Courtesy of Universal
Everyone looks tired in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” which represents the worst “Jurassic Park” film in the entire franchise (yes, I’m including “Jurassic Park III”).
It’s hard to imagine where “Kingdom” went wrong. For starters, J.A Bayona is a respectable filmmaker (see “A Monster Calls” or the wonderfully made “The Orphanage”). And the film was coming of a sequel high, with Chris Pratt riding a huge wave of popularity.
Whatever the case, nothing clicks the way it should and sinks this franchise into extinct waters. Not only does it lack creativity (when will people learn not to mess with dinosaur genetics?) but if you were excited to see Jeff Goldblum’s iconic Dr. Malcom on-screen again, you should know he’s used for roughly five minutes of airtime (and he also looks tired). Maybe it was the long filming days or ...? But this entire movie, all I wanted to do was tell Chris Pratt to go take a nap.
Adequately taking place three years after the events of “Jurassic World,” “Kingdom” (or ‘Jurassic Park 5’) picks up on Isla Nublar that’s now a wasteland ready to explode. A volcanic eruption is all but imminent and the government is working overtime to decide what countermeasures should be taken (if any) to save the dinos from extinction... again. This is where Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire comes in, as she’s leading a brigade of animal activist, who are trying to save the man-eating creatures. Nevermind the dinos track record of crunching on human flesh, we need to feel sympathy and save them! How strained for ideas can this series get?
Once the government shuts down all options, hope arrives in the form of a shady benefactor Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) who presents Claire with an ultimatum, saving 11 species on the island and return them safely to land. Specifically a raptor, and fan-favorite, Blue - as she’s the last of her kind and one of the most intelligent animals on the planet.
But with Blue being such a precarious creature, help is once again called upon from Owen (Pratt) to use his old skills as an animal behaviorist to lure Blue home safely. And before the iconic score bursts on the screen, we’re back on the island (only briefly) before all hell starts to break loose.
“Fallen Kingdom” is essentially two movies, and neither one ever seem defined. The first half is about all the hoopla on Nublar, while the second half is a claustrophobic home invasion thriller with dinosaurs (something Bayona did so well with “The Orphanage” was create suspense - here he does nothing). We eventually find out that Eli’s ploy - in the most predictable segment in the film - was a rouse to get Owen and Claire to bring the dinos back to the states, so they can be weaponized and sold on the black market. It’s here where Bayona basically guts any respect you might still have for “Jurassic Park,” because the film takes the park element out of the film, thus leaving humans as the antagonist (but your human element is only as good as your humans!) And when we find out they’re trying to make another breed of dinosaur cut from the same cloth as the Indominus Rex, it’s annoying because you’d think these people would apply, I dunno, some form of logic to their brain trust? How many times has this failed? Yet we continue anyway.
Then again, we don’t come to “Jurassic Park” for the logistics, but we do come to have fun. Unlike “Jurassic World” where, at least, the actors seemed to have a good time - think of the sequence where Owen was riding a motorcycle with the raptors by his side - in “Kingdom” Pratt barley registers any convincing moments. Instead, he stares off into the distance, mouth gaping, like he can’t believe what he’s seeing. And I actually don’t think he knew what he was seeing either, except a blank green screen. Get this guy a five-hour energy please.
Not to mention, Bayona throws every nod and reference in the book from “Jurassic Park,” and at times it felt like I was viewing a shot-for-shot remake, therefore leaving “Kingdom” without an identity all its own. A balancing act of forced human emotion, without any of the bloody carnage that reigned supreme in earlier entries (we do see one up close mutilation, and it promises a better movie is lurking underneath). And Toby Jones steals all of his scenes as a maniacal auctioneer with a toupee and Bugs Bunny teeth. Making me ask: ‘Why couldn’t he be the main villain?’ There’s also a little girl named Malise (newcomer Isabella Sermon) that sneaks around in the shadows, and once you find out her true purpose, you’ll be forced into a rather manipulative corner (like do I buy this? Or not).
I guess the good news is that “Kingdom” ends on a sparse note that hints at a better future, which is solid considering how surprisingly lackluster this was. A major blockbuster that’s a shocking disappointment, and represents everything wrong with Hollywood not leaving beloved properties alone.
The tagline for “Fallen Kingdom” reads that ‘life always find a way,’ and instead of churning out five movies from that saying alone, I think the filmmakers need to stop and ask themselves: ‘What if it didn’t?’