‘Fallen Kingdom’ in danger of becoming extinct
With each and every subsequent sequel, the original “Jurassic Park” ascends higher on its throne, as it still manages to retain its sheen decades later.
Mind you, the sequels have had their share of fun. “Jurassic Park III” remains an efficient 90-minute thrill ride, and “Jurassic World” certainly had its moments of thrills, even though it was essentially a reboot.
The last film’s success has led us to “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” or “Jurassic Park: Saving Private Blue.” I have been able to look past the flaws of the sequels and find the occasional flowers in the dino-manure, but “Kingdom” feels as though they are at one trying far too hard and not caring at all about its roots in lieu of action sequences.
It starts almost immediately with the plot setting up various narrative hoops to give the stars of “World” a reason to head back to the island and place everyone once again in peril. This time, it’s the threat of a volcanic eruption that will wipe clean its population, eradicating all the man-made dinos in the process… including dear Blue, a velociraptor that, we now learn, could be the second-smartest being on the planet, and Owen’s (played by Chris Pratt) best friend(?).
Yes, that’s right, “Blue” as it is lovingly referred to here - the same raptor that attacked Owen without provocation in “World” (and other innocents, if I recall correctly) - is now the object of sympathy and compassion, like a scaly, prehistoric labradoodle.
And as much charisma as Pratt possesses, there is no real feeling of excitement seeing Pratt’s return as the dino-whisperer, and even less for his one-time love interest Claire (played by Bryce Dallas Howard).
They are there to fulfill contractual obligations, flirt briefly and react to various CGI-crafted environments, but there is truly no need for them to be here.
Of the new characters, calling them sketches would be an insult to artists, as they are so devoid of any depth and are exactly who you think they are within the first few seconds of meeting them: the Greedy Corporate Guy (played by Rafe Spall) who has been tasked with overseeing the Hammond Family fortune (which is shocking there still is some after such spectacular failures); the Second-Hand Hammond (played by James Cromwell), who it supposed to be our Richard Attenborough; and the Evil Military Honcho (played by Ted Levine), who turns out to be...evil.
He is played by “Silence of the Lambs’” Buffalo Bill, after all, so, yeah.
They bring some of the creatures back to the states, only to have them auctioned off in some international ring of dino-bidders who wish to purchase them for a variety of uses, including weaponizing them (more on that in a sec).
“Kingdom” is the kind of film that is so far from any sort of reality established in the first film, that Greedy Corporate Guy has been able to operate an entire facility to house and breed dinosaurs in the Hammond’s basement, unbeknownst to the elder surviving Hammond.
One of the creatures in the lab is called an Indoraptor, bred to be used as a militarized weapon, because we all know how the Marines ride to battle on sharks with lasers and SEALs capture entire cities while atop machine-gun-mounted lions, right? But even after the inevitable Indoraptor escape, the damn thing cannot manage to give more than a scratch on a leg to our unarmed heroes. Back to the lab for you!
“Park” castaway Jeff Goldblum has a total of two scenes, where he basically plays Jeff Goldblum, just to appeal to our sense of nostalgia.
He doesn’t even get out of his chair.
The rest of the cast is placed in one chaotic scene after another, with little time to build the required tension on which these films work best. By its conclusion, it’s basically a haunted house film, with all the ghosts replaced by large wild reptiles.
I realize we come now watch the franchise to see “When Dinosaurs Attack,” and director J. A. Boyena has a few nicely staged scenes, but writer (and “Jurassic World” director) Colin Trevorrow throws in some seriously questionable complications (the entire auction sequence, cloned humans, etc.) that seem a far cry from the feral simplicity of the original films.
The finale leaves the door wide open (quite literally) for sequels, in some sort of “Planet of the Apes” kind of way, which I am sure they will roll out as long as this one makes a profit. Let’s just hope that the franchise can find a writer who can steer it back on course and let the memory of “Fallen Kingdom” become extinct as soon as possible.