"Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" film review: Time to close the park
The latest entry in the dinosaur rampage franchise, "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" (opening in theaters nationwide June 22), is somehow a natural progression from the themes of the heady Michael Crichton novel - and the stupidest entry in the series.
In short: When a destructive volcano threaten to destroy Isla Nublar, Jurassic World survivors Claire and Owen (Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt) race to save the dinosaurs from certain extinction. Stars Rafe Spall, James Cromwell, Toby Jones and Jeff Goldblum.
Let's be clear: "Fallen Kingdom" is the most brainless entry in the series yet. And yes, that means it's dumber than "Jurassic Park III." At least "III" has the excuse of being a simple "get off the island alive" premise. In its own way, the self-imposed simplicity of "III" means it is what it is - a somewhat focused and streamlined little survival flick without any higher aspirations of depth or value. "Fallen Kingdom" is two moderate-to-bad movies smooshed together into a film that aspires to higher thematic elements, while also indulging in some mind-bogglingly stupid action sequences.
The original "Jurassic Park" stands the test of time not just because of it's revolutionary special effects (more on that in a moment), but also because its thoughtful examination of ethics and science. Every kid wishes dinosaurs were alive today, but the original film actually revealed the complex ethical problems introduced just by creating the technology to resurrect long extinct animals. "The Lost World" abandoned these concepts and just set a T-Rex loose on San Diego before "III" revealed the franchise had completely lost its way, favoring monsters over ideas.
To this end, "Fallen Kingdom" attempts to advance the intelligent themes introduced in the original film - and actually play them out, revealing how the underground market wouldn't just exploit dinosaurs for amusement park dollars - but to use them, and genetic advancements, as criminal or military weapons. "Fallen Kingdom" attempts to reveal the world where Pandora's box was opened by Jurassic Park visionary John Hammond, and abused by even less ethical opportunists.
While "Fallen Kingdom" deserves some credit for resurfacing these more intelligent angles of the franchise, these themes are wrapped in the stupidest and brainless "Jurassic" sequel yet. Not a lot of the plot driving aspects of "Fallen" make a lot of sense - and they're all in service of railroading the heroes and rescued dinosaurs ... to a mansion filled with goons and vapid morons? The obvious antagonist is a caricature of little depth and only the most basic motivation. The dinosaurs are just monsters in the shape of beloved creatures. Without spoiling some of the plot turns, "Fallen" starts out as a rescue mission, and switches gears to a "we have to escape a mansion" flick. The film hints at the wider ramifications of genetic weapons - punctuated by weirdly stupid action-adventure moments.
The CGI and animatronics from the original 1993 film still holds up - but "Fallen" just looks like a CGI cartoon. For a series that began with intense sequences anchored in practical effects, "Fallen" just visually looks bad. Part “III” was bad, but at least it knew it was stupid and had a running time under 90 minutes — “Fallen” is a shockingly boring “Jurassic” film where the antagonists are … a businessman … and an auctioneer … and a geneticist.
But kudos to the filmmakers for flipping the table on the franchise. It's not even feasible to churn out another "escape from Jurassic Park" movie because they outright destroyed the park. It's a bold move for the franchise where each film was increasingly indistinguishable from the last.
Final verdict: Although the story admirably attempts to address the inevitable consequences of creating dinosaurs, "Fallen Kingdom" is one part cartoonish CGI escape from an angry volcano, and one part evil genetic arms dealers movie.
"Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" opens in theaters June 22. The science fiction adventure has a running time of 128 minutes and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.