“If I may… I will tell you the problem with the scientific power that you are using here: It didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it, you wanna sell it,” an exasperated Dr. Ian Malcolm vividly proclaims towards the idealistic naivety of billionaire capitalist John Hammond, founder of the wildlife reserve of genetically engineered prehistoric dinosaurs, Jurassic Park.
Who would have ever thought that groundbreaking visionary filmmaker Steven Spielberg would accurately predict the progressively declining quality of this colossal movie franchise in his very first 90’s blockbuster classic?
Filmmaker JA Bayona seemed like the absolute perfect fit to direct the sequel to the Jurassic World. He has gained recognition for his magical touch in gothic horror, The Orphanage, natural disasters like The Impossible, and creature fantasies like A Monster Calls. Ultimately, the core in his impressive filmography was the raw emotionality of pure family drama. What should have been a match made in heaven for a Jurassic Park film potentiality made for its greatest downfall. All these themes come together to create a more “Frankensteinish” feel rather than a cohesive thread.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom conveys a naturalistic, straight to the point story in which a catastrophic volcanic event is about to aggressively commence and wipe out the entire island inhibited by roaming, genetically resurrected dinosaurs. Moral and ethical questions are raised in regards to allowing nature to take its course and cause another dinosaur mass extinction or if humanity must intervene and save these majestic creatures as their way of paying for their scientific sins and rape of the natural world. Sound familiar? That’s because it is. The only difference now is that a far more sinister plan is deliciously brewing under this silly facade where a rescue team lead by mercenaries and scientists attempt to capture these dinosaurs in order to auction them off to the wealthy elite for… pets? Weapons? Protection? Million dollar trinkets? Unfortunately, this came off as a little cliche for me. Adding to this is a brand new genetically enhanced dinosaur hybrid called the Indoraptor, which seems to be an improved version of Indominus Rex, the main antagonist from Jurassic World.
The trailers, posters, promotional art, and overall marketing campaign for this film never really caught my eye and my personal excitement for this franchise had dwindled after Jurassic World, but the nostalgia I carry for Spielberg’s films, as well as my love and admiration for these tyrant lizards keeps me engaged. My problem with Fallen Kingdom lies in this exact point. The dinosaurs in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom did not feel like actual tyrant lizards that have once roamed the earth. These massive reptilian titans have always induced a tremendous amount of wonder, awe, & terror throughout the franchise’s sequels, even despite certain sequels’ clunky and unorthodox storytelling. But with these recent Jurassic World sequels, the dinosaurs are unfortunately turned into rushed, underdeveloped winks to the audience. An example here is Rexy, the iconic Tyrannosaurus queen, with a pretty much nonexistent role, utilized only for moments when cartoony villains need to be chomped down, or the velociraptors, who seem to lose their fierceness and ferocity as each film progresses. In Fallen Kingdom, they seem to be more like Golden Retrievers who can always differentiate between the “good and bad human.”
That is not to say there aren’t great moments in the film. Bayona brings emotional sucker punches to the film that took me to a place of absolute melancholy. There are worthwhile moments in this film that does make it feel like Jurassic Park on paper but on screen, there is something missing. Bayona promised more puppeteer magic with animatronics and practical effects here and in that area the film excels but the problem isn’t the animatronics or the practical effects, but the magic of Stan Winston’s immaculate dinosaur designs. The dinosaurs seem to lack any kind of distinguishable personality, and the wonder they were encapsulated with in the first three Jurassic Park films.
I still believe JA Bayona is an extremely talented filmmaker who was able to embrace what makes the Jurassic Park franchise so incredibly special. There were moments of grandeur and soul that gives the film weight but unfortunately there wasn’t much time to fully gaze in its astonishing wonderment. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom felt so incredibly frenetic and chaotic while also feeling redundantly slow and tedious at times. However, the jungle visual aesthetic was strikingly beautiful and lush, there are sequences that are so thrillingly horrific reminiscent of your most beautiful nightmares, and Bayona was able to finally push this franchise towards a somewhat dystopian, more post-apocalyptic direction. I will always applaud ambition, which is what the first Jurassic World completely lacked. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom attempts to capture elements of gothic horror, natural disaster, creature fantasy, and family drama all into one, while also paying homage to the greatest monster movies of the past but the result is one frenetically paced, jarringly uneven sequel.