Movie Review: A Murky Moral and the Diminishing Returns of Digital Dinos Weigh on a Once-Mighty Franchise in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom | Arts
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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Movie Review: A Murky Moral and the Diminishing Returns of Digital Dinos Weigh on a Once-Mighty Franchise in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Posted by Google on Thu, Jun 21, 2018 at 9:47 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES
  • photo courtesy of Universal Pictures
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
★★½
Opening Friday, June 22


The tension between science and consumerism is the narrative thread running throughout the Jurassic Park franchise. It’s a marvel to revive an iconic extinct species, but these dinos ain’t going to sell themselves.

In 2015, Jurassic World saw the realization of John Hammond’s dream of a dinosaur-centric amusement park, at least until the customers became the day’s feeding. Now, at the outset of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, an erupting volcano threatens to turn the cloned dinosaurs living in and around the now-derelict theme park on Isla Nublar back into fossils.

A group of activists wants to save the dinos, including park-manager-turned-zealot Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Malcolm drifts through long enough to warn a congressional committee—using a not-so-thinly veiled climate-change allegory—that we have meddled in the order of things enough and should just let nature take its course. When the government demurs, tycoon Ben Lockwood (James Cromwell), a former partner of Hammond’s we’ve never heard of until now, recruits Dearing for a clandestine plan to relocate the dinosaurs to another island sanctuary. But where’s the money in that?

Fallen Kingdom starts a lot like Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, with its moral hand-wringing over whether to save the Klingons from extinction. Working off a script by Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, director J. A. Bayona (A Monster Calls) then shifts into an Alien simulacrum, where the industrialists always have ulterior motives. Any scientific aspirations fall by the wayside when Lockwood’s right-hand man, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), decides to auction the rescued reptiles to the highest bidder with the help of yet another white hunter (Ted Levine) and an underground auctioneer played by a sniveling Toby Jones. The prized item is a new hybrid dino called an Indoraptor, created because, well, merch!


Meanwhile, the wonder of computer-rendered triceratopses, tyrannosaurs, and pterodactyls is gone, replaced by the passé imagery of menacing shadows and toothy monsters lurking around corners and chasing people down dark corridors. Lockwood’s “granddaughter,” Maise (Isabella Sermon), serves the same basic function as Newt in Aliens: to fall into peril and scream a lot.

The film winds up aping Rise of the Planet of the Apes, with raptor wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Blue, the supposedly super-smart raptor he raised from birth, standing in for Will Rodman (James Franco) and his protege, Caesar. But we have no emotional investment in these dinosaurs, which can’t communicate, and not much more in the humans characters who can. Fallen Kingdom’s head-scratching climax muddles its environmental message (at least the part about saving humankind). Maise also comes equipped with a dark secret about her birth that, after much build-up, is revealed for one asinine purpose.

Once upon a time, Jurassic Park spawned a boffo box office and wide interest in science. Today, there’s nothing left but jump scares and plush toys. Fallen Kingdom is facile and forgettable, but to damn it as a brazen cash-grab is like faulting a T. rex for gorging on a goat. Both are merely being true to their nature.

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