There’s a moment in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, where Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian
Malcolm rallies against the resurrection of dinosaurs from extinction.
“It didn’t require any discipline to attain it,” he tells Richard Attenborough’s John Hammond. “You read what others had done and you took the next step.”
“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.”
It’s a strangely prescient summation of the current state of the Jurassic Park franchise. Everyone was so preoccupied with whether or not they could resurrect a franchise that had lain dormant for 14 years that they didn’t really stop to think if they should.
The result was the blandest film in the franchise to date. Where once Jurassic Park boasted intriguing, well-round characters, intelligent themes, and a compelling central premise, 2015’s Jurassic World opted for big dinosaurs, ludicrous jumps in logic and little else in between.
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard were likeable but the plot, involving the creation of a super-dinosaur, felt like something more akin to Sharknado rather than Michael Crichton’s original novel. It would be like introducing Robocop to Westworld.
The hope was that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom shift the franchise away from the tried-and-tested formula of dinosaurs breaking off from the shackles of their human captors with bloody results.
And to some extent it does. Unfortunately, in doing so, Fallen Kingdom takes the franchise into infinitely stupid new territory. In a world of Fast & Furious movies and superhero movies Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom might just be the dumbest, silliest blockbuster of the year – and not in a good way.
It’s a messy affair from start to finish. The first half of the film starts out in familiar territory, serving as a lazy rehash of the plot of The Lost World, with a group of gun-toting dino hunters heading back to the island to capture the remaining dinosaurs.
Dallas Howard’s Claire, who has been busy fronting some sort of dinosaur rights charity, is approached by Rafe Spall’s entirely forgettable Eli Mills about returning to Isla Nubla to help. She soon enlists two annoying sidekicks in Daniella Pineda’s Zia and Justice Smith’s Franklin to help the cause.
Neither adds much to the proceedings, other than injecting a “millennial” vibe into proceedings, because the one thing the franchise needed was a sarcasm machine and a wimpy tech guy.
Chris Pratt’s Owen is also back for the ride, with his character morphing into a kind of crap Indiana Jones tribute act for this instalment, involved ludicrous lava escapes and daring underwater rescues.
There are some enjoyable enough action set pieces on the island, while Ted Levine does his best as the film’s sparsely-drawn henchman and dino-hunter-in-chief Kevin Wheatley (who you just know is headed for a grisly death) but for all the fire and brimstone, it’s rarely exciting.
Part of that has to do with the fact the trailer gives away almost two-thirds of the film’s plot, including the revelation Spall’s character is the bad guy – though that’s hardly a surprise for anyone who recalls Arliss Howard’s Peter Ludlow in The Lost World.
The island-based segment soon gives way to something far more ridiculous though, with all of the captured dinosaurs brought to the mansion of James Cromwell’s Sir Benjamin Lockwood. Apparently, he was John Hammond’s original partner on the first Jurassic Park, despite him never being mentioned prior to this instalment. But his considerable acting talents are wasted here too in a bit-part role.
What follows is a ridiculous dinosaur auction which, shock horror, soon goes awry with some surprisingly bloodless results. The idea of a dinosaur on the loose in a creepy mansion seemed intriguing enough, but it’s badly mishandled here through a series of action set pieces devoid of any real suspense but full of loud noises.
Throwing rain and lightning over everything creates atmosphere but it can’t fix a tired and all-too-predictable script.
It’s once things get to the mansion that things truly descend into chaos with some questionable character motives, uninspiring twists and a few astoundingly daft leaps in logic. Nothing anyone does in this film ever makes sense and, furthermore, the characters are so limited and unappealing, it’s difficult to even care.
Even Owen and Claire’s relationship is drawn in the most basic terms. They kiss, they cuddle but they don’t seem to have any real chemistry or shared interest other than a desire to not be eaten by dinosaurs.
Pratt puts in a game performance, but Dallas Howard rarely gets the same opportunity to shine, often playing a subservient role to her male co-star in a move that’s unlikely to sit well with audiences.
Perhaps the biggest frustration of all comes from the fact that Jeff Goldblum’s return as Dr. Malcolm is limited to just a couple of court-based scenes. One of which sees him actually say the name of the film out loud. It made me want to boo.
Other negatives include child actor Isabella Sermon’s Maisie Lockwood, who served little purpose other than to fill the movie’s “kid” quota and play a central role in an odd plot twist that could pave the way for even worse to come.
There are plenty of nods to the original franchise along the way, of course, but this feels like more a pale imitation than a homage to those films.
Even the role of the dinosaurs feels dumbed down, with the plot engineering it so that the “good” and “bad” dinosaurs at the centre of the story are actually colour-coded to ensure we know which is which.
Never mind the fact that the idea of a “good” dinosaur is silly in itself or that the need to create genetically-engineered super dinosaurs seems like a leap too far and an entirely unnecessary step given the amazing array of actual dinosaurs.
The film’s biggest crime is a fundamental lack of tension though. You never feel like any of the central protagonists are in danger. The dinosaur-led action is enjoyable enough but never offers up the kind of scares or thrills offered in the first few films.
Even the Tyrannosaurus Rex feels tired here, occasionally wheeled out to fill some of the film’s quieter moments, killing a dinosaur or bad guy before roaring into the ether.
The only hope is that “life finds a way” to make this the last film in the franchise.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.