Forget directors jail. For his crimes against movies, Colin Trevorrow should be bound so he can’t do any further harm to once amazing franchises or the fans who loved them. Though not at the helm of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the hand of Trevorrow, the filmmaker who brought us the sexist, dumb, and repellent Book of Henry and Jurassic World, is felt. As co-writer and executive producer, Trevorrow shaped a sequel so criminally stupid that it should kill this abysmal franchise for good.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom follows Jurassic World’s polarizing heroes, raptor wrangler Owen (Chris Pratt) and exec-turned-dino rights activist Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). With an active volcano threatening the last remaining dinosaurs on earth, this odd couple reluctantly reunites to return to Isla Nublar on a rescue mission. But stampeding dinosaurs and molten lava are not all they’ll have to face. There’s also merciless soldiers and greedy suits for a ludicrous and convoluted plot that will have you longing for the days when survival was a sufficient goal.
Credit where it’s due, this sequel attempts to course correct the regressive gender dynamics that spurred ire last time. Gone are those impractical and infamous white high heels. Claire favors boots and more functional fashion for this adventure, and won’t be openly berated for daring to be child-free and unmarried. Owen’s chauvinism is even half-heartedly called out. But rather than change the pair’s bristling dynamic that’s reliant on tedious stereotypes of shrill women and swaggering men, Trevorrow and co-writer Derek Connolly (Kong: Skull Island, Monster Trucks) pile in other characters in an attempt to balance the scales.
There’s a gruff and blood-thirsty “Great White Hunter” to make Pratt’s toxic masculinity seem quaint by comparison. There’s a screeching hacker (Justice Smith), who will play the dude in distress so Claire’s not a damsel. And there’s the sassy and tattooed veterinarian (Daniella Pineda), who’ll be derided none-too-subtly as a “nasty woman” by the Great White Hunter. It’s blatant pandering. But the cast brings some spark, especially Pineda. Sadly, none of the above will get more than thinly sketched characterization.
Then, Jurassic World wedges in another equally slapdash handful of characters, like the precocious child (Isabella Sermon) who scurries about the sprawling manor of her wealthy, philanthropic, but morally dubious grandfather. Carrying a familiar amber/mosquito-topped cane and a weary sense of resignation, James Cromwell appears as a former partner/obvious substitute for Jurassic Park’s John Hammond (the late Richard Attenborough). It’s a ret-con so sloppy that I half expected someone to accidentally address him as Hammond. Then there’s Rafe Spall as the smiling assistant you despise on sight because if these movies teach us nothing else, it’s that men in suits are not to be trusted.
Where Jurassic Park luxuriated in building its world and developing its characters with mundane moments of flirtations then grander discoveries of awe and eventual terror, the Jurassic World movies leap mercilessly to climactic action, sacrificing storytelling, character development, and thereby emotional impact. Instead, there are scads of superficial allusions. Truly iconic shots from the first film are re-enacted with diminishing returns: The insert shot of the rearview mirror that warned objects are closer than they appear. The moment Lex tries desperately to pull down the kitchen cabinet door to shield her from a rampaging raptor. The shot where the T-Rex roars in the shattered museum, its fallen dino-foe at its feet. Pale limitations of each of these scenes are here, each one more infuriating than last. But if I wanted to be reminded of Jurassic Park I’d watch Jurassic Park. Jurassic World 2 gives us nothing nearly as satisfying or thrilling, and repeatedly, and on top of all that it insults our intelligence.
Trevorrow and Connolly’s script shows an abject disdain for its audience. We’re meant to believe this is a world where top-notch technology can resurrect extinct species. And yet a dinosaur accidentally smashing a control panel can curiously undo whatever its last command was, be it closing a gate or an elevator door. In fact, dinosaur tails with their seemingly random flicks, appear to be guided by fate to topple one human villain after another. It’s like that scene in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace when Jar Jar Binks tripped on a gun, setting it off to fire wildly, yetonly killed the bad guys. That’s the level at which this movie operates.
This is a movie where a manor that contains both a super-secret sub-basement laboratory and a super-snooping child whose hobby is sticking her nose in where it’s not welcomed. And yet, the super-secret sub-basement is easily accessible by elevator and dumbwaiter. Would you allow the design of your house to have an unsecured elevator or a dumbwaiter that goes down to your super-secret laboratory? If you said yes to this, congratulations this movie was made for you.
Admittedly, my expectations were low for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingsom, because I positively loathed Trevorrow’s precursor. But I had hopes for director J.A. Bayona, who beautifully blends terror and tenderness in The Orphanage, The Impossible and When A Monster Calls. But this movie lacks the emotional oomph I’ve come to expect of Bayona. The moments where you can feel his influence is in its horror. A dinosaur design jagged with big shiny claws and cruelly grinning teeth creates a new monster that can haunt children as they lie awake at night wondering what lurks under their bed. These scenes of claws and shadows streaking across the little girl’s pink and precious bedroom are guaranteed to terrify children, who might also be traumatized by the film’s depiction of dinosaurs drowning or being burned alive. But those of us who grew up with the wonder of the original will be mostly bored, staring slack-jawed and repulsed by how widely Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom misses the mark.
I watched a Jurassic Park movie and felt nothing. This should be impossible. The first movie had the advantage of being a world-rattling surprise with its groundbreaking and masterful use of CGI. For generations, Steven Spielberg defined dinosaurs, making them look so photo-real you thought you could walk through the screen and touch them. But more than that Jurassic Park reveled in a childlike wonder that Jurassic World movies take it for granted, instead piling on jump scares, grim violence, and vapid nostalgia.
The soul of these movies has been extinguished. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom gives us no heroes worth rooting for. No action sequences that will stick with us the way Spielberg’s did. What it offers are lazy re-creations, lazier screenwriting, and sneering disrespect for our love of the original. I did not think I could hate a Jurassic Park movie more than I hated the last. But here we are. Trevorrow found a way.
P.S. Don’t go see this for Jeff Goldblum. Yes, he’s back as Ian Malcolm! But the scene you see in the trailer is all you get.