448. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The year is 2030. Russia continues it’s T-Rex invasion into neighboring Ukraine despite condemnation from the global community. President Clooney proclaims if Russia takes another water-cup-reverberating step into the eastern European country, the U.S. will respond with its army of mega-raptors, and in turn, cause World War III. In the Situation Room, the Commander-in-Chief is approached by one of his closest advisers, who says, “you know, Mr. President, we can just take out the T-Rex’s with a nuke or a drone strike, hell even a tank could do the job from far away, we don’t need to fight dinosaurs with other dinosaurs, the whole thing seems really silly when you think about it.” But President Clooney isn’t listening, distracted by the announcement that Japan will be supporting Russia’s invasion with the help of the Asian country’s extensive stegosaurus navy. Clooney makes a call to our British allies and states on the phone, “Queen Markle, get your brontosaurus brigade ready, we’re going to war.”

This is the type of wartime future that “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” wants you to think is probable, that the next natural storytelling evolution in this once-cherished series is militarizing prehistoric animals. It’s certainly the stupidest part of “Jurassic World,” but sadly not even the least enjoyable, as this embarrassing sequel constantly fumbles over what should now be a paint-by-numbers approach to making a reasonably entertaining blockbuster.

We pick up a few years after the events of “Jurassic World,” where yet another dinosaur theme park ran amok and left humans scrambling for their precious, Paleolithic lives. High-healed Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) has opted for a lower-level non-profit dinosaur gig, while former raptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) recluses in his vagabond isolation somewhere up the California coast. When Congress announces they won’t be saving the dinosaurs from an erupting volcano and their inevitable extinction, dinosaur executive Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) shows Claire a different island where the creatures can live peacefully. Eli asks Claire to convince Owen to help capture Blue, the lovable raptor from the first “Jurassic World”/fourth “Jurassic Park” franchise movie, and the two are off to Isla Nublar, with Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) and Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) packed in their bags as COMIC RELIEF.

Save for Owen and Claire, none of the characters on Nublar or back on the mainland are particularly interesting. It’s like the 1998 animated comedy “Antz,” where the insects are divied up between soldiers and workers, with “Jurassic World’s” characters only existing in business guy or military guy form. The island sequences, amateurish in comparison both to “Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic World,” still are reasonably captivating. It’s our first real glimpse into the reality of what a dinosaur-ravaged island looks like during the day (“Lost World” explored this idea too, but only at night.) Owen, Claire and Franklin are often stuck in lose-lose scenarios that are frighteningly unrealistic (like a tranquilized Owen crawling away from lava) but are enjoyable none the less.

The Isla Nublar sequence ends up feeling like a paradise compared to the soap opera antics happening back at Lockwood manor in the U.S. Essentially, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) was a collaborator of the famed John Hammond way way back, and even carries around his own cool petrified mosquito cane. Lockwood also has a granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) who apparently has no school or summer camp to go to and is just left running around the house all day. During her carefree sprints through the empty hallways and hidden genetic testing facilities of the mansion, Maisie overhears crucial plot exposition, like how once chill but now malevolent Dr. Wu (BD Wong) has designed a super raptor of sorts (yawn). We also meet Mr. Eversol (Toby Jones), an auctioneer who will sell the dinosaurs to criminal types and arms dealers that apparently need a dinosaur for arms dealing or crime-making purposes (maybe all that you need to pull of a bank heist is a raptor to distract the police, or perhaps the one thing that makes the perfect kidnapping work is a raptor for your victim to ride on in case they get bored.)

Mr. Eversol threatens to cancel the auction because the dinos haven’t arrived yet, despite Eli saying they’re literally en route as they speak. It’s nonsensical, like if Eversol ordered a pizza that would take 20 minutes to arrive, but called Domino’s five minutes later demanding to know the whereabouts of his Pacific Veggie Pie. There’s also Iris (Geraldine Chaplin), the housekeeper of the Lockwood manor and substitute matriarch to Maisie.  Honestly thank goodness for her for being bearing some resemblance of much needed normalcy. It’s worth mentioning that Lockwood Manor is nothing less than “The Dark Knight’s” Wayne Manor, the mansion from “Richie Rich,” and the Area 51 facility from “Independence Day” all wrapped into one. I can’t imagine how a house that old would have the foresight to build multiple basements suited for storing animals and advanced scientific testing. But maybe that’s why I never made it as an 1880s NorCal Gothic mansion architect.

The Lockwood Manor stuff is all so ludicrous that it renders the second half of “Jurassic World” almost unwatchable. There are brief spirts of worthwhile suspense, particularly when Maisie is being chased by dinosaurs, but there’s no relief or reclamation when these prehistoric problems meet their modern solutions. If it weren’t for the occasional joke or sarcastic quip from Owen or Claire, we’d find ourselves drowning in the boredom of painful direction from J.A. Bayona and the flimsy script of Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow.

Worst of all, “Jurassic World” ignores the fundamental theme that defined every “Jurassic” movie to this point: that humans, despite their technological marvels and best evolutionary intentions, will still always be trounced by mother nature. “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” suggests that humans are the ones in control, that the deadliest dinosaur is nothing compared to a homo sapien that can out think it. It’s a bold new direction to take, but one that quickly leads “Jurassic World” down an irreconcilable cinematic path.

 

 

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