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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Where Is A Giant Asteroid When You Need It?"
2 stars

For about the first 10-15 minutes of “Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom,” I felt something that I have only rarely experienced throughout the franchise’s 25 years of existence and certainly not for a while—a genuine sense of excitement and enthusiasm. The film kicks off with a couple of scenes that are so well done that the series might finally—finally--pull itself out of its creative topper and bring on the thrills, entertainment and wonder that it has long promised but only rarely delivered. Alas, outside of a couple of skillfully executed action beats here and there, the film fails to live up to those opening scenes enough to make it worth watching (not that this will stop people from turning out to see it in droves). The good news is that it is certainly better than its predecessor, the utterly insipid “Jurassic World” (2015). The bad news, on the other hand, is that it is not that much better.

To be fair, I suppose I should offer the caveat that the “Jurassic Park” franchise as a whole has never really done much for me in the past. While I agree that the original “Jurassic Park” (1993) deserves a place in cinema history for the stunning technological advances it deployed to create the illusion that dinosaurs were back, the story has always struck me as being little more than Michael Crichton revamping his 1973 sci-fi cult favorite “Westworld” and replacing Yul Brynner with raptors and also suffered from Steven Spielberg trying a little too hard to invoke the spirit of the Spielberg who once so effortlessly made such across-the-board favorites like “Jaws” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Oddly, it is the largely derided “The Lost World” (1997) that I prefer the most—the big set pieces (such as the one involving the truck dangling over the chasm with the cracking windshield and the dinos rampaging through San Diego) were breathtakingly effective, the shifting of the always-reliable Jeff Goldblum from supporting player to lead lent an additional edge of offbeat humor to the proceedings and Spielberg’s obvious lack of interest in the whole enterprise—even as he was making the film, he was also working on both “Amistad” and “Saving Private Ryan”—actually worked in its favor in the sense that he didn’t bother to overthink his attempt to return to popcorn cinema in the way that he would do with the likes of “The BFG” and “Ready Player One.” However, the only saving grace regarding “Jurassic Park III” is that it proved to be as forgettable as its title—unless you were directly involved with its production, it is highly unlikely that you recall any tangible detail from this one at all. “Jurassic World,” unfortunately would prove to be all too memorable—with its inane plotting, dull characters and weirdly retrograde gender dynamics, it seemed to be going out of its way to be awful, which made its massive box-office success all the more dispiriting.

So yeah, these films have never been my particular bag but “Fallen Kingdom” at least has the good taste and sense to start off on a high note. Set three years after the events of the previous film, where the inhabitants of the Jurassic World theme park on Isla Nublar ran amok, this one opens with a group of mercenaries sneaking into the wrecked park in order to snag precious data and samples for what are almost certainly nefarious purposes. Not surprisingly, this does not end well for some of them and while the sequence itself may not be especially startling or revelatory, it has been staged in a relatively inventive and exciting manner that made it all seem about as freesias a fifth go-around can possibly be. As it turns out, a volcano on Isla Nublar has become active (was Irwin Allen the project surveyor?) and threatens to kill the few dinosaurs remaining there. This leads to the other neat scene, where the U.S. Senate debates whether anything should be done to rescue the imperiled dinosaurs and the point man for the let-them-die-out perspective is none other than Jeff Goldblum—sorry, Dr. Ian Malcolm—himself. Again, there is nothing new to what he is saying but he delivers his boilerplate dialogue with the kind of oddball charm that has made him one of our most beloved character actors and he single-handedly rescues what could have been a deadly boring speech. Unfortunately, save for a very brief coda at the end, this is, despite the hype, his only appearance in the film—a good call for him and a disastrous turn for the rest of us.

Instead, we now have to shift our focus to the two dopes that bored us to tears the last time around—former Jurassic World operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and dinosaur trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). Claire is now heading a non-profit dedicated to saving the remaining dinosaurs when she is contacted by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the former partner of the late John Hammond, at his estate in Northern California. He and his business manager, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) have a top secret plan to relocate some of the endangered dinosaurs to a well-protected island sanctuary and needs her help to locate them, especially the elusive and well-trained velociraptor Blue. She, in turn, recruits Owen, who trained Blue himself, and the two, along with former park technician Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) and paleoveterinarian Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda), fly off to Isla Nublar to meet with the group of mercenaries led by Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine) to commence rescue operations. Of course, any “rescue” operation headed by the likes of Ted Levine is not to be trusted right off the bat and indeed, it transpires that Owen and Claire have been lured under false pretenses and the dinosaurs are being shipped not to a safe place but to a destination I dare not reveal except to note that viewers who recall the great, if underrated, Marlon Brando comedy “The Freshman” may find themselves flashing back to one of its loopiest moments at a key point. Almost forgot—also popping up here and there is Maisie (Isabella Sermon), Lockwood’s beloved granddaughter and the unwitting keeper of a few secrets of her own.

Now I am well aware that applying logic to a narrative based on the conceit that dinosaurs have been brought back to life through various genetic experimentation and that people still want to fiddle around with that technology even though every application of it has thus far ended disastrously is at best a foolhardy endeavor indeed. And yet, even if one manages to cut “Fallen Kingdom” an enormous amount of slack in this regard, you are still left with a screenplay so inane, even by modern tentpole standards, that it feels as if co-writers Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, having suffered the slings and arrows of criticism for their work on “Jurassic World,” decided to deliberately try to come up with something even more nonsensical this time around. For example, it seems highly unlikely that there would be any sort of human outcry pushing for the rescue of dinosaurs that have already killed many people and caused zillions in property damage and even if there were, since the technology is already out there, those interested in having dinosaurs around could just make them for themselves. As for the shocking real reason why the dinosaurs have been rescued, it is so laughably cumbersome and implausible that it may be the only halfway believable element on display.
Having ludicrous plots and characters who act like idiots (hey—maybe wait a minute after hitting the deadliest dinosaur alive with a tranquilizer before indulging your fetish of removing a tooth from each one you catch, just to be sure) is bad enough under most circumstances but it is especially deadly here since the fun of a film like this is to set up a system that cannot possibly and then observe as it all goes higgledy-piggledy. If the whole thing is nonsense from the get-go, watching it all fall apart inspires little more than a shrug. (Don’t even get me started on the nonsensical subplot involving the granddaughter.)

Aside from the aforementioned opening scenes, the only thing that keeps “Fallen Kingdom” from fully falling apart to the same extent that “Jurassic World” did is the sheer craftsmanship demonstrated by director J.A. Bayona, whose previous efforts have included such infinitely better works as “The Orphanage” (2007), “The Impossible” (2012) and “A Monster Calls” (2016). Other than the novelty of trying to shoot a series of dinosaur attacks in the film’s unusual second half setting, I cannot quite understand what it was about this project that drew him in (aside from the chance to work on a film guaranteed to make more in its opening weekend than all of his previous films combined, of course). That said, he has far greater flair as a visual stylist in his most offhand moments than Colin Trevorrow could ever hope to muster and he does manage to demonstrate that here. The action and attack sequences may be stupid as can be but they have been executed with far more skill than they deserve and he even manages to occasionally muster up a genuinely inspired image here and there. However, even in its best moments, you are always depressingly aware that this is clearly a paycheck job and that he is clearly just going through the motions. (My guess is that he is also responsible for the unexpected presence his “The Orphanage” co-star Geraldine Chaplin as the girl’s nanny.)

And yet, not even Bayona’s efforts can quite overcome the fact that “Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom” is a painfully unnecessary extension of a franchise that has been creatively extinct for years. It will no doubt make a lot of money and there may be people out there who even like it on some fundamental level but if you were to ask any of them what they liked about it six months from now, I suspect that most of them will be drawing blanks. Whatever its flaws, the original “Jurassic Park” did inspire a generation of moviegoers to become interested in both film and dinosaurs, so it at least has that going for it when all is said and done. By comparison, “Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom” does absolutely nothing other than allow people to see for themselves what a “Sharknado”-style film might look like if it had hundreds of millions of dollars available to produce it.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=29783&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/21/18 00:45:17
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User Comments

2/28/19 Homo habilis I’d rather be held underwater by an ichthyosaur until the bubbles stop than watch this cr 1 stars
10/15/18 Langano Couldn't get through it. 1 stars
7/04/18 Rene Auberjonois Pure magic, a truly great special effects extravaganza. 5 stars
6/29/18 The Truth This movie is crap. Trevorrow is a terrible writer. Bayona is a hack. 'Nuff said. 1 stars
6/28/18 Bob Dog Better than the first reboot, but I wish they'd hired a writer for this sequel. 3 stars
6/22/18 morris campbel has its ups & downs cool ending though 3 stars
6/22/18 Tony Brubaker A quite magnificent movie, absolutely fantastic. 5 stars
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  22-Jun-2018 (PG-13)
  DVD: 18-Sep-2018


  DVD: 18-Sep-2018

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