Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (J.A. Bayona, 2018) 1 out of 4 stars.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the kind of mindless summer blockbuster-wannabe that rewards only the most basic of our adrenal needs. If one thinks about the plot for more than a few seconds, it not only makes little sense, but enrages, so incoherent are its details and developments. Sure, there are dinosaurs – some cute, some scary – which is probably what you came for, but what good are visual effects in service of a poorly conceived narrative? I was no great fan of the 2015 Jurassic World, but by comparison that film was a masterpiece. Still, as stupid as this new entry in the franchise may be, it is not completely devoid of entertainment value, thanks to a few nicely rendered sequences and the occasionally evocative digital performance from our Mesozoic friends.
As you may recall (or not), in that previous movie we witnessed the destruction of the rebooted dinosaur park, brought down, as was the first one, by hubris and greed. A combination of improved technology and demand for bigger and badder monsters led the park’s investors to develop a brand-new creature: the Indominus Rex. Not surprisingly, all hell broke loose and many people died, ripped to shreds. Surprisingly, I didn’t care, finding myself rooting for the animals, instead. Some of these reluctant heroes were trained Velociraptors, those fearsome predators which were the effective villains of the very first (and only good) Jurassic Park film, made now over a quarter-century ago, in the distant past of 1993. That switched audience allegiance (at least on my part) was, I admit, a nice twist, intentional or not. If you want me to like the humans, though, you had better write a solid script.
Which hasn’t happened here. We meet some of the survivors of the 2015 movie – most notably, Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire and Chris Pratt’s Owen – dispatched back to the Costa Rican island of Isla Nubar to transport remaining specimens of dinosaurs to a safe new park before the once-dormant volcano blows. Why is the volcano suddenly active? Because it behooved the screenwriters to make it so. And on and on it goes. The reasons why this person betrays that person, or does this or that, matter far less than the attendant mayhem such behaviors unleash. Neither director J.A. Bayona (A Monster Calls) nor co-writers Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow (who collaborated on the 2015 movie, with Trevorrow directing) seem to have much ability to craft meaningful cause and effect, mitigating whatever pleasure we might take from the on-screen action.
That is not say that none of it is fun or occasionally affecting. Watching Owen reunite with the Velociraptor he raised is sweet, and watching a Brontosaurus vanish in a cloud of lava and ash is sad; check the box for successful manipulation of audience emotions. There are also a few new characters – including a badass vet played by Daniella Pineda (Mr. Roosevelt) and a hysterical (both in terms of comic relief and his constantly frayed nerves) computer hacker played by Justice Smith (Every Day) – who add some fresh energy to the mix, but they later disappear as the film focuses, instead, on teeth entering flesh. Focus, actually, is the wrong word, since there is little of it. Not even the brief appearance of the delightful Jeff Goldblum, reprising his role from the original series, can sharpen the blur.
The story, such as it is, revolves around yet another scheme to monetize the genetic science of dinosaur breeding – forget Indominus Rex, we’ll do you one better! – with international arms dealers hoping to use the technology to create unstoppable living weapons. What could go wrong? While we can easily anticipate how that might turn out, what actually does amaze is the staggering imbecility of the main characters, whose choices at the end unleash such horrors on an unsuspecting world (all in the service of the next film), that they take the prize, next to the protagonists of the recent Avengers: Infinity War, for worst consequences of noble-minded deeds. Go team T-Rex! Who needs humans, anyway? Dumb, thy name is Jurassic.