Ealasaid/ June 26, 2018/ Movie Reviews and Features

Directed by: J. A. Bayona
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Rafe Spalls, Ted Levine
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril

It’s been three years since Hollywood tossed “Jurassic World” at us, and they’re at it again with “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” As with the previous film, if all you want to do is look at cool dinosaur-monsters, the new film will do a pretty good job of meeting that expectation. Otherwise, this is more of the same badly written, badly edited nonsense. On the bright side, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a bit less incompetent this time around.

In the world of the film, it’s been four years since the disaster at the Jurassic World theme park. Claire and Owen (Chris Pratt) have split up, and the dinos are roaming free on their island. However, there’s a volcano on that island, and it’s set to erupt and destroy all life in its path. Claire is desperately trying to find a way to save the dinosaurs. Conveniently, along comes Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), executor of the Lockwood Estate (which has connections with John Hammond, the millionaire behind Jurassic Park). He’s funding an expedition to rescue as many of the dinosaurs as possible, and Claire can come — as long as she can talk Owen into coming as well.

She does, and of course the money guy in the suit turns out (spoiler!) to be a bad, bad man who has hired bad people to do bad things with those dinosaurs. Claire and Owen have to stop them, somehow. On the bright side, they have the assistance of paleontologist veterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda) and computer-guy Franklin (Justice Smith). On the downside, the bad guys outnumber them tremendously and have plenty of weaponry.

It’s a reasonably straightforward premise, but the way film is edited together, it’s hard to tell when it’s trying to drop hints of intrigue and when it’s just being incoherent. Why is Wheatley (Ted Levine) yanking a tooth out of each dinosaur they capture? It’s easy to get DNA from teeth, is he stealing the DNA for someone? Young Masie is the granddaughter of old man Lockwood, former partner of old Hammond – but where are her parents and why won’t he let her look at the scrapbook he’s always clutching?

The production values, though, are spectacular. Hollywood has gotten really good at CGI monsters, and it does not disappoint here. Almost every shot is lush and full of neat little details. Our heroes look spectacular, the sound effects are good, even the new genetically-engineered-super-dinosaur looks pretty cool (its name, though, is even worse than the one from the last film). The most jarring thing, visually, is that these films still use the cutting-edge paleontology from the 90s to design their dinosaurs. No feathers in sight here, which is a bit weird if you keep up with the science around dinosaurs.

This movie would be an order of magnitude better if it realized how bad it is. Instead, the music tries to push seriousness upon us with volume and intensity. It’s always a couple notches too high. There’s very little camp here, very little self-awareness. There’s a bit of the anti-corporate, pro-scientists vibe the series is known for, but not in a sufficiently coherent way to make it interesting. Pratt does his best (he has excellent comedic timing and is really good at interacting with CGI creatures), but he’s not given much good material to work with.

If you saw “Jurassic World,” you know what you’re getting with “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” This is more of the same. Unless you just want to watch dinosaurs on the big screen and don’t care about anything else, you’re probably better off watching the first movie on a good entertainment system.