In 1993, the wonder-filled, exciting, dino-tastic film Jurassic Park came to theaters, creating a franchise and fans around the world. I was one of them, and to this day, I love that movie. In fact, John Alvin, a film artist I represent in my other life as gallery owner of ArtInsights in Reston Town Center, worked on the movie’s poster designs. So I knew about the ‘JP fandom’, as it’s called. Sure, the latest films of the franchise are a reboot of the original movie series, but I have been no less excited for their release. It’s with great disappointment, then, that I say I left at the end credits of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom believing this is by far the worst Jurassic Park film. Worse than JP3 you ask? Yes. To make matters worse, it’s a serious bummer, and decidedly badly-timed.
All the expected elements are there, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, albeit if character types this specific are not well developed, they become cardboard cliches right out of Central Casting. We have Claire, the plucky heroine (Bryce Dallas Howard), blessedly outfitted throughout with flat, practical boots. Owen, the Alpha male (Chris Pratt), Franklin, the geeky scaredy-cat tech wizard (Justice Smith), Maisie, the child put in peril (Isabella Sermon), Ben Lockwood, the billionaire benefactor (James Cromwell), Zia, the tough, I-can-do-it scientist (Daniella Pineda), Wheatley, the tough, seen-it-all mercenary (Ted Levine), and of course, the various villains who want to leverage the jurassic inhabitants of Isla Nublar to their nefarious ends. I don’t begrudge the filmmakers the use of character and story points that have worked for the franchise in the past. In fact, the actors involved do a fairly good job keeping our attention, as do the special effects required for the many dinosaurs and environments.
What I do resent, and what is entirely outside of the spirit of the franchise, is the pervasive pall of negativity, and the feel-bad vibe hanging over 80% of the movie. Wonder is in short supply, and hope is gone.
The volcano on Isla Nubla is erupting, and is going to destroy the island and everything on it, including the dinosaurs created for the park there. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is giving his two cents in a congressional hearing about what to do with the man-made creatures in peril. He thinks we should leave them to die, as they were meant to do millions of years ago. Claire (Dallas Howard) has taken up the charge to save them. When the representative (Rafe Spall) of a homebound billionaire (Cromwell) offers help getting them to a sanctuary, she enlists Dino trainer Owen, now her ex, to help in rescue efforts.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has what feels like two distinct disaster movies in one. The first is the more true to the original film series, in which hapless humans are pitted against scary dinosaurs on a tropical island. When the lava starts to flow, however, watching the terrified creatures jump to their deaths off cliffs in order to avoid spewing, fiery rockets of volcanic rock, is an unpleasantness I never bargained for. The movie goes dark there, and it doesn’t ever really come back into the light.
The second part of the film is off the island, with another challenge of saving captive dinosaurs. Where and how would require spoilers, so suffice to say it becomes a bit like Jane Eyre meets Tyrannosaurus Rex. Although these proceedings too have a blanket of dread over them, at least it could be said it is in the name of gothic storytelling. I suppose. In a dinosaur movie.
Ultimately it comes down to the question of if we as a society, or as members of that society create a big mess, are we responsible for it? If living, breathing creatures are involved, do we forget them the minute things gets complicated? Interesting questions, given the current political atmosphere.
All I know is I really didn’t want to see crying, dying animals, whether they are made by nature or by man. I suspect a lot of fans of Jurassic Park will agree with me. On the other hand, the guy who shared a post-screening elevator with me enjoyed it. After all, it does have Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and dinosaurs. Enter this world at your own risk, perhaps with anti-depressants in-hand.