Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which clocks in at two hours and eight minutes, feels like two separate and distinct films. The first half of the movie revolves around an effort to rescue dinosaurs from Isla Nublar, the setting of the previous film (and the original). The second half of the film focuses on an effort to sell dinosaurs on the black market.
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard reprise their roles from Jurassic World. Pratt’s Owen Grady is living a relaxed rural life while Howard’s Claire is focused on saving the surviving dinosaurs on Isla Nublar. With a volcano set to explode soon and the island’s destruction a virtual certainty, Claire wants to relocate the remaining animals.
The debate about whether or not the government should spare the genetically-engineered creatures sets the stage for the feature’s first half. News reporters discuss the subject and our nation’s political leaders even weigh in. Claire enlists Owen’s support in capturing Blue, the sole remaining raptor on the island, and bringing him to a sanctuary.
This precedes the inevitable rescue mission on the island. Alongside computer whiz Franklin (Justice Smith) and veterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda), the team — alongside a militarized crew — arrive on the island. This set-up leads to a few exciting action sequences and some great moments of tension. In fact, this concept could’ve easily been developed as the film’s main plot.
Instead, the filmmakers spend the movie’s second half on a nefarious plan to sell the rescued dinosaurs to criminals, who plan to weaponize them.
If the film’s first half offered an interesting plot device, the feature’s second half squanders it with a silly storyline. The plot features countless clichés that seem ripped from bad thrillers. There’s a corrupt businessman, who becomes psychotic when his plans are discovered. There’s a seemingly smart character who makes astoundingly dumb decisions. There’s even a moment when a little girl gets locked in her bedroom so the bad guys can move forward with their plans.
Fans of this franchise expect more than these stereotypical plot threads.
When the film’s second half isn’t playing it safe (did I mention there’s a new dinosaur on display too?), it’s making shockingly bizarre character choices. A few cringeworthily twists in the film’s third-act feel like underdeveloped ideas that were thrown in at the last minute.
The screenplay by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow is maddeningly uneven. At times, the film overtly pushes for emotional moments (and a few work) but there are other elements that feel completely out of place in a blockbuster film.
It doesn’t help that the genuine excitement of seeing dinosaurs onscreen never fully comes across here. One of the things that Jurassic Park and Jurassic World captured so well was the sheer joy that arrives when the characters see these magnificent creatures for the first time.
In the latest film’s closing moments, one of the characters asks a simple question: “How many times must the point be made?” The question in the film refers to the concept of genetic testing and how such experiments can lead to catastrophic results. The question could also be asked about the franchise itself. Without fresh content, how much longer can this franchise last?
This latest addition to the franchise offers a few great moments of action and fun. Long-time fans of the series will likely find enough to enjoy here (I did) but others should steer clear.
Review by: John Hanlon