Friday, June 22, 2018

Review: "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" is a cocktail that tastes bitter.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Review

I'd like to share something with you.

An idea that nearly happened way out in Hollywood.

There was a time when Steven Spielberg was busy at work, trying to get a fourth "Jurassic Park" movie off the ground. This was around 2005 and he worked hard on a version of a fourth "Jurassic Park" film until around 2007. He got William Monahan, who wrote "The Departed," to write a script, and the script was wild. Imagine a "Jurassic Park" movie where a mercenary leads a group of humanoid dinosaurs  fighting bad guys and saving missing children. It was the craziest thing ever attempted in this franchise, and also just in general. But it would have at least tried to revitalize a franchise that produced three films which were exactly the same. 

Colin Trevorrow made "Jurassic World" in 2015, and it seemed like his goal was to revitalize the "Jurassic Park" franchise. Sadly, "Jurassic World" is just like the three previous "Jurassic Park" movies, they are all the same. They are four excuses to get people on the island for some dinosaur mayhem. Sure, there is a certain amount of charisma with the hiring of Chris Pratt. But this franchise has never been about the characters or their development. This franchise has been about wowing its audience with dinosaur visuals. This franchise has been more about the dinosaur mayhem. The characters basically work has placeholders, cardboard cutouts needed to move each scene along with the films bigger stars.

I bring up the almost "Jurassic Park 4" because I see lots of parallels between the Monahan script and the finished product of "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom." The movie begins with mercenaries looking for bones and DNA, and of course as these movies go, they get attacked by dinosaurs on the island. Mercenaries were the main characters from Monahan's script. Then we see some news footage of a volcano on the Jurassic island ready to blow. Some people want to evacuate the dinosaurs off that island, others want to leave them there and let them die. In Monahan's script, the news footage showed dinosaurs hitting up the mainland. A new character named Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) is eventually introduced, and apparently Lockwood designed the first dinosaurs with John Hammond. This all completely retcons the entire canon of "Jurassic Park" as we know it, but whatever. Lockwood's aide Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) hires Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) to help Lockwood's people get all the dinosaurs off the island and onto a different sanctuary island. No volcano or danger and no humans allowed, letting the dinosaurs live out the rest of their lives secluded in peace.

To help, Claire then turns to Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), and I can't help but see lots of the mercenary character from the "Jurassic Park 4" script in Grady. In that script, the lead mercenary had to go back to the island and get some DNA because Hammond was going to design some dinosaurs to kill the renegade dinosaurs hitting up the mainland. In "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," Owen, Claire and Lockwood's mercenaries go and try to save the dinosaurs. But of course, its not that easy. There are more mustache-twirling human villains this time out, and nobody who they seem. The first half of "Fallen Kingdom" regards this rescue mission, but the second half becomes so different that it feels like a different movie entirely. Lockwood is planning to sell the dinosaurs to the highest bidder, along with Dr. Wu (B.D. Wong) who became the de facto human villain of this new stretch of franchise. Of course Claire and Owen try to stop them.

There are definitely some parallels between the original "Jurassic Park 4" script and what is going on in the franchise now. I don't want to give away anymore secrets of "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," but I could see them heading in a much wackier direction. I really would have loved to see the original idea for "Jurassic Park 4" and until they head that direction, I'll start being more interested in this franchise. "Fallen Kingdom" is so disjointed being a two-in-one experience that it hurts the movie. The secret to movies is keep your storyline simple, then again all four previous "Jurassic Park" films were fairly simple and that didn't help.

I think the biggest problem with these movies is that they refuse to write good human characters. Chris Pratt is fine, but he's more charisma than character, and so is Howard. They both do what they were hired to do, but they don't have characters to play. James Cromwell gets as much mileage out his character as he can, but he's not written convincingly enough to make an impact. Neither is Rafe Spall's character. Neither is the smarmy dinosaur seller played by Toby Jones. Neither is the generic mercenary played by Ted Levine. Its all about the dinosaurs, and when all of our characters are on the island, its the best stretch of the film, because the dinosaurs are front and center. The second of the film features mostly a human story. So we need strong human characters to carry us through until the end and we just don't get that here.

Not even Jeff Goldblum's cameo could save this from being just another pandering experience. Out of all the movie franchises out there, "Jurassic Park" really has never hit my sweet spot the way it has for so many others. I think that mainly there isn't a convincing story to tell. The human characters aren't strong enough to tell a good story. Once the humans are created with the strong passion of the dinosaurs, I'll start caring more about this franchise.

FINAL GRADE: C-

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