Thursday, June 21, 2018

Jurassic World Has Fallen (and it can't get up)

This franchise is officially out of ideas. Again. The latest entry in the Jurassic Park franchise is a mishmash of plot from the previous entries without much of anything original or surprising to offer. This is the film where you know what's going to happen every step of the way including when a dinosaur is about to jump out of the water or break through a window. And the film, of course, finds a way to shoehorn the trademark T-Rex shot in an attempt to remind you of better times. If it held any of the wonder of the first Jurassic Park the script's lack of brains might be tolerable. However, it just feels tired. And dumb. Damn, this movie is dumb.

As in both The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III, the plot involves those who survived returning to the park, greed and avarice of supporting characters getting in the way, and lots of running and screaming. The film returns the central two characters from Jurassic World in former park head Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Velociraptor wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, whose humor is one of the film's few saving graces) who set out to Isla Nublar to save the dinosaurs when things, wait for it, go unexpectedly wrong.

Although it got a mixed reaction from fans, I enjoyed Jurassic World which breathed some new life into the tired franchise by introducing some new ideas. First, we got a park full of people (for the first time ever). And second, the sequel introduced the idea of continued gene-splicing idea further by creating a super-dinosaur. While the end result may not have been as cool as the writers intended, the idea provided the previous film to delve a little deeper into the horror/mad-scientist genre. Fallen Kingdom reuses this idea by introducing a (lackluster) new dinosaur while also rehashing the idea from The Lost World of transplanting the dinosaurs to a new location.

While on Isla Nubar with new characters of a cocky vet with glasses (Daniella Pineda) and computer nerd (Justice Smith), Claire and Owen find themselves screwed over by the mercenaries (even though the bad guys' actions make it less likely they will fulfill their mission). And there's a kid (Isabella Sermon). Of course there's a kid. This one is the granddaughter of Hammond's former partner Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) who pays for the rescue effort to save the dinosaurs before the erupting volcano wipes out the species. Unfortunately for our heroes, the mercenaries have different plans which involve selling the creatures on the black market to the highest bidder.

More than a single film, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom feels like three separate episodes of a TV series spliced together with minimal effort made to keep the story cohesive. Pratt is fun, and, despite her character being completely superfluous to the plot, Sermon is enjoyable as the dinosaur-loving kid who gets a little too close to the real thing. Howard is trapped in a bland character for the second film in a row (at least this time she's not in heels), and for those excited to see Jeff Goldblum returning to the series, I hate to break it to you, but you've already seen his entire performance in the trailer.

Five movies in, here's what I know. Velociraptors and T-Rexes are cool, genetically-enhanced hybrid dinosaurs (far less unstoppable than advertised) not so much. Chris Pratt is funny. Dinosaurs roaming abandoned parks is played out. And this franchise is completely out of ideas (as it is now simply recycling plot from the bad sequels). Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom marks the low point of the franchise (but there's certainly room to devolve further). At this point the series is going to have to think seriously outside the box to prevent the diminishing returns that killed the franchise the first time. I don't need another one of these movies, but how about Jurassic World of the Apes? Sure, that could be equally bad, but at least it would be different.

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