- Movie Rating -

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

| July 3, 2018

When Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ended, I sat in my second-row seat staring at the rolling credits with a feeling of general puzzlement.  I’m a pretty attentive movie-goer but I wondered if I had missed something.  I wondered if there was a line of dialogue or a plot point that blew by me amid all the incessant chaos.  In speaking with my wife on the drive home, it dawned on me that, no, I hadn’t missed anything, this movie had arrived at a conclusion that made no logical sense.

Without giving too much away, there is a decision made by the main characters at the end of this movie that is colossally stupid, a decision that will cost thousands of innocent people their lives.  Had the movie offered no alternative, fine, but this decision is one based on vacuous bleeding-heart stupidity, action without thought and I was wondering what the filmmakers were thinking.

I should not have been surprised.  Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a movie loaded with stupid decisions, insipid stock characters and a narrative structure that feels haphazardly glued together based on our familiarity with the other films in this series.  This is the fourth sequel to Jurassic Park but it is far and away the worst.  Some quibbled over Jurassic World but at least that film had a sensible trajectory.  This one is all over the place as if the writers Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly were just making it up as it went along and worse never questioned themselves or the intelligence of the audience.

This movie doesn’t care if you are entertained or frustrated by it.  The marketing is surprisingly careless.  All that stuff in the trailer with the volcano island takes place in the first 45 minutes.  Folks, we’ve been duped.  That’s not the movie.  That’s the first act.  Worse, that’s the best part and after that we spend the next 85 minutes watching a movie trying to decide what it wants to be about.  Worse, it never makes up its mind.

The better parts of the movie involved the remains of Jurassic World, which has wisely been abandoned by humans and left to the dinosaurs.  But there’s a problem, of course.  Ilsa Nublar’s long-dormant volcano has become active and now the dinosaurs are in danger of becoming a new line of fossils.  That’s where we catch up with Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard, again), Jurassic World’s former Operations Manager who is now full-bore SJW, a dinosaur rights activist with more feelings than brains.  She has founded a protection group that she hopes will go to the island and rescue the dinosaurs from a horrible fate.  For guidance she needs Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, again) whose major motivation for going is the fact that is his beloved trained raptor Blue is in danger, and the fact that he was in Jurassic World.  That’s Hollywood’s equivalent of natural selection.

The scenes on the island are kind of fun.  From the moment our heroes set foot on the island it is a roller coaster of falling rocks, ash and lava (although the lava tends to operate on movie logic).  Time is running out as the island makes it clear that it is going to make good on its pyroclastic eve of destruction.  Unfortunately, once the island scenes are over, we then have to sit through an even more devastating catastrophe: the rest of the movie.  This is where things fall apart.

SPOILER ALERT – if you can bring yourself to care.

The action of the island moves to the mansion of Ben Lockwood (James Cromwell) a former business partner of John Hammond who is near-death and wants to fund a project to save the dinosaurs.  Unknown to him there is a nefarious plot by Lockwood’s assistant Eli Mills (Rafe Spall – son of Timothy) to somehow weaponize the dinosaurs – that’s not a spoiler, it’s simply repeated from the previous movie.

Much of the movie, for some reason, takes place in Lockwood’s house offering up a plot that feels as if it comes out of southern gothic novel.  There are some old buried secrets.  There’s a beloved daughter of Lockwood who died tragically.  There’s a young girl named Maisy whose very DNA harbors a dark (and particularly lame) secret.  There’s a silly dinosaur auction attended by international billionaires.  There’s the reveal of yet another new genetically-modified Eat-you-saurus Rex.  There are at least 10 scripts here and most of them have no business being in a Jurassic Park movie.  It opens up a dozen moral questions that it doesn’t even know how to answer.

The moral dilemmas offer up the movie’s biggest head-scratcher. It tries to deal in the logistical and moral issues of cloning dinosaurs but can’t decide how it feels about it.  The movie is bookended by scenes of Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, of course) at a congressional hearing offering the opinion that the volcano on Ilsa Nublar is a correction for man’s error in judgement in bringing the dinosaurs back from extinction.  Hardly anyone in the audience would disagree with him, but then we are forced to follow two characters for the rest of the movie who apparently disagree with Malcolm’s logic.  This wouldn’t be a problem if it were addressed, but it isn’t.  Malcolm never has any interaction with these characters and so as far as motivation they seem to be in different places.  We simply get an opening lecture about natural selection but then follow the actions of people who don’t believe that.  Where’s the middle conversation?  Where’s the debate?  Where do we get our feet in this story?  Why does a 132 minute movie feel like it is running on for three days?

By the end, it becomes clear that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a bridge movie – it serves to bridge Jurassic World to whatever movie comes next, but no one has really bothered to make a movie here that we care about.  Yes, the technology in the movie is good – the dinosaurs look great, but the plot is frustrating and apparently no one cares if you enjoy yourself or not.  If you have the capacity for clear-line thinking (able to walk and talk and such) the ending will be baffling, frustrating and leave you with the same puzzlement that it did me.  Life finds a way, sure, but if human beings are this colossally stupid then we’re all headed for extinction.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.