The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The Jurassic Park franchise has been a mixed bag. The original is obviously a classic. The second installment, The Lost World, was overblown and unsatisfying. Jurassic Park III was even worse – a total mess. Many years later came the reboot, Jurassic World, which was not a classic like the first one, but managed to feel close enough to it in spirit to be fun. That brings us to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It's a tie-breaker. Will there be more good Jurassic Park movies, or more bad ones?

The answer is...there are now more bad ones. This picture is monumentally stupid in a way that's really disappointing.

A few dinosaurs are still left on what remains of Isla Nublar. Wealthy businessman Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the former business partner of Jurassic Park creator John Hammond, wants to rescue and move them to a special sanctuary. Lockwood's employee, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), recruits Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) to help with the mission. More importantly, she's needed to lure Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) into the fold. Expedience is vital, since an erupting volcano threatens to wipe out all the dinos.

The first fifty minutes of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom find them racing against time – or, more accurately, lava – to save the creatures. If the whole concept is a little goofy, it at least allows for one or two fun action scenes, like a sequence in which Claire and another team member get trapped in a Gyrosphere and tossed into the ocean.

The real problem is everything after that. What foiled The Lost World was taking the dinosaurs off the island and bringing them back to the mainland. Fallen Kingdom echoes that mistake. The remaining 70 minutes of the film are set inside Lockwood's mansion. Even though the entire premise of the series is over-the-top, it works when it adheres to its own logic. Dinosaurs on an island makes sense, in a fantasy way. Dinosaurs in a mansion does not, because anything they do there is automatically going to be absurd.

There's a twist to all this, which won't be revealed here, except to say an alternate reason to get the dinos off Isla Nublar exists. That reason is a total cliché, used in dozens of movies involving any sort of genetically-enhanced person or specially-abled creature. As a result, you have a total betrayal of what a Jurassic Park adventure is supposed to be. The plot becomes more about what the supporting characters are doing, with the dinosaurs serving as props, and Owen and Claire relegated to victim status.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom goes further off the rails the longer it goes on. The dinos are used in ways that are silly or annoyingly preposterous, which serves to kill any sense of excitement the movie is trying to build. Then there's a bizarre subplot about Lockwood's granddaughter that seems manufactured solely for the purposes of having some kind of big reveal near the end. On multiple occasions, you might want to yell ”Seriously?!” at the screen.

Director J.A. Bayona made three previous films that were outstanding – The Orphanage, The Impossible, and A Monster Calls. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is not his fault. The problem is 100% with the insipid screenplay from Derek Connelly and Colin Trevorrow. Maybe they thought that they were freshening up the series by taking it in a different direction. Who knows? What they came up with, though, makes just about every wrong step imaginable.

Fallen Kingdom might make a ton of money, just because the franchise tends to do that, but it'll be a shock if it doesn't end up being the biggest creative dud of Summer 2018.

( 1/2 out of four)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril. The running time is 2 hours and 8 minutes.

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