I recently re-watched Jurassic Park (at Powell Hall, with the Saint Louis Symphony playing the soundtrack) and was reminded just how fresh and original a film it is. The corollary realization, of course, is what a contrast it provides with the money-spinners that constitute the rest of the Jurassic franchise. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, does not break the sorry trend of the sequels, unless you are happy with an action movie relying far too much on repetitious menacing dino roars and characters’ narrow escapes, the effectiveness of both decreasing with each iteration.
The story begins three years after the last Jurassic World. A once-dormant volcano is erupting on Isla Nubar, which awakens the concerns of a PETA-like organization that wants to save the dinosaurs, as well as some not-so-nice people that want to make money off them. Ignored by both groups is the possibly of simply cloning more dinosaurs should something happen to the current batch—it should be a lot simpler when you’re starting with ample DNA from living or recently living animals, as compared to tiny amounts of blood from mosquitoes trapped within amber for zillions of years—or making use of what seem to be a large quantity of existing dino eggs and other genetic material. But if you insist on using your common sense, this is not the movie for you.
Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a spokesperson for the PETA-like organization. She and her coworkers Zia (Daniella Pineda), a dino vet, and Franklin (Justice Smith), filling the black nerd slot as a computer expert, plus her ex-boyfriend Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) answer the call of John Hammond’s elderly ex-partner (James Cromwell) to help move the dinos to a different island where they will presumably be happy and healthy.
Of course, a movie like this needs an evil henchman to create conflict, and that role is filled by Lockwood’s money guy, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), who has assembled a whole team of commandoes to spirit the dinosaurs away for nefarious purposes. Other players include Jeff Goldblum as a now-gray Ian Malcom, who argues in favor of letting the dinos die; Isabella Sermon as Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie, fulfilling the requisite spunky teenage girl role; Geraldine Chaplin as Maisie’s caregiver, and Ted Levine as the leader of the commandos.
The screenplay of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, credited to Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow is so formulaic it might as well have been generated by computer. it shows the tell-tale signs of having been meddled with by many hands, as if one writer wanted to load on the blood and guts while another was trying to keep it discrete enough for five-year-olds, a third wanted to throw in as many callouts as possible to classic movies, from King Kong to Citizen Kane, a fourth wanted to create something reminiscent of not-very-good kid’s movies and TV shows from decades ago, and a fifth that just wanted lots of action, resulting in pacing as predictable as a cheap boo-scare horror movie. A potentially interesting subplot involving Maisie is mentioned but not developed, another reason I suspect meddling with the script, possibly to save time (the film runs a long-feeling 128 min.).
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has some good set pieces, particularly in the second half, but that’s not enough to save it. It will probably make a lot of money because it’s engineered to gratify an audience that demands action and doesn’t care about nitpicky things like plot and character development (and it’s custom-made for overseas distribution, which is where it’s predecessor made 61% of its money) . For everyone else, there’s plenty of better ways to spend your time and entertainment dollar than this boring, bloated blockbuster. | Sarah Boslaugh