Let me be honest right up front; the Jurassic Park sequels, despite some thrilling moments, are bad. The original, which represented the coming together of the Spielberg who directed Close Encounters and the Spielberg who directed Jaws, struck such unique balance between beauty and horror that is rarely seen. It’s why the film is remembered as a classic of the 90s, but it is also why it’s sequels fail. The momentary awe an audience can experience upon seeing such a vivid image of a dinosaur on-screen only works once. Without the beauty, all the sequels were left to work with was the horror. A horror that was compromised by both vain attempts to capture the awe of the original as well as forcing returns to the island which made the characters who willingly went there and knew about what transpired in the original seem dense to the point of harming the audiences empathy towards them.
With this in mind, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom might just be the best of sequels, despite that statement not exactly being high-praise. The film, which sees the return of the Jurassic world’s Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Howard), takes strides in moving the series into more interesting pastures. Yet despite the shift in status-quo toward the end, the movie that preceded it is still rather dull elevated only by fantastic cinematography.
I do not make that praise lightly, the film is shot well. Director J.A. Bayona, known for his work on The Orphanage and A Monster Calls, really brings a vibrant intensity to all of the scenes. The epitome of this is a moment after the Isla Nublar volcano erupts and two of the main party are trapped in a sinking spherical transport. The scene is shot in what appears to be one take, allowing the focus to linger on the characters entrapment as water slowly fills the sphere. It evokes a horrifying sense of claustrophobia, a feeling that is echoed through-out the film. The more dramatic scenes also benefit from this direction, with J.A. Bayona delivering scenes where the characters are shot depicting visible signs of emotional vulnerability that were lacking in the original Jurassic World. With shots depicting taller characters getting down to eye-level and shifting from confrontational stances to more open ones, the Bayona-directed sequel attempts something the original Jurassic World lacked the courage to try; make its thinly veiled archetypes appear human.
Yet solid direction can not cover the problems of the script. While Chris Pratt, Bryce Howard, the new Isabella Sermon, and the rest of the cast perform well with what is given to them, what was given to them was another Colin Trevorrow script that plays to his worst tendencies as a writer. The characters are archetypical to the point of shallowness; more befitting a parody of an action blockbuster rather than a sincere attempt. The dinosaurs, much like the first Jurassic world, are muddled in their representation. The film can’t decide whether their representations of natures indifference and human folly or misunderstood gentle giants deserving of protection and sympathy. Are they friend, foe, or indifferent? The film doesn’t know and this leads to inconsistency that muddles the attempted catharsis toward its conclusion.
Speaking of that conclusion, with the shift in status-quo it brings, it makes me wish this movie, rather than show the shift, left it to back story and progressed from the new, more interesting, status-quo. Perhaps there was a perceived need from the writers to explain this shift in cinematic detail, but I frankly don’t recognize that concern’s validity. Better to work with the new premise than to restrain yourself to a tired one, that has proven itself as a failure, under obligation. Merely banking on a more interesting future doesn’t disguise the faults of the present, of Fallen Kingdom, as promises are a dime a dozen. All Fallen Kingdom accomplishes in of itself is a betrayal of its finer elements, enslaving them to the failures of the past sequels.
Rating: 2 / 5