By Chic DiCiccio
After about 10 seconds of screen time, it’s apparent that Jeff Goldblum is wondering, “What the hell am I doing here?” Unfortunately, it takes longer than 10 seconds of “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” for audiences to reach that same moment.
This sequel to a reboot of a franchise with several sequels (the head, it spins) is actually emptier and more bereft of originality than “Jurassic World.” At least it had the inarguably cool moment of star Chris Pratt riding a motorcycle while leading a pack of velociraptors through the jungle. In fact, that moment was so cool that Pratt’s Owen references it in this new movie as if to say, “Hey, ignore the borefest you’re currently watching and think about something that was much more fun instead.”
The main problem with “Fallen Kingdom” is that every character that screenwriters Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow (who directed the last one) have created is an idiot. The greedy rich men in suits, the tree huggers, the comedic relief, the snarky girl character, each of them is an idiot. Then, after the two of them realized this fact, they slapped Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcom in there to once more tell us that humans shouldn’t jack around with Mother Nature.
Maybe Dr. Malcom needed to directly meet with Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who now leads an animal rights group after her job of exploiting animals for money failed in spectacular fashion. See, the abandoned island that housed the dinosaur amusement park has a suddenly active volcano on it and all the animals are going to be exterminated! Again! Oh, sweet, sweet irony!
Here is when “Fallen Kingdom” gets into a philosophical debate about whether these animals should be left to die versus humans tampering with nature. Haha, just kidding. Who needs all that egghead talk? Instead, director J.A. Bayona gets Owen (Pratt) in his leather jungle utility vest, stokes that incredibly poor chemistry between he and Claire, and sticks them back on the island. There, they run from dinosaurs, molten lava and Ted Levine’s guaranteed-to-be-a-villain menacing behavior.
The one thing that Bayona gets right are a few moments that lean more towards horror instead of action-adventure. It helps when the last half hour or so of the movie takes place in a creepy, old mansion during a thunderstorm. However, it’s never truly terrifying since there is no way this movie series will allow a dinosaur to maul an eight-year-old girl. The stakes can never be raised and there’s never really cause for concern.
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are clearly talented actors, each with different strengths. This movie makes an interesting choice. It utilizes absolutely none of them. Pratt cannot be expected to snark his way through every single role, but his natural charm is fully lost here. He’s treated more like a video game character who is used to getting the plot from stage to stage.
Howard gets a handful of moments that allow her to do more besides scream and run, but it’s bordering on lip service. She gets to hold a gun, drive a truck, inflict some surprise violence on a bad guy, all while looking bored as all get out.
Maybe this review could best be described with one word: killjoy. After all, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is meant to be a big summer popcorn movie, which makes it okay to turn off your brain for two hours. But that’s not what the first “Jurassic Park” was all about. It managed to be smart while making you scared of animals that you 100 percent will never come across. These movies don’t need to be a thesis on Mother Nature, but they could sure use even a shred of intelligent thought.