When it comes to J.A. Bayona‘s disastrous “Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom,” you at least have to give it credit for hitting the titular mark. Watching the credits roll, one’s mind immediately races to the plea Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm makes at the Senate hearing. Hollywood should apply his dinosaur “mercy killing” stance to the franchise itself. By wisely releasing the film in international markets ahead of its domestic debut, Universal Pictures ensured there would be no extinction on the horizon.
Unfortunately, the shrewd distribution couldn’t cover the stench of kerosene once it hit U.S. soil. The match of consumerism was lit, audiences were engulfed in flames of disappointment, and the saga continues onward to obliterate more brain cells. As an apologist of the unapologetic “Jurassic World” – which refreshingly abandons the pretense of plot and bounces along with cheesy 80s hoopla – it was devastating to watch a sequel try so hard to take its idiocy so seriously. With “Jurassic World 3” an inevitability, perhaps there are ways to save the movie before it becomes another debasement of Steven Spielberg’s legacy.
One of the first glaring problems in “Fallen Kingdom” is that pathetic opening sequence, which feels completely telegraphed and is shot with the grace of a rickety bridge. Bayona and writer Colin Trevorrow perform a hackneyed recreation of the opening scene of Spielberg’s “Jaws,” even throwing in some self-plagiarism for good measure. Recycling the Mosasaurus attack from the first movie — except now on a cannon fodder male mercenary — does very little to instill fear. In fact, it might be a measly response to the controversy generated from the “Jurassic World” babysitter’s gruesome death at the hands of this same ancient ocean dweller. Trevorrow’s guilty conscience clearly wants to equalize the gender-based violence, though revisiting horror tropes just opens himself up to further scrutiny.
Moreover, the mercenaries’ mission of recovering a piece of the Indominus Rex from Isla Nublar isn’t even mentioned after the event happens, so why occur at all? For “Jurassic World 3,” the opening sequence should be both memorable and carry narrative weight to what follows. Employing the same horror tactics from other films in the franchise is uninspiring, as is launching a story with disposable characters.
The studio should look to films like “The Dark Knight” and study its prowess in pushing the limits of gripping action cinema from the get-go. Heck, even a dud like “Spectre” manages to spur excitement and raise adrenaline levels before devolving into ruin. Hire experienced, talented minds like James Cameron or Brad Bird to at least consult on the pivotal opening sequence. If a film comes in tripping over its own absurdity in the first five minutes, there’s almost no getting back on track. Even “Fallen Kingdom’s” best moment — the Isla Nublar volcano escape — comes up short in the inventive department. Audiences are smart enough to know what this franchise is visually capable of, so how dare it defer to the most derivative of action beats?
Critics may be beating a dead horse with this complaint, but it continues to be a common setback for blockbusters: enough with focusing on the human characters in monster movies. It’s as though J.A. Bayona and Colin Trevorrow idolize the worst aspects of Gareth Edwards’s “Godzilla” and thought they were worth doubling down on. Audiences are paying for spectacle and the promise of high concept storytelling being fulfilled. Nobody cares for a soap opera twist in which one person happens to be a clone. Furthermore, if you are going to tie back to the beloved original characters, make them an integral part of the movie’s emotion. Don’t just use them for instant cameo gratification or manipulative nostalgic sweetness. The unnamed Brontosaurus who perished in the flames of Isla Nublar had the most emotional pull of any living organism in the film, human or otherwise.
In “Jurassic World 3,” the less human involvement, the better. Collateral damage is one thing, but when one-note dastardly villains are having a field day with exposition, the audience’s time is wasted. Dinosaur mayhem and the awe derived from their imposing presence are the trademarks that keep us flocking back to the franchise. Leave the scientific complexities of DNA mutation to a J.J. Abrams television series. Government conspiracies, predictable betrayals and weaponizing the dinosaurs for war profit have all been done before ad nauseam. Forget those plot threads and move on to lasting themes that resonate.
“Jurassic World 3” should explore the consequences of the selfish liberation of endangered animals. Characters like Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) who turn a complete 180 and pursue a path of altruism – maybe to repent for their former corporate cruelty – can hopefully realize the error of their ways. Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady (honestly, I had to Wikipedia the character’s name because it’s so forgettable) could use a little ruffle in his heroic stoicism.
Also, “Fallen Kingdom” does a disservice to itself by introducing new characters but then ignore them halfway through the film. Either bring back Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins or delve deeper into Franklin (Justice Smith) and Dr. Zia (Daniella Pineda). Each time the script hinted at stronger characterization for the two, it would pull back and refocus on the dilemma of its leads. This is why juggling too many characters in a monster movie leads to nowhere but disarray. Being forced to scatter our feelings for multiple characters and creatures ultimately thins personal consideration of the material.
Finally, the biggest gripe with “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” that needs megaphone addressing: constricting the action space is the antithesis of this franchise. Evidently, writers Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly were watching far too much Batman and decided to turn their film into “Jurassic World: Wayne Manor Edition.” The majority of the movie is confined to a mansion despite the intrinsic fact that its base creatures are meant to roam freely in the infinite outdoor possibilities that cinema provides. Instead, we get home invasion and classic horror tropes abounding inside the walls of Benjamin Lockwood’s (James Cromwell) estate. There is no thrill to be had because there’s no room for dino chaos to effectively ensue. The script literally cramps Spielberg’s original style.
Thankfully, the film’s cliffhanger suggests that these debilitating problems won’t persist. The dinosaurs are going to be seeing a lot more of the great outdoors than the human population would prefer. Still, it’s disheartening to know that Universal and Spielberg provided a blank canvas of imagination for Trevorrow following his $1 billion dollar success, and in return, he restricts himself to the corners. I’m not entirely sure Bayona needs to carry on either, seeing as how his cataclysmic style of directing couldn’t salvage a sunken script.
James Cameron, perhaps stepping away from your “Avatar” sequels could at least steer this franchise in a visually palatable direction. Bringing on some young female writers would also shift the deserved negative attitude both back-to-back sequels have garnered for their depiction of women. “Jurassic World 3” doesn’t need to focus on the narrative specifics of the past or get bogged down in nostalgia. Paving its own groundbreaking movie experience should be the goal, as mimicry isn’t so much flattering to this franchise as it is crippling.