Cash-grab movie franchises are a lot like leftover Applebee’s chicken tenders.
Warm ’em up in the microwave after the right amount of time has passed, they’re still pretty good. If you’re lucky, reheating the meal might even extract some heretofore untasted flavors.
But if you double-dip. If you re-refrigerate your leftovers and some time later head back in for a sequel to your better-than-expected reboot, well, you’re just asking for trouble, my friend. Asking for food poisoning. Or, at the very least, a meal that has lost any and all resemblance to everything that made you fall in love with Applebee’s chicken tenders in the first place.
“That is one big pile of s***!” — Ian Malcolm
What I’m saying is, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is mostly very bad , a dull and stupendously stupid follow-up to the reheated leftovers of 2015’s actually pretty good “Jurassic World.”
That film, coming 14 years after “Jurassic Park III,” benefited immensely from the residual nostalgia that multiple generations have for Steven Spielberg’s first film. And it rung every last drop of that nostalgia out of its audience, offering a few undeniably stirring moments in the process. All it had to do was bring back the T. rex, play a few notes of John Williams’ score, and most of us were on board.
And if “Jurassic World” wasn’t an especially well-made movie, its script at least had a few interesting ideas , like its genetically modified Franken-dino villain, which served as a metaphor for the blockbuster arms race that movie studios have been engaged in since, well, since “Jurassic Park” reinvented the modern blockbuster in 1993.
If the reboot was a pale imitation of Spielberg’s classic, you could still at least see the faint outlines of the great film it was trying to evoke.
Three years later, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” can’t even clear that bar. It is the worst movie of the series, a series, mind you, that also includes “Jurassic Park III.”
A sluggish and by-the-numbers endeavor, “Fallen Kingdom” lacks a single human character who’s not bland, annoying or mind-bogglingly stupid. The effects, once so groundbreaking, have become an anonymous slosh of CG mayhem. Every line of dialogue feels like it was written by a focus group of grotesquely basic people whom the studio randomly selected at the mall.
Save an interestingly downbeat ending, a poignant sequence of Isla Nublar going up in flames and one or two good scenes with the T. rex and raptors, there’s just nothing here. The movie will make a billion dollars anyway. But that doesn’t make it good.
“(They) were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” — Ian Malcolm
Set a few years after the events of “Jurassic World,” this one picks up at Isla Nublar as it’s about to be destroyed by a volcano. And all the dinosaurs with it. The U.S. government decides not to intervene, thanks to a cautionary monologue from Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, who is in only one scene of this rotten movie).
But thank god for privatization. A rich guy named Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) convinces Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) to go back to the park to rescue several dino species before the island blows.
(Pratt and Howard are very good in many movies, but they’re blocks of wood here, and they continue to have about as much chemistry as, um … well, two blocks of wood.)
They join a team of nerds and mercenaries , the soldiers of fortune led by Ted Levine. In particular, the team is trying to catch the raptor named Blue, whom Owen raised.
So same island, different day. Chases, bloody death, hot lava, double-crosses, chomp-chomp, evil rich people, profoundly stupid decisions, genetically modified superpredators let out of cages, a secluded mansion and a what-could-go-wrong dinosaur auction led by a sneering Toby Jones, spitting his lines through a set of oversized prosthetic teeth.
“Fallen Kingdom” flirts with gothic horror in its last act and takes a few narrative detours (human clones?) so bizarre that the movie actually risks becoming interesting. The very end poses a promising new direction for the series. Better yet, it ties the mad science of dino-resurrection to man-made catastrophes like global warming, pollution and the Internet. This is a movie that, in the end, really hates people, particularly for what they’ve done to the planet. On that level, at least, this movie and me see eye-to-eye. But otherwise …
“After careful consideration, I’ve decided NOT to endorse your park.” — Alan Grant
Director J.A. Bayona (“A Monster Calls”) tries to squeeze some more nostalgia out of the series, lifting dozens of shots and music cues from the 1993 film. But “Jurassic World” already used up all the series’ warm-’n’-fuzzy capital. “Fallen Kingdom” needed to be a good movie. And it’s … not that.
But more than that, it’s a perfect example of how movies have changed for the worse in the 25 years since “Jurassic Park” came out. Special effects have ceased to be special, screenplays are barely written before shooting starts and the actual filmmaking in filmmaking has taken a back seat to the dismal business of cross-promotional franchise-building.
A quarter-century after first seeing “Jurassic Park,” when I hear the T. rex’s roar, I’m still instantly taken back to the joy and terror I felt sitting in that theater so long ago.
A few hours after watching “Fallen Kingdom,” I’m struggling to recall a single thing about it.