Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
★★ / ★★★★
You know there’s something wrong with a “Jurassic” sequel when you wonder why there isn’t more people being eaten by dinosaurs about halfway through the film. Although J.A. Bayona’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is arguably the most impressive entry visually, particularly when the camera lingers on an animal’s rough skin and even the details of the crevices are eye-catching, it commands neither a compelling story nor a potent social commentary—surprising because the question of whether genetically engineered dinosaurs ought be saved from an island about to undergo a volcanic eruption is at the forefront initially. Everybody has—or should have—an opinion when it comes to animal rights, but the screenplay misses the boat completely in engaging with the complexities of the subject matter.
Yes, a summer a blockbuster can be both wildly entertaining and educational—at the very least one that inspires conversations, particularly questions regarding what if or when technology finally catches up to us. No, it is not too much to ask; perhaps we should hold more films accountable so that we do not receive the same generic rubbish that goes on autopilot every year.
In this day and age, playing with genetics is more commercial than ever—I know because I am in the field. If the screenplay by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow were more scientifically curious, especially when it comes to science’s applications on our every day lives, the dialogue would have been more interesting rather than simply painting scientists as greedy or evil. Cue Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) eyeing one another longingly. Their relationship, whatever it is, goes nowhere in this installment.
Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” was so successful because the film was able to traverse the tricky balance of providing popcorn fluff and brain food. Here, however, the picture seems content in delivering spectacular special and visual effects but not necessarily modulating the audience’s more visceral reactions. Notice how busy the action sequences tend to be. While most of them take a moment or two of pause, they almost always end up with a jump scare and the inevitable extended chase. Its rigid adherence to the formula suffers from diminishing returns and I grew bored by the last third in which terrified characters run around a mansion where dinosaurs have escaped.
Aside from Owen and Claire’s flavorless main characters, even the supporting ones are a bore. This time around, a systems analyst (Justice Smith) and a paleoveterinarian (Daniella Pineda) are recruited to visit Isla Nublar and lend a hand on transferring the animals to a safer haven. Naturally, they find themselves unprepared and terrorized by the hungry beasts. Smith and Pineda’s characters are not written from an interesting angle. The original “Jurassic Park” has shown that side characters can function mainly as potential victims of dinosaur attack—siblings Tim and Lex quickly come to mind—but they must be so charming that the viewer roots for them anyway even when they make a last-minute dumb decision that puts everyone in further jeopardy. Here, the systems analyst and the paleoveterinarian make good choices and yet… they are dull. It should not be this way.
The picture promises a third “Jurassic World” installment and, I must say, I look forward to it. The way it is set up opens the door to limitless potential for exploration. Still, one cannot help but feel wary because this entry, too, shows potential to go beyond superficial entertainment—yet it does not. “Fallen Kingdom” is passable as a creature-feature film, but its many weapons in its arsenal are not utilized to set the bar high, to achieve greatness, or, at the very least, to become memorable. It seems content in delivering a safe spectacle.