This post is a part of our New Voices Section.
Written by James White.
“…yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” – Dr. Ian Malcolm
For me, nothing summarizes Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom better than that quote. When Jurassic Park (directed by Steven Spielberg) opened in 1993, I was mesmerized. Like most ten year olds on the planet, I loved dinosaurs. I read every book, watched every show and bought every toy I could get my hands on. Seeing a Tyrannosaurus Rex “in real life” was a game changer. That was the first time I remember feeling the “magic” of film and asking “How? How did they make those creatures feel so real and terrifying?”. I was on the edge of my seat for 127 exciting minutes that has now grown to 25 years.
Unfortunately, Jurassic Park has proven to be impossible to follow, with each subsequent film disappointing audiences. There have been fun moments, but the lack of character depth and continued dependence on CGI has sucked the life and soul from the franchise. In that first film when the T-Rex escapes during the storm, the use of CGI is almost imperceptible. When it exhales and blows Grant’s hat off his head, it’s chilling. You can see every bump on its face, the rain slowly trickling down its snout and teeth. At that moment, you are Grant and that dinosaur is about to eat you; it’s real. That same visceral reaction is nearly impossible to replicate when the reliance is on computer generated creatures, especially while stampeding from an erupting volcano in broad daylight.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (directed by J.A. Bayona, written by Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly) has the same problems as the previous sequels. Three years after the closure of “Jurassic World”, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), now a dinosaur rights activist, learns of an active volcano set to eradicate the population and is contacted by an associate of Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the former (never mentioned in 25 years or 4 films) partner of Jurassic Park creator John Hammond. Lockwood wishes to save the dinosaurs with the help of Claire and former raptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). The events on the island happen so quickly there’s no time for suspense of the eruption or to form any attachment to the new characters introduced. And then there’s the aforementioned dinosaurs in daylight thing.
Once back on the mainland and at Lockwood’s estate the film actually gets interesting, albeit not always in a good way. Bayona, who also directed 2007’s The Orphanage, establishes the third act as a horror movie and it’s a much more engaging concept. He truly produces some special moments of tension through creative camera work and the atmosphere he constructs of a spooky, rain soaked manor with a monster on the loose. Nevertheless, the script cripples him in the end. There’s little, if any, character development or growth and the always charismatic Chris Pratt has so little to work with that he’s more or less a silent action hero for the majority of the film. Trevorrow and Connolly then crowbar in a twist so extraneous that it nearly knocked me out of my seat from the eye roll and conclude with a setup that suggests an even more insane follow up film.
Fallen Kingdom, more than anything, is redundant and unnecessary, unable to recapture the magic that once hooked this ten year old. To again quote Dr. Malcolm, “You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could…”. Much like with the volcano on the island, it may be time to let nature take its course.
James White attended the University of Florida where he studied History and Mass Communications. He now lives in Maryland working as a bartender but with a passion for film. He is currently working on watching 365 new movies this year to broaden his film knowledge. You can find his movie reactions and reviews on Twitter, Stardust and Letterboxd @G4TOR24.