Dinosaurs roar while rampaging across the screen. Humans look alternately frightened and amused. Scientists and money hungry entrepreneurs seem constantly surprised that de-extinct dinosaurs aren’t gonna be all cuddly. This is definitely a movie we’ve all seen before. The film is bloated with incongruous storylines and nonsensical plot points, and extraneous characters who disappear for long chunks of time then pop up when somewhat necessary to move the “plot” along.
Adding a volcano that rains molten lava down from the sky during act one doesn’t do nearly enough to shake up the narrative. This time around the now abandoned island, roamed solely by dinosaurs, is about to explode. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is running an organization to save the re-historic creatures and is
duped enlisted to go to the island to help find Blue, the Einstein of dinos. To do this she seeks out her old flame and dinosaur whisperer, Owen (Chris Pratt).
They’re told they’re working for a benevolent foundation linked to the Jurassic Park past. But it’s quickly clear to everyone on our side of the screen that this is a scam. For two smart people at the top of their fields, Owen and Claire are either blinded by their emotional connection to the dinosaurs or are just written unbelievably naive. We’re going with the latter. Once Blue is found captured and their usefulness to the paramilitary rescue squad is finished, Claire, Owen, a 20 something dino vet and a 20 something tech wizard are left to be a T-Rex’s last meal. Considering this franchise is older than most people in its target demographic, you feel that these last two characters were created to connect with moviegoers that weren’t born when Jurassic Park first hit the big screen.
Zia, the vet played by Daniella Rodriguez, is written fairly competently and her performance is believable. But even though she’s leading the crew through unprecedented raptor blood transfusions, she still feels unnecessary. At least she only “feels” unnecessary. Franklin, the techie played by Justice Smith, is clearly a character the studio forced writers to create to connect with a younger generation. Franklin is on hand to unlock a computer and stop deadly gas from choking dions to death. When he’s not doing tech stuff, he’s forced into being a deck hand on the rescue boat or working catering or other such nonsense.
Jeff Goldblum plays no role in this film other than to offer commentary in the form of congressional testimony at the start and end of the film. Unnecessary but at least it’s a warm link to the franchise’s roots.
But the ultimate unneeded character is Benjamin Lockwood’s (james Cromwell) granddaughter, Maisie (Isabella Sermon). Cromwell spends the movie in his deathbed (which is not a figure of speech, he dies in the bed). But his 10ish-year-old scion (this word has two definitions and both are accurate). But this young one goes where she doesn’t belong and hears what she shouldn’t hear. This is clearly in the Spielbergian tradition of Drew Barrymore’s Gertie in E.T. But even though her true identity is so unbelievable, the role is so transparently written we see what is coming way before we’re supposed to. And, yes, Maisie is the key to the moment that sets the stage for the next film, yet she still feels contrived.
And that’s the problem with the entire movie. It’s all contrived and lacking heart. This movie seems like a bridge designed solely to get us to the next installment. In the cold open, an underwater archaeologist is gulped down by a sea-based megaladon. We laughed. Out loud. We literally LOL’d. Dr. Wu (B.D. Wong) never learns his lesson and escapes with the DNA of a future re-historic terror. The entire money-making military operation to get animals from island to auction is simply to set up their ultimate release into the wild.
Fallen Kingdom has nothing in the way of a plot, except to give us insight to the next movie’s plot. When Jurassic Park debuted back in the day, the film not only had a compelling story line, but seeing lifelike dinosaurs roaming the screen was a cinematic miracle that captivated audiences. Over 25+ years the bar has been raised much higher many times. It takes more than a scary T-Rex or a super intelligent velociraptor to make us care. It also says something about the story when Blue is the strongest female character on-screen. Sorry BDH.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
A Blue Lagoon. Named after our favorite velociraptor, it is also designed to look good but leave a somewhat bitter taste in your mouth, knowing it could have been more, much like this film.