Home » Articles » Review: Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

Review: Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

By Mark Laherty

Let’s start by saying what nice things there are to be said. Sometime in 2014 or 2015, a blueprint was drawn up for a great Jurassic Park sequel.

See, there are good things about the three other Park sequels but they all commit the same sin: they’re the first movie again. Each of them try to be bigger or to add a gimmick like motorcycles. But, they always feel like a re-run because that’s what they are. Why not try to take the story somewhere else? That’s essentially what Fallen Kingdom is. It finally, blessedly, takes the Jurassic out of the park.

This blueprint would hypothesise a movie where the premise isn’t just “humans VS dinosaurs.” This time around, the dinosaur island is about to be wiped out by an erupting volcano. A team of humans, including the returning Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, go on a mission to save some of the dinosaurs so that they don’t go extinct. Throw in a few neat twists and a spooky mansion. The film seems like it has a decent shot at success.

But, as good as the text is, the texture leaves a lot to be desired. A great example of this sort of thing is the end of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Anakin and Obi-Wan, having spent a trilogy forming a friendship, are forced into an emotionally excruciating battle. In structure terms, it’s an impeccable payoff. But, all that’s on the screen is cliché dialogue and hammy performances. The best ideas in the world will suffer from bad execution.

Is Fallen Kingdom as bad as Revenge of the Sith? No, not nearly. But, much of it feels significantly lacklustre. Trying to guess the secret heart of a director is always crystal-ball-gazing but this does feel like the sort of movie that gets made when a team is told to crank out a sequel for as soon a release as possible.

Apart from the things that people are literally, physically doing, what’s Fallen Kingdom all about? It has some ideas but it seems confused about them and never asserts them with confidence. The underpinning question is a good one: should we allow dinosaurs to die or should we protect them? Letting them die feels like a betrayal of virtue. Saving them raises a lot of practical questions about humanity not dying. Jeff Goldblum himself returns to argue in favour of letting dinosaurs die (don’t get too excited, he’s here for a total of two minutes).

What answers does the movie pose to the questions it raises? It’s hard to say. It manages to give us spectacular dinosaur battles while also convincing the audience to empathise for the great beasts, at least most of the time. That balance gets muddied towards the end of the story. Characters make decisions that kind of make sense and which kind of feel like they were half-heartedly set up beforehand. But, it really feels like the screenwriters had bigger ideas for where they wanted the plot and the franchise to go and that they were willing to bend the characterisation backwards to move the plot in that direction.

Connected to these problems is the meandering characterisation. There’s little in the way of coherent progression or growth here. Early on, the movie goes through the motions of showing that Chris Pratt is a jerk who needs to learn to care about things. Then he learns to care about things in the next scene. He spends the rest of the movie doing cool action movie hero things but not having any internal conflict.

Bryce Dallas Howard’s character has a little more going on but is even more infuriating for it. The movie sets up her deal early on: she’s an environmentalist that wants to protect the dinosaurs and doesn’t listen to other people’s concerns about human safety. Nobody and nothing confronts her about the values she holds until quite late in the movie. Even then, it feels half-hearted. The forgettable villain, comparable to Guy Pearce in Iron Man 3, tells our heroes that they’ve carried out the same misdeeds that he has, that they’re no better than him. This should be a crucial moment but it feels more like Cinema Sins nit-picking. There is no clear demonstration of what’s wrong with these people or how they need to grow.
Development only comes in fits and starts. The movie’s climactic decision feels confusing, hollow, and un-earned.

It’s a shame because it didn’t have to be this way. There’s a great movie in here somewhere. It just feels like it’s been bludgeoned into the shape of a trilogy’s middle chapter when that’s not what it wanted or needed to be. There are a few stand-out elements like Michael Giacchino’s excellent score and Daniella Pineda’s endearing performance as the team’s dinosaur vet. With two or three more drafts on the screenplay, this could have been a genuine return to form for a franchise that never got back to the heights of its debut. Again, it’s great on paper. But you shouldn’t buy a ticket for promise alone.

Mark Laherty writes about media and politics on his WordPress blog. You can also support him on Patreon.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *