I See Stupid People
A Film Review of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
25 Years and 5 big budget “dinosaur attack” films later and all I still see are dim-witted people the audience is meant to care about in these films. The underlying theme of the Jurassic franchise is that the science to manipulate genetics represents an awesome power that human beings are neither capable nor willing to wield in a manner that doesn’t result in immediate death and destruction. People are idiots and the Jurassic films continue to be more than eager to serve up stupidity on a silver platter with a parade of characters designed to annoy, infuriate and test the audience’s patience to relentlessly hammer home that idea. Granted, this IP isn’t nearly as fatigue inducing as others, but colliding dumb characters with hungry dinosaurs was getting boring after the first sequel. Now it’s just sheer insanity as this franchise has ultimately proven incapable of evolving past a premise where humans have repopulated the Earth with dinosaurs so that the military-industrial complex can exploit dinosaurs for corporate profit and the net result is everyone dies. This franchise has been selected for extinction and nature should take its course.
Yet, this franchise continues to be sustained by artificial life support thanks to the DNA of formulaic business practices within the Hollywood machine. JP has instant name recognition, inherent content and context for visual effects and blockbuster action. Every studio wants a horse like this in their stable for reliable showings at the summer derby, racing to be the first to grab cash out of your wallets. This is a valuable commodity to own in the global market place and therefore won’t be allowed to die. Unfortunately, as Hollywood productions continue to stray from artistic integrity to profit predictability, the quality of film denigrates to an audio/visual checklist of mush waiting to be vomited into the mouths of the audience.
Dense people, plus dinosaurs, plus explosions, plus deaths, plus action equals profit. You haven’t birthed a fiction from the parentage of creativity and thoughtfulness, nurtured by talent to grow into innovation that will find new and interesting ways to connect with people. You’ve stitched together a Frankenstein’s monster of stuff that worked from the past with rotting aesthetics that has and will continue to crush audiences with obtuseness because it doesn’t have the intelligence to do anything else. So who’s to blame? The monster that destroys good storytelling or the doctor who made the monster of “good storytelling” as a jumble of parts that barely fit together? Both. While the rest of this review will break down the poor choices, concepts and executions of this shell of a franchise, barely kept afloat with mediocre action and familiar visual effects; I will now take this opportunity to call out the doctors of Fallen Kingdom (indeed!).
Steven Spielberg, as the executive producer you bear the ultimate responsibility of pushing this project forward by sending out sub-producer Frank Marshall to find a production staff to reproduce the same magic you made with this license in 1993. That is a monumental task to ask of anyone, even seasoned veterans of the filmmaking business, but the hubris to presume relative novices would accomplish this thanks to your thumbs up alone was a poor leadership choice. You are a legendary director sir and this production probably doesn’t happen without your name (and approval) attached. Your disinterest in buying in all the way as director demonstrates a halfhearted desire for this film to succeed and that sentiment has trickled down.
Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, as the screenwriters you were the architects of this Jurassic story that displays the vision and ambition of a trust fund baby who has won at life simply for being born. Why attempt to discover a new angle of conflict in a reality where humans and dinosaurs coexist when punishing bad corporations with investment loss, bad science with Mary Shelly and bad people with dino digestion have worked so well in the past? A story that does not deviate from the familiar path keeps the money people at the top happy and the cash in your bank accounts cozy. Beware, the gravy train may look like the Orient Express on the front end of this deal, but a bland and boring engine is not strong enough to pull something as beautiful, streamlined, idealized and romantic. You’ve actually been towing Snowpiercer this whole time and the raunchy passengers at the back are coming for blood.
J.A. Bayona, as the director of this film your responsibilities may be varied due to the logistics demands of contemporary filmmaking, but there’s one thing you must get right: your cast’s performance. Actors are the most important resource in a director’s arsenal because they simultaneously communicate the base information of the plot while generating an emotional connection with the viewer to make the story matter. A cast comprised of even the most talented individuals will fail if they are not put into positions to succeed and mishandling Chris Pratt and Jeff Goldblum as significant, but not truly featured characters is evidence of this. Their contributions, along with the rest of the cast, are trivialized because they don’t have enough scenes to build character and intrigue. I am certain your DP, Oscar Faura, had a blast taking the lead by framing dynamic shots to encapsulate all the action that would be digitally rendered in post, but you needed more scenes for your actors and those moments needed to be more impactful than they were.
There isn’t a lot of ballistic combat in this film despite the presence of a mercenary army being a bit of a problem for our heroes. There’s mostly running away from dinosaurs and people being eaten by dinosaurs which is fine, but a bit “been there, done that.”
Cinematography is quite good overall because capturing the scale of dinosaurs amidst even larger and sometimes more ominous set pieces is challenging, but perhaps more so when your environment is tighter and there’s still dino action to capture without falling in love with quick cutting extreme close ups.
This film has no true lead, but Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt technically qualify. They play limited roles of procedure authorizer and Indiana Jones sidekick respectively and they are not tasked with growing their characters or their relationship beyond exactly what they were in the first Jurassic World film. Pratt, at least, has his natural charisma to fall back on while Howard has feigned presence and awkward timing to get through scenes. Was there supposed to be some romantic chemistry there? They seem more like college roommates.
Flat leads yield more token and less interesting support. Rafe Spall goes through the motions as the evil corporate opportunist. Justice Smith checks all the boxes of the diverse, stereotypically weak IT guy. Daniella Pineda checks all the boxes of the diverse, artificially strong SJW female scientist. Good for Toby Jones losing all that weight. We needed more Jeff Goldblum and BD Wong as the only relevant characters in the entire mythology still holding plot together.
Michael Giacchino does a very adequate job at composing and transposing the iconic John Williams theme into fresh, emotional moments enhancing the danger and suspense.
Very good showcasing of various dinosaur species, vehicles, machinery, tech devices and Foley art. There’s even a great mix between the sound and the score so that neither drowns out the other at any moment.
“Moving” = 18/33
CG dinosaurs look better and better with the level of detail that comes through when their dangerous proximity to people gets pushed closer and closer. Also looking great is an exploding volcano that effectively explodes an entire island in a manner that would make Michael Bay proud. Some of the much larger dinosaurs, however, looked a bit plastic in their digital composition, especially when contrasted with horizon shots.
There’s a decent blend of stunt work with destructible environments that sells the destructive force of dinosaurs. There’s also some cheesy wire work flinging people around like rag dolls in some absurd instances.
Very utilitarian choices were made to outfit the entire cast to handle the environments they were traversing into. I am glad choices to shamelessly objectify women or men with sexy outfits or perfectly timed wardrobe malfunctions were avoided.
Hair & Makeup
People getting hurt, maimed, chewed up and otherwise damaged by all manner of dinosaur are executed quite well by the makeup department in this film.
Isla Nublar never looked better, even with destroyed remnants of an old theme park littered about. It is an ideal setting to be completely eradicated later in the film. Would’ve liked to see more of it, though.
Mansions, science labs and sea going vessels all look properly dressed for authenticity.
“Picture” = 25/33
Dinosaurs need to be rescued off an island with an exploding volcano and animal rights lobbyists are exploited by private military contractors to achieve this for profit. Two things though: 1) Whenever people get close to dinosaurs, it results in countless deaths and 2) The plan for profit has always failed for those attempting it. It’s too bad no one in this reality is aware of the poor history of Jurassic Park. They are?
Our heroes don’t stand in direct conflict with the antagonists because their immediate challenge is simply surviving their ordeal. The internal conflict of humans being responsible for the powers they’ve set loose on the planet with such reckless abandon is a far more interesting angle that gets ham-fisted into the third act in an attempt at feigning depth.
People still have to deal with dinosaurs and private organizations will still seek them out for exploitative, warmongering purposes and probably die in the process. No one has learned anything, the cycle will continue and we’ll see more of the same drivel in Jurassic World 3: The Quest to Inspire More People to Bootleg Hollywood Films.
The only strength to this dialogue is in its moment to moment reactionary quality. This does very little in building character or plot, but that’s ok because story isn’t a big priority for this film anyway.
Some details of the plot get setup in nuanced ways early in the film in addition to calling back to the events of the first film, but the manner in which they pay off are unsurprising and uninteresting. There’s one plot point buried deep in the third act that could be the premise of its own film franchise that gets completely glazed over because too many subplots are vying for relevance at this point when the reality is none of them are because dinosaurs: you run away from them or get eaten by them.
The only interesting aspect of this entire production is the abbreviated back story regarding Owen and his training of the Raptors (including Blue) that we never see prior to the events of the first Jurassic World. The audience learns a bit more of Owen’s desire to be more than a dino wrangler and make a deeper connection to these life forms than trainer and pet. Of course, this is just another subplot that comes out of nowhere and leads nowhere because #reasons and therefore cannot be given credit for the potential for good storytelling without delivering good storytelling.
Any rational person who does not subscribe to flat Earth theory would have no problem being on the same page as Ian Malcom regarding the overall absurdity of humanity involving itself with dinosaurs in any capacity. Unfortunately, no other character reflects such practicality and sense in their motives and actions with the worst offender being Claire Dearing: Jurassic World’s Park administrator who oversaw its horrific outbreak, destruction and massive loss of life, but is somehow devoted to preserving the animals she wrongfully enabled in the first place for some unexplored moral/ethical reason she ultimately doesn’t believe in as revealed in the climax’s 11th hour.
“Story” = 10/34
Overall MPS Rating: 53/100
Making sense is not high on the list of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s list of priorities. At its very best, it is an average action film that shows off a decent variety of dinosaur murder, death, kills. What makes this cinematic adventure arguably pointless is that it shamelessly poses the same question if humanity should screw with dinosaurs more and somehow expect different results while delivering exactly the same results because of course death and destruction. This is the very definition of insanity and the only catharsis is watching people being eaten by dinosaurs: something the audience, in theory, should be rooting against.
Perhaps this is all some convoluted, meta-commentary on the inherent stupidity of the human species as we so consistently abandon, abuse, pervert and exploit each other the same way these fictional people treat dinosaurs. The messaging, however, has become far too overt because how thick must the audience be to keep buying into the same story being told the same way preaching the same lessons highlighting the same results all thanks to the same decisions made by the same dumb ass people? All right already! I get it. We are all pretty dumb.
Don’t see this movie. For the exact same, yet somehow upgraded and graduated experience, watch the original Jurassic Park and you’ll be good to go.