Is it enough for a blockbuster to just trot out computer-generated dinos and let the audience munch popcorn while the beasties chomp down on humans? That depends on who you’re asking. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is practically guaranteed be a surefire box-office monster. But couldn’t it also be good or decent or just not so empty and soulless? Three years ago, the franchise revival Jurassic World traded on our affection for the marvels that Steven Spielberg achieved with 1993’s Jurassic Park. But this sequel has the perfunctory vibe that comes from filmmakers who cynically believe the public will buy anything T. Rex-related, no matter how shoddy the goods or warmed-over the plot.
Speaking of which, the screenplay by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow (who directed the first Jurassic World) gives the capable new director J.A. Bayona (The Impossible) precious little to work with. The exposition weighs a ton, starting with Jeff Goldblum as Jurassic regular Dr. Malcolm warning Congress that it’s dangerous to mess with Mother Nature. (Yes, we know.) The dire portents continue as everyone tries to deal with what happens after the dinos ran wild last time and the survivors switched into lawsuit mode. When a volcano erupts on Isla Nublar, the park site off Costa Rica, the problem seems to be solved: fry them in lava. Not so fast: A few bleeding hearts want to save the species. They include former park manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) who trades in her heels for more sensible footwear to prove she’s serious. She persuades her estranged boyfriend, animal behaviorist Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), to join the cause by referencing Blue, the cutie-pie velociraptor that he trained from infancy.
Even better, Claire finds financing from Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the billionaire who originally partnered with John Hammond – the late Richard Attenborough’s character, for those of you playing along at home – to build the park. The idea is to move the remaining creatures to another sanctuary where they’ll be safe. Little do they know that Lockwood’s fake-smiling associate Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) has plans to weaponize the beasts and sell them to arms dealers at an auction. There hasn’t been such a jungle-to-civilization uproar since King Kong was brought to NYC in chains.
If that story angle seems intriguing in concept, rest
assured it is merely exhausting in execution. After one haunting image of a
howling dinosaur stranded and left to burn on the deserted island, Fallen Kingdom hurtles headlong into a mudslide of
pre-historic stereotypes. Stuck indoors, the film fails to generate an ounce of
nerve-frying suspense or wild imagination.
Chunks of time are wasted following Claire and Owen as they try to rescue Lockwood’s
10-year-old niece Maisie (Isabella Sermon) from the movie’s villain. A question: Why cast Pratt, that
rare movie star with a comic’s sense of mischief, and then reduce him to a pawn
who runs around hitting his marks like a robot devoid of personality? Humdrum
is the last thing you expect from a dinosaurs-run-wild movie. But humdrum is what you get, however, in a cashgrab preoccupied with building the next
sequel and guaranteed box-office safety If you harbor any doubts that originality is Hollywood’s fallen
kingdom, welcome … to the Joyless Proof!