Review: J.A. Bayona's 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' is Silly, Cruel, and Entirely Unpalatable
by Adam Frazier
June 21, 2018
Steven Spielberg's 1993 film, Jurassic Park, opened to critical and commercial success, earning over $914 million worldwide to become the top grossing movie ever at the time. More importantly, it impressed the hell out of an eight-year-old with an intense interest in prehistoric creatures. As a kid, I would spend hours pouring over books from the library, learning all I could about Ankylosaurus, Plesiosaurus, and Triceratops. I watched every dinosaur movie I could find: Caveman, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, The Land Before Time. They were the closest I could get to seeing living, breathing dinosaurs. Until Jurassic Park, that is. Spielberg's exhilarating masterwork of sustained awe and adventure ignited my imagination and made the impossible possible by resurrecting these long-extinct wonders with honest-to-goodness movie magic.
Over the last 25 years, the Jurassic Park franchise has been one of diminishing returns. Both The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Jurassic Park III (2001) have impressive special effects, and entertaining action set pieces, but neither sequel captures the heart of the original, despite rehashing the same ideas, characters, and situations. As for Jurassic World, Colin Trevorrow's 2015 sequel/soft reboot, there isn't a single moment of genuine awe to be found. There's plenty of computer-generated monsters and mayhem, but little else — save for a mean-spirited story populated by flat, entirely unlikable characters. If you went back in time and told eight-year-old me that I'd someday grow tired of Jurassic Park movies, I would say you're crazy, but Jurassic World's lazy, mocking approach made that seemingly impossible feat a reality.
Enter Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a film with even less magic and imagination than its predecessor. Directed by J.A. Bayona (of The Impossible and A Monster Calls), Fallen Kingdom doubles down on the absurdity and cruelty of Jurassic World and delivers an abysmal movie that's as silly as it is soulless. Three years after the events of the last film, in which genetically engineered dinosaurs destroyed the luxury theme park and resort, Isla Nublar now sits abandoned while the surviving dinosaurs fend for themselves in the overgrown ruins. When the island's dormant volcano suddenly becomes active, animal behaviorist Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and former park operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) are recruited, alongside a hacker (Justice Smith) and a paleo-veterinarian (Daniella Pineda), to rescue the animals from the extinction-level event.
Funded by billionaire Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), former partner of Jurassic Park founder John Hammond, the mission is organized by his two-faced assistant, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall). Mills has hired a team of mercenaries, led by the sadistic Wheatley (Ted Levine of The Silence of the Lambs), to aid Owen and Claire in the recovery of these precious specimens. If this sounds familiar, that's because it's the plot of The Lost World; some rich guy with a tenuous connection to Hammond hires a big game hunter to capture dinosaurs so he can profit off of them. Owen, meanwhile, is driven to find Blue — his hyperintelligent pet Velociraptor — before Mills and the nefarious Dr. Henry Wu (B D. Wong) can create a new hybrid, the "Indoraptor", which is promised to be the most dangerous creature ever to walk the Earth.
I hated this movie. It's infuriatingly, almost deliberately dumb and needlessly grim. It's as if there was a genetic experiment in which the DNA of Roland Emmerich's Godzilla was spliced with DC's Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice to create a monstrous hybrid of stupidity and cynicism. The script, written by Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, is by far the weakest of the series — an uninspired remix of the films that came before. Did I mention that Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) shows up for two whole minutes to deliver some melodramatic dialogue about dinosaurs, mostly in voiceover? Yeah, that's a thing that happens. Cool. Hey, remember Jurassic Park? I sure do. I wish I were watching it right now, instead of writing about a dinosaur movie where the dinosaurs exist only to be shot, caged, zapped with stun-guns, and have their teeth ripped out with pliers. Sounds like great blockbuster escapism, right? "C'mon down to Jurassic World, kids! It's like Guantanamo Bay for dinosaurs!"
New ideas worthy of further examination are glanced over in favor of presenting something you've seen done better a dozen times before. Fallen Kingdom resolves its volcano storyline in the first 30 minutes, leaving the other 100 to explore an extremely obvious mystery at Lockwood Manor, a spooky mansion with monsters lurking in the basement. The idea of a race-against-the-clock film where an active volcano forces humans to work together to save creatures that nature selected for extinction is intriguing to me. There's a moral and logistical quandary — do we let these animals die, or do we save them? How do we save them? And how do we co-exist on an increasingly uninhabitable planet? It could potentially have something to say about the destructive nature of our species, but this movie isn't interested in saying anything, it just wants to throw some CGI dinosaurs up on the screen and hope you'll somehow be impressed by them, without putting any effort into telling a story that elicits an emotional response.
When it isn't rehashing its own franchise, Fallen Kingdom also lifts from other genre classics, like James Cameron's Aliens. Spall's Ellis is a stand-in for Paul Reiser's Burke, a suit motivated by profit margins who conspires to retrieve a dangerous organism and sell it as a bio-weapon. Owen and Claire are a pale imitation of Hicks and Ripley, finding a Newt in 10-year-old Maisie (Isabella Sermon), granddaughter of Lockwood. But as much as this movie wants to be Aliens, it's more like Alien Resurrection or Alien: Covenant — an empty, ineffective attempt at pandering that does more damage to the franchise and its mythology than good. And like those disappointing films, Fallen Kingdom has killed off any enthusiasm I had left for this series. Spielberg elevated Michael Crichton's pulpy source material, but Trevorrow (director of The Book of Henry) and Connolly (writer of Monster Trucks) seem content to keep dumbing it down, turning Jurassic Park into a SyFy original movie à la Dinocroc vs. Supergator or Piranhaconda.
Here's the most frustrating thing: I like J.A. Bayona. I'm a huge fan of his work, especially his 2007 film The Orphanage, which remains one of the most poignant and unnerving ghost stories ever committed to celluloid. Likewise, I'm a fan of his frequent collaborator, cinematographer Óscar Faura (Rec 2). Despite disliking Jurassic World, I thought this follow-up had a chance with Bayona behind the wheel, but a remarkably weak script nullifies any contributions the Spanish filmmaker and his cinematographer could make. I'm left completely baffled as to why you would hire a strong visual artist like Bayona and waste his talent on such a hollow and unaffecting story.
Universal is already in development on Jurassic World 3, due out in 2021, though it seems like no one at the studio cares about the quality of these movies, only that they make lots of money with minimal effort. Hopefully the next movie's writer can breathe new life into this endangered brand before it goes extinct again. I'll never know, because this movie has — like a bad Transformers sequel, take your pick — turned me off to future installments of the series and that's sad. But not nearly as sad as watching a Brachiosaurus cry out as it is swallowed up by a river of fiery lava. Yeah, that's a thing that happens. Cool. Hey, remember Jurassic Park?
Adam's Rating: 1.5 out of 5
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Reader Feedback - 24 Comments
I'm not surprised by this. I was disappointed that Jurassic World went on to gross over a billion which in turn gave birth to this abomination. People like dumb movies with uninspired characters and lots of special effects. I'll go see the Incredibles 2 instead.
THE_RAW_ on Jun 21, 2018
Jurassic World was so bad I wanted to bang my head on the guy who was sitting next to me.
tarek on Jun 22, 2018
Sometimes you have to entertain the inner-child Bo.
THE_RAW_ on Jun 22, 2018
Absolute dogshit movie. They basically just rewrote the script for Lost World. The first 15 minutes were decent.
tyban81 on Jun 21, 2018
Well goddamn LOOL.
Jorrell Mcdaniel on Jun 21, 2018
I knew Goldblum would just be a cameo, such a waste. They've stated the next one will be a more science-based thriller (paraphrasing), more akin to the original. That's what they need to do if there's any hope of saving this sinking ship. Or is it sunk?
grimjob on Jun 21, 2018
I really don't know at this point - that sounds good, but Trevorrow's still steering the ship, so I have little faith in whatever JW3 becomes.
Adam Frazier on Jun 21, 2018
I will always hold out hope, but yes, very little faith.
grimjob on Jun 22, 2018
On a bad day?
JuanBauty on Jun 22, 2018
Yea, guess I'll stick to my instincts and not see this in theaters!
Brandon Cole on Jun 22, 2018
This movie was a lot of fun and set the franchise in an interesting new direction. Wtf is wrong with you? Are you paid to hate fun movies? You suck.
DanielShaw on Jun 22, 2018
This is just his opinion, and that is your opinion. In fact, I agree with you - I thought this film was good and takes it in an interesting new direction. I don't understand his hate either. But I don't hate him for writing this. He's expressing his opinion, and we can disagree and say that, and it's okay.
Alex Billington on Jun 22, 2018
It is not just his opinion Alex, it is his opinion that influences others in a way that pre-influences for them that they should not see it. Hence Brandon Cole's response below. There seems to be an underlying culture of hating movies these days being fashionable. The Movie was certainly better than a 1 out of 5, and rotten tomatoes is no site to compare any movie on. I have watched them trash many a great movie. I come here because your better than them, not using them to justify what I can only determine is an overly negative review for the sake of being negative.
Chris McDermid on Jun 22, 2018
I don't hate movies... And I agree with you about trying to focus on bettering them. But sometimes there's something that is just not good and one of our writers has to express his opinion. That's it.
Alex Billington on Jun 22, 2018
Just because he really didn't like it does not mean he is hating on it just because its fashionable or for the sake of being negative. This movie looks like utter shit. I loved the original JP and the book. This is so far from Crichton's vision. Its another stupid special effects fest. But it appeals to the common man in the current climate who are too lazy to read a book or enjoy anything of substance.
Josh Taylor on Jun 24, 2018
I'm certainly not alone in my opinion, considering the movie is currently at 51% with a 65% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 59 score on Metacritic. You can look back at my past reviews and find 4-star and 5-star ratings for plenty of movies I consider to be fun, entertaining and well-made. This movie is none of those things.
Adam Frazier on Jun 22, 2018
Agreed on every word.JW was on a good start,had so many potential....Liked the island stuff,after that it went ice skate uphill(yeah,i love the first Blade)...10-11 mill. for a live dinosaur,running up on a roof,searching "scares" where no one need'em,waste of the freaking Goldblum,really?
Maxim Karagogov on Jun 22, 2018
After Jurassic World I was never really interested in giving this a chance.
Efterklang on Jun 22, 2018
Spot on on everything. No need to read another review.
tarek on Jun 22, 2018
LOL. Basically worst fears imagined much like The Park itself.
DAVIDPD on Jun 22, 2018
I loved it and so did the sell out crowd at the Cinemark XD theater that clapped at the end of the movie.
silentjay on Jun 23, 2018
Who are the villains in this movie? I'm supposed to cheer for these people that are basically helping kill thousands of people because they care about these reptiles? If there's a bacteria that would wipe out humanity, would we protect it because it's also a living thing? We've had 4 movies showing how dinosaurs would completely wipe out mankind, and yet when a volcano magically happens we are supposed to root for a crew who wants to save them? Who cares about the sad brachiosaurus? Who cares about the stupid home videos of baby raptors playing with toys? These things would end humanity. And at the end-- (spoiler) Why doesn't she just open the big door, let out the poisonous gas, and keep the dinos safely locked up? So, it's totally cool to unleash man-eating-dinosaurs into a highly populated country just because they're living creatures? I was smacking my head the whole movie.
suprkong on Jun 26, 2018
I've been coming on this site for years never saying a thing. I love FS, Alex reviews and insight on future/past films, and the comment threads (mainly everybody bashing on marv-o), but what i absolutely love is that you guys always have an open mind when it comes to film. Giving every film a chance. If the film is not so good y'all go into detail why it was bad not by crucifying it but to see the directors vision and where it got muddled up. That being said everybody has a right to their own opinion and I see where your coming from. This film is not Jurassic Park. I saw JP when I was 4 years old, only days before I turned 5, my mom said i had my whole fist in my mouth during the raptor scenes. I jumped out of my seat when it lunged at the girl in the vent nearly chopping down on her feet. I remember looking in awe at how realistic the sick triceratop was. So i decided to bring my 4 year old daughter with me knowing she wouldn't understand what's really going on but to get that satisfaction of seeing these guys up on the big screen. I had no idea what the turnout would be. Adam, i could not take my eyes off her. She was amazed, she jumped popcorn went everywhere, and she cried when the Brachiosaurus died. JP is cultural phenomenon both as book and film it will forever be remembered because it was just that perfect. You are basing this on JP so much that you completely missed where it was going and because of that you missed a great film. Are you so blinded that you can't see that rare animals get treated like this everyday? I read not to long ago a poacher killed the last rhino of its kind just to make a profit, people pay high money just to lock them in cages just to say look what I got, Intelligent Animals are used in war all the time so that is realistic as well. The brachiosaur, however sad it was, was to show finally an end to JP because that was the very first dinosaur we saw walk across the screen in the series. Your review is nothing like what i saw. I loved this film... because it wasn't Jurassic Park.
FilmBum850 on Jun 28, 2018
I've watched it yesterday and I wanna say that it's great when the service is for free! I recommend it for all my friends and they already enjoyed the using of it.
Richárd Henrik on Sep 10, 2018
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