In the 25 years since “Jurassic Park”, dinosaurs have roared on the big screen in hand-drawn animated form (“The Land Before Time” films), skeletal form (“Night at the Museum”) and CGI/photo-realism form (“Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”, “Walking with Dinosaurs”, “The Good Dinosaur” and the simply titled “Dinosaur”).
Dinos have become almost as common on silver screens as cats and dogs. It’s no surprise that a little girl brought a stuffed toy of Blue to the “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” showing I attended.
But does this mean we’re still awed by the presence of these prehistoric creatures, or have they simply become too commonplace?
When Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) returns to Isla Nublar early in “Fallen Kingdom” (the follow-up to 2015’s franchise reboot “Jurassic World”), he doesn’t tear-up or smile when he sees the first dinosaur on the island. He just stares at it, with a very serious, unimpressed look on his face.
And that’s kind of how I felt throughout “Fallen Kingdom”. Even with great advancements in movie-making technology over the past quarter century, the look of the dinos really hasn’t changed much. The awe factor has become extinct.
In terms of story, “Fallen Kingdom” is more ambitious than its predecessor, but there are too many components to this script, and hardly any of them provide legitimate satisfaction. There’s the on-again, off-again romantic sparks between Owen and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard); a couple of twenty year old techies they bring with them to the island to help save the creatures from volcanic destruction; the required evil businessmen; a family rivalry; and a little girl with a heck of a backstory. Oh yeah – and Jeff Goldblum bookends the saga with a total of about two minutes of screen time.
Director J.A. Bayona has taken his work on previous films “The Impossible” and “A Monster Calls” – both centering around families and featuring striking visuals – and applied some strong techniques here. There are about a half-dozen quality scenes with impressive visuals, including an extended underwater pod sequence.
But, because of the constraints of the franchise, it’s impossible for Bayona to make everything gel. “Fallen Kingdom” is basically five different movies smushed together – all of them fringing upon very familiar territory.
There’s something to the belief that you shouldn’t mess with a formula that’s working. But the “Jurassic” series has taken this philosophy to the extreme. This film is way too safe and old-fashioned, which may guarantee box office success, but no cultural buzz.
“Fallen Kingdom” does leave the door wide open (literally) for the third chapter (coming in another three years), but it’ll be tough to get people excited about seeing these same characters (human and Dinosauria).
And as for that little girl with her doll, she really shouldn’t have seen this movie. While the “Jurassic Park” series has always focused on kids, these movies (because of the intense action and extreme violence) aren’t appropriate for little ones. I’m guessing she’s in for some long, sleepless nights, waiting for dinos to storm into her bedroom looking for a midnight snack (an exact scene in the movie).
Welcome… to “Jurassic Nightmare”.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” gets a C.
Running Time: 128 min.