By Noah Shatzer
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is nowhere near a perfect movie. While Fallen Kingdom has its faults, the movie qualifies as the second or third best in the Jurassic franchise.The film capitalizes on beautifully put together scenes paired alongside with J.A. Bayona’s gothic horror twist on the brand. Since its release, Fallen Kingdom has already grossed $710 million worldwide and will undoubtedly hit the $1 billion mark within the next few weeks with a continued strong domestic showing. But with the box office success has come plenty of flak from critiques, with Fallen Kingdom receiving significantly worse reviews than its 2015 counterpart. Currently, Fallen Kingdom is sitting at a meager 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes’ “Tomatometer.” While the box office numbers don’t reflect it, the movie has suffered from the “word of mouth” effect because of these critical reviews and as a product of this, the majority of the movie’s detractors have ended up complaining about the same couple of gripes and blowing them a bit out of proportion.
Many of these poor critic reviews take issue with the writing of the movie, harping on the pace and direction of the plot, the fairly one-dimensional villains who returning protagonists Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) find themselves facing off against, and a recurring complaint that Fallen Kingdom fails to recapture the same emotions of the original Jurassic Park.
While Colin Trevorrow’s script isn’t exactly what you would call “well-written,” the movie delivers on what a movie about dinosaurs is supposed to deliver, epic cinematic shots of dinosaurs doing dinosaur stuff alongside high-octane action that’s meant to be enjoyable while still having an underlying theme that is to be taken away at the end.
The villains are fairly one-dimensional, as pointed out by countless critics and fans. Yet, is that necessarily a bad thing? The Jurassic Park franchise has never had strongly written villains, never having a need for one. Other than Jurassic Park 3 (which we’ll just go ahead and sweep under the rug) the main villain of each Jurassic movie has revolved around the same idea, the villain wants to take advantage of the dinosaurs in some capacity for capital gain. In the original Jurassic Park, the only character who you could argue fills an antagonistic role is Dennis Nedry, who throws the park into disarray for the opportunity to steal and smuggle Ingen’s dino-embryos off of the island for a hefty payday. In The Lost World, John Hammond’s nephew, Peter Ludlow, attempts to remove dinosaurs from the island in order to open another smaller park in San Diego to make a boatload of money. Jurassic World’s “villain” Victor Hoskins wants to use Grady’s raptors as trained killers, looking a land a large government contract. And then in the background of all of the entire Jurassic franchise, you have Henry Wu, who deviates from this “money hungry villain” archetype and instead falls into the “attempting to play God” archetype. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, B.D. Wong, who returns as Wu in Fallen Kingdom, explained he doesn’t see the character of Wu so much a villain, but rather a genius motivated by his love for science and his own ego who, “turns a blind eye to the human suffering that comes as a result because he thinks he’s looking at some bigger picture.”
Nevertheless, the villains of Fallen Kingdom, who I won’t name for the sake of spoilers, are once again placed into the “money hungry” archetype and looking to capitalize on the genetically engineered dinosaurs for their own personal financial gain. The reason that the Jurassic series is able to get away with having weaker human antagonists who fit into the same mold is because these one dimensional characters aren’t the true villains of the franchise. The dinosaurs themselves are the true villains and the recent creation of the Indominus Rex in Jurassic World and the Indo-Raptor in Fallen Kingdom push this idea to the next level. The human villains are simply there to push the plot along, give our main characters more ethical and emotional conflict, and give us the viewers that satisfying moment when they meet their grisly end at the hands or mouth of the very creatures they attempted to take advantage of, but these characters pale in comparison to the true baddies of the Jurassic franchise.
The plot of Fallen Kingdom is fairly simple and predictable with the movie practically split into three acts: before the island, on the island, and in the Lockwood Manor; all differing in pace and vibe. The movie opens up calmly and brings us up to speed on what has happened since the events that transpired in Jurassic World, the middle act of the island is filled to the brim with nonstop action and gratifying sequences that allow the dinosaurs to be showcased in ways we haven’t experienced before, and the ending act becomes a Gothic horror vibe, courtesy of Bayona, which takes the franchise in a newer and darker direction that successfully recreates some of the terror and suspense that was praised in the original Jurassic Park.
At some parts, it feels like Fallen Kingdom could be two different movies spliced together but once the action starts, the plot movies along like a snowball rolling down a hill, gradually picking up more and more mass until it eventually reaches the end of the hill and comes to a stop. Except Fallen Kingdom’s ending is less of a gradual stop and more akin to the snowball hitting a tree and exploding beautifully yet tragically. Fallen Kingdom isn’t going to win any awards for screenwriting, but did anyone actually expect the plot to be a strong point of the movie after Jurassic World? The plot may not make sense at some points and there are parts of the movie that definitely detract from the overall picture thanks to sloppy writing, but the movie manages to put together a decent disaster thriller that highlights the dinosaurs successfully, which is the main draw of the Jurassic franchise.
As a whole, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is exactly what it needs to be, but nothing more than that. The CGI-effects have once again improved and the dinosaurs are looking better than ever, Michael Giacchino’s soundtrack adds density and flair throughout the movie, pushing some scenes to higher level, and Bayona’s direction creates some truly incredible and cinematically beautiful scenes that make the movie worth seeing on their own (Fallen Kingdom’s opening sequence by itself is well worth the price of admission for an fan of the franchise). The movie does manage to raise some legitimate ethical questions about the evolution of science and genetic engineering in the world today, and where the human race must draw a line to prevent potential consequences. The end of the movie opens up a world of possibilities for the final movie of the Jurassic World trilogy which Trevorrow says will thankfully be nothing like the third movie of the original trilogy and is expected to hit theaters in 2021.