– by Nick Doll

As far as non-spoilers go, I won’t talk about any plot points that didn’t make the trailer.

Look, I love films too much, to be honest. Even objectively bad ones, as long as they have the right actor or come from the right franchise. Jurassic Park is one of those franchises. Yet, rest assured reader, I watched this film with my critic’s brain. So, while I will likely see this film multiple times as far as personal preference, here is an honest review of where it succeeds and where it fails… hard.

Note: For the record, even as a fan of the franchise, I can’t stand Jurassic Park III.  I would give that film an “F.”

So, now… Welcome, to Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom!

If you watched the trailers for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and were reminded on the 1997 sequel to Jurassic Park, you’re not that far off. The title to this film should be The Lost World: Jurassic World (a la The Lost World: Jurassic Park). It’s the Jurassic World trilogy’s equivalent of The Lost World from the Jurassic Park trilogy. It’s simply a dumber, louder, cheesier, overloaded with CGI version, just as the first Jurassic World before it. Only it’s even more dumb, loud, cheesy, and digitally created.

Basically, if you hated Jurassic World, you will likely hate Fallen Kingdom more. If you liked Jurassic World, you may like this, but you may not. Simply put, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the second worst film in the franchise, though it does seem to be setting up the film I’ve always wanted to see in the next, final film of the trilogy.

When the inert volcano below Isla Nublar becomes very, very active, the United States government decides not to come to the aid of the dinosaurs left the crumbling Jurassic World theme park. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), having both managed and survived the park in the last film, is an activist trying to save the only living dinosaurs on Earth from going extinct. When she is contacted by Hammond’s former business partner, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), and the man who runs his business, Eli Mills (the glorious Rafe Spall), she is shown a project to get the animals off the volcanic island, moving them to a beautiful island reserve. Mills needs Claire’s hand to activate Jurassic World’s trackers to save the dinos, as well as her help in getting Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to track down Blue, one of the velociraptors he raised from birth. Obviously, Mills has more nefarious intentions and dinosaurs eventually eat people. Typical Jurassic Park.

There are definitely big positives in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but they are always book-ended by terrible moments that nearly make you forget how much you enjoyed the scene or shot immediately before. The opening prelude is fantastic, with cool imagery and scares not found again until the end of the movie. The film has a few of the most iconic shots and biggest scares in the franchise, but these moments of greatness are not enough to save this mediocre overall film.

Character development? Extinct. Even the new characters are awful, as they are simply archetypes of characters we’ve seen before. Cromwell’s character is so much like John Hammond he carries the same walking stick. Though fun and fairly well acted by Ted Levine, the villainous Ken Wheatley is basically a dumber and crueler version of the game hunter from The Lost World. The new, millennial sidekicks are worse than the kid in Jurassic Park III. Again, Spall is fantastic as Eli Mills, but he’s not given a whole lot to work with and is also just another villainous businessman archetype. But, due to Spall, his character works way better than he should, and is a highlight not only of the film, but one of the better villains in the franchise as a whole. 

The writing? Terrible. The tone is all over the place. Jokes don’t land. Lines that aren’t supposed to be funny elicit laughs. Emotional moments aren’t only hurt by lame jokes, but the score which rarely matches the images on screen. It’s like Michael Giacchino, who I usually enjoy very much, never saw the film or never got the memo that not every scene is supposed to be funny. Very similarly, the film feels like it was written for children, yet this is easily the bloodiest and most violent movie in the franchise. If I watched it without knowing the rating, I would have guessed R, due to all the blood. It’s not a lot for the horror fan, but far more blood than I thought a PG-13 film was allowed to include. Fallen Kingdom doesn’t feel like a cohesive movie, rather, it reminds me of Justice League, where it was very evident two different men with different visions had created a Frankenstein of a movie… yet this film comes from one director, J.A. Bayona.

Acting is terrible as well, with the exception of Cromwell, Levine, and Spall. Pratt, who I also normally love, does not at all feel like the same character from the first film. You can tell this movie is the first movie of his career he didn’t want to be involved with. There’s just no energy there, even compared to a more serious character like his role in The Magnificent 7. Howard falls flatter on her face than she did in high heels, and I liked her in the first film. Most disappointingly, one of my favorite character actors, Toby Jones, does not seem like he wants to be involved either, coming off more mechanical than Armin Zola in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (who is literally an old computer).

Some action scenes are very awesome and inventive, while others are cheesy or straight rip-offs of Jurassic Park. As I mentioned, the opening scene in Fallen Kingdom is killer, and reminded me of the first Jurassic Park more than Jurassic World. The Indoraptor is far more cool and scary than the Indominus Rex, but most scenes involving him are straight copies of scenes with the raptors in the Visitor Center in the first film. It is cool that Bayona has set this portion of the film in a very Gothic building, as Fallen Kingdom works best when it is a “monster in the house” horror film. And though we were promised more practical dinosaurs, they are few and far between.

I will mention, there is an very interesting side plot not even hinted at in trailers that raises even more ethical questions for the franchise. I think it is this subplot that will divide fans the most, but I loved it.

If you love the franchise no matter what, see it. If you loved Jurassic World, see it. If you like big cheesy action movies, see it. It’s easy enough to enjoy, but it is not a well-made film. Though I am very critical of it, as you, our readers, are understandably more precious with their franchises and quality of film, the random audience members at the screening loved it. Clapping and cheering, just like the screenings of the first Jurassic World I attended. I guess some people just still love dinosaurs. And I can’t blame them… so do I.

Finally, if you do see it, make sure to stay for the post-credits scene!

Grade: C

Will you be checking out Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom when it comes out this weekend? Let me know your thoughts down below!

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