If there’s one defining feature of the Jurassic Park sequels, it’s stupidity.
Think about the most memorable moments of these films. A velociraptor being dispatched by prepubescent gymnastics in The Lost World. A talking raptor in Jurassic Park 3 (a dream sequence, but still: dumb). A patron of Jurassic World dodging pterosaurs to fetch a pair of margaritas. But Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom takes it to the next level. Everything about this film is stupid: its premise, its screenplay, its entire existence.
For those with an affection for stupid movies, that’s gotta be a good thing. Despite its towering budget – even before you tally up the CGI, stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard got paid roughly 10 mill each – Fallen Kingdom is a B-grade movie through and through. The plotting is so ridiculous that it really demands to be seen with a few friends after more than a few drinks for optimum ironic enjoyment. The performances are wall-to-wall atrocious: broad, unpleasant and unfunny. The only thing A-grade about this thing is its special effects, which are genuinely impressive. They’re almost as good as the original Jurassic Park.
Ah, Jurassic Park. That’s the reason I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy Fallen Kingdom even with a patina of irony. Jurassic Park also boasted an unashamed B-movie premise – a dinosaur theme park gone bad! – but transcended its trashy trappings for something truly miraculous. I was a prominent defender of Jurassic World, praising both its clear affection for Spielberg’s original and its meta-reflection on trying to live up to such a titanic film. Fallen Kingdom isn’t simply bad enough to make me dislike it; it retroactively makes me doubt every word of praise I heaped on World.
Not that I didn’t have misgivings already. I loved, for instance, the way the much-maligned Colin Trevorrow – director of World, screenwriter of Fallen Kingdom – commented on his cannibalisation of Spielberg’s legacy by having a huge ichthyosaur devour a shark for dinner. Jaws, get it? Except that Trevorrow, sitting alongside exec producer Spielberg, laughingly dismissed that as an unintentional reference in the Blu-Ray special features. While I could have taken that as false modesty, it’s hard to credit Trevorrow with any kind of intelligence after sitting through the idiocy of Fallen Kingdom.
Not only does Kingdom squander its greatest asset – an actual, honest-to-goodness, operational dinosaur theme park – in the first half hour or so, burying the island under a sheet of molten lava, it can’t manage to cobble together a halfway coherent storyline thereafter. There’s a nefarious dinosaur dealer (Toby Jones), some gobbledigook about militarised dinosaurs, more non-existent chemistry between Pratt and Howard, and just a whole pile of shit that makes zero sense upon a nanosecond of reflection.
I could forgive the screenplay’s incessant stupidity had director J.A. Bayona been able to stage any truly spectacular setpieces. With one exception – a volcano-induced stampede executed in a single shot – Bayona proves himself ill-equipped for blockbuster filmmaking. Of course, it doesn’t help that most of the film’s final half is spent entirely in a single location; who thought trading the colourful surrounds of Isla Nublar for a drab mansion and concrete basement was a good idea?
Perhaps if Fallen Kingdom had nothing to do with Jurassic Park – if it were, say, titled Dinosaur Adventure – I could’ve enjoyed it. At least on the level that you enjoy an incredibly stupid film despite itself. But as is, Fallen Kingdom is little more than a disappointing betrayal of a film that meant so much to me as kid, even when stacked up against all those other stupid sequels. It’s time to let this franchise become extinct.