The problem with films where you’re supposed to “turn your brain off” is that movies, even at their dumbest, are an emotional state. Cinema is meant to make you think and feel about these larger than life stories. If it fails to do that, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about the movie, but that we shouldn’t be wasting our time on films that failed to connect with us on an emotional and intellectual level.
I went into “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” with the intent of turning my brain off and seeing how well the film experience turned out. You’d think a movie about rescuing dinosaurs from an exploding island would be the perfect film to just sit back and watch a bunch of cool action sequences, interjected with scenes of Chris Pratt being his goofy self and scientists being morons, but the “Fallen Kingdom” tries to make you think about if the dinosaurs deserve to die or be preserved. Did scientists go too far by bringing back these dinos in the first place and this is nature’s way of correcting that mistake? Or is this God’s punishment for our attempt to gain his power? How much power should we have in this situation and did we have too much power?
This is what I mean – You can’t turn your brain off when the film keeps asking all these philosophical questions about how much power man should have over nature. It was created, in a way, as a cautionary tale about taking the power of genetics too far. That, and to make a ton of money and the box office by putting dinosaurs and Chris Pratt back together again.
Granted, the “Jurassic Park” did the same thing, by making a smart, thrilling, epic tale that was essentially “Frankenstein” but with dinosaurs. The difference now is that “Jurassic Park” had a clear vision, playing out as more than just an action set-piece, but as a film that dared to challenge our ideas of control and power.
“Fallen Kingdom” on the other hand, has no idea what it wants to say, while also losing all the whimsy and awe of its predecessors. There is no character or charm to this entry, where everything feels manufactured and insincere. Even for a film that bragged about its use of practical effects over CGI, the whole movie feels fake.
Set three years after the events of “Jurassic World,” the former tourist destination has now turned into a land where dinosaurs roam freely and governments of the world debate over what to do with it. This decision is made more difficult when the volcano on the island becomes active and threatens to destroy the remaining dinosaurs. It is up to a covert operation, led by Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), to save as many species of dinos before the volcano erupts, but even they’re not sure where all of these creatures will be taken afterwards.
The problem with “Fallen Kingdom” comes down to its less than engaging cast of characters, both human and dinosaur. They do not improve upon the characters or their motivations from “Jurassic World,” which were already weak and shallow, especially its two leads. They make this even worse by giving them annoying sidekicks, one who refuses to smile and another that shows the writers seem to hate Millennials.
But the characters that really suffer are the dinosaurs. In the previous films, it felt like each majestic creature had their own personality or traits, from the dominant and assertive T-Rex to the calm Brontosaurus to the cunning Velociraptor. But here, none of the dinos get a chance to do anything other than run away from the exploding island or try to eat people, some even doing both at the same time even though they have no reason to. We’re not given a reason to care about these ancient animals losing their home or going extinct again, because it’s all treated as one big action sequence.
The action sequences are serviceable, merely getting the point across before moving on to the next big sequence filled with CGI dinosaurs. There’s no big moment in this movie that quite compares the final climactic fight in “Jurassic World,” which given its setting and scenario is disappointing to say the least. Honestly, the most thrilling scene here takes place in the back of a truck and features just one dinosaur as Owen and Claire try to work with it. Outside of that though, the action scenes in “Fallen Kingdom” are nothing to write home about.
Overall, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” isn’t sure if it wants to be an action-packed adventure or an intellectual film about man’s power over nature, so it ends up doing neither very well. The script doesn’t make any sense, the acting is bland and forgettable and the dinosaurs are not given any time to shine. The effects range from impressive to laughable, especially near the end, and the film leaves a lot more to be desired with its unique premise.
Final Grade: C-