Hey Everybody! Flickmuncher here. Wow, it’s been a long time since my last review (well over a year now) and a lot has happened. Justice League bombed, the Avengers died, the Patriots lost a superbowl to a team not called the NY Giants, we’ve had two Star Wars movies; all sorts of things. But now that its summer 2018 and things seem to have (finally) calmed down—relatively speaking—I thought it was high time I provided you all with another article from the Flickmuncher. And hoooo booooy, do we have a fun one to look at today. So without further ado, I give you Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
So, what’s this movie about, you might ask—assuming you weren’t one of the three gajillion people who went to see it on its opening weekend. Well, three years after the events of Jurassic World, Isla Nubla, home of Jurassic Park has been quarantined by humanity and is now home to a volcano that’s about to erupt. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) are called in by a mysterious figure named Benjamin Lockwood who helped create the original park thirty years ago, and are tasked by him and his manager Eli Mills (Rafe Spalls) to recover as many dinosaurs as they can before the volcano explodes and wipes them all out. What Owen and Claire don’t know though, is that Lockwood is hiding a dark secret that could change life on Earth for good.
I’m going to get this right out of the way; this movie is not good. It’s really not good at all. It is without a doubt one of the stupidest movies I have seen in a long time and I recently watched a movie where people in colorful costumes were trying to stop a purple guy with six chins from putting all the buttons back on his Powerglove—by the way, props to anyone who knows what that is, and googling it doesn’t count. Anyway, the funny thing about Fallen Kingdom’s stupidity is that there are so many levels of stupid going on in the film. Granted, the Jurassic Park movies have always been subject to that but the fact that this movie remains so blissfully oblivious to its own stupidity actually makes it rather fascinating to watch. But what do I mean by that? Well, as always let’s start with the pros.
First, the music is wonderful to listen to. Michael Giacchino, who did music for such movies as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, and The Incredibles, wrote the score for this movie. John Williams’ Jurassic Park theme is certainly iconic but there’s a feeling of grandeur that Giacchino manages to capture in several parts that definitely had the same touch that the classic theme did.
Also, the acting by Chris Pratt and Isabella Sermon, who plays Benjamin Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie, is pretty good. Pratt is his usual charming-action-hero self that he’s come to be known for since Guardians of the Galaxy but this is a special compliment to Sermon as acting for kids is not as easy as for adults, since they often haven’t figured out all the subtleties of expression with both body language and speech. So kudos to her for managing that.
Third, the first third of the movie where the volcano erupts is as much a spectacle as the trailers would suggest, becoming very reminiscent of disaster movies from the 1990s like Dante’s Peak.
Then we have the cinematography and shot composition, which are also rather well done. For those of you who might be wondering why this is important enough to note, cinematography is what allows you to understand what is going in the movie; what is important in the shot and what the filmmaker is trying to communicate.
To give an example of bad cinematography, just look at most videos taken by someone on their smartphone while on a boating trip. They show what’s happening on the boat, the scenery around the boat, maybe even record part of a conversation. But there isn’t any focus on one person or object, it all appears seemingly at random, and we don’t feel anything as a result. And that’s fine since most videos like that are just for the person recording it and doesn’t need any context added. However, with a feature film, which is trying to tell a coherent narrative, if it looked like that boating video, none of us would be able to tell what’s happening and we’d lose interest. Even “found footage” movies like The Blair Witch Project, which are supposed to be like that boating video, always have a single subject that each shot focuses on so that the audience understands what is happening. A film that has poor cinematography will always have trouble connecting to its audience. And fortunately, that is not one of Jurassic World 2’s problems.
On that note, here are the problems that it does have.
Since the pros started with Michael Giacchino’s score it seems only fitting that the cons should too. I know, I know. I just praised the score for how good it was. However, as good as any score is, it has to be used in the right places in order to be the most effective. In this case, the music has its grand moments with the chorus all over the film, including times when the movie wants us to feel scared. That’s not to say a chorus should never be used in scary scenes; far from it. But when everything in the scene visually implies tense silence, having a chorus shouting loudly in the background is really distracting. That’s not on the composer either. While he chooses how the music sounds it’s the director who tells him what the tone of the music should be for a particular scene.
This brings me to the next problem: poor dialogue and directing. Directing a movie is an interesting job because the director is responsible for deciding what the movie is going to be about and how that will be communicated to the audience in a clear way. The director of this movie, J. A. Bayona, has done several dramatic and horror-themed movies in the past so you would think a movie about dinosaurs running amok and eating people would be right up his alley. But strangely, there isn’t a definite tone that the movie wants to follow. The whole theme behind the Jurassic Park franchise has been the notion of man tampering with nature and creating destructive monsters that kill people. The lesson being that man shouldn’t tamper with nature…obviously. But Bayona can’t seem to decide if he wants us (the audience) to be afraid of the dinosaurs—again, monsters created by science—or sympathize with them. It’s a weird imbalance that makes the writing and decisions of the characters that much more baffling. Things aren’t helped by the fact that Bayona keeps telegraphing all his moves even in the scenes that are supposed to be the most intense and frightening. He’s like that little kid who pulls off a magic trick at school and is so proud of himself that he has to brag about how he did it.
Then we have the biggest problem with this film, the writing. I have always been of the mind that average to mediocre acting, directing, and technical work in a movie can still make for a great movie if the story is good—or even just okay. But great acting and directing cannot do the same for a bad script. This. This is a bad script. Not just because of how the dialogue sounds but because the characters who are saying it are just not interesting. In fact, two of the side characters are so painfully annoying that (in the middle of a crowded theater) I was verbally begging the movie to kill them off. And Claire and Owen, the two main characters, don’t fare much better. Claire has become a dinosaur-rights activist—despite the previous movie showing she had zero interest in protecting the dinosaurs and viewing them purely as company assets—and Owen has become an outdoorsman who isn’t doing anything except drinking beer and building his cabin in northern California…with a hammer. One. Hammer.
I haven’t mentioned the villains either because the villains aren’t really worth mentioning. They’re just the same military complex bad guys from the last movie. And Lost World. And just about every 90s movie you can think of that involved animals of any kind. It’s worth considering how well written your villain is when the thing people remember most about him is how he died.
But I should start wrapping this up. To give a bit of context to my thoughts, Jurassic Park is a touchstone to many who lived through the 90s as the first movie to effectively use computer graphics on such a grand scale. As such, the name derives a nostalgic feeling for many who saw it in theaters back then. However, I didn’t see the original until I was much older (probably around 15 or 16) and by then I’d already seen CGI marvels like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, so there wasn’t that same magic for me. For those who did though, I can’t help but feel that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a movie that needs them more than they need it. Yet it insists the opposite. It is so convinced that what it is saying is important yet at the end of the day, what has it said? That dinosaurs are bad? That people are bad? That some people are bad and some people are good?
The answer is that the movie doesn’t know what it wants to say, and so says nothing. It is a dumb movie, in the most literal sense. And that’s a sad thing indeed.
Final Score: Watch Jurassic Park instead!
So, what did you think of the review? Did you agree or disagree with my analysis? What parts stuck out to you? Let me know all about it on facebook or in the comments below. Thanks and as always, May the Flick be with You!