seemingly run out of tricks.