I don’t know about you, but I’m over the Jurassic Park/World franchise. The original, Jurassic Park, was released 25 years ago and benefitted from a good script from Michael Crichton (who authored the book the film was based on) and David Koepp, superb direction from Steven Spielberg and memorable performances from Sir Richard Attenborough, Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum. Since then, the franchise has been largely mishandled and the magic and wonder of seeing dinosaurs wore off.

Fast forward to 2018, audiences are awaiting the franchise’s fifth installment, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. This release sees the return of Chris Pratt (as dinosaur trainer Owen Grady) and Bryce Dallas Howard (as Claire Dearing, now a dinosaur-rights activist). As is the standard, Owen and Claire continue to run from dinosaurs so they won’t be eaten, and at times they run away with other people, usually children. Every now and then they execute ideas that save everyone, but it’s a result of someone doing something stupid. And when I say stupid, I mean that even the dumbest person on this planet wouldn’t dare do the things characters in the Jurassic film universe have flippantly done. As is the norm, every ill-advised action in Fallen Kingdom results in near-catastrophic results, all while leaving viewers up in arms.

What that means is that Fallen Kingdom subscribes to one of cinema's worst tropes – smart people make dumb choices. It’s all in an effort to move along the story. It also sets up massive action scenes involving dinosaurs doing awesome human-like stuff that reinforces their intelligence and humankind's failure to acknowledge that intelligence. It’s insulting because it means people are shown as the dumber species and following this path means the producers believe its audiences are equally unintelligent. Judging from the financial success of the franchise, either we are that dumb or we simply don’t care. I tend to think it’s the latter, but in my eyes indifference doesn't translate into entertainment.

If nothing else, Fallen Kingdom is well-made (well, with a budget of nearly $200 million it better be). J.A. Bayona was brought on board to direct and he made a good-looking product. Bayona has a sharp eye (see 2012’s The Impossible) and knows how to shoot horror (2007’s The Orphanage), so Fallen Kingdom benefits from those perspectives. And composer Michael Giacchino’s score is excellent, continuing a string of fine work that began with The Incredibles and has continued with scores for Mission: Impossible III, Ratatouille, Star Trek, Up and Jurassic World, to name a few.

From a production perspective the dinosaurs look more realistic than ever. Of course, tyrannosaurs and raptors are old and tired, so a new carnivore, the indoraptor, has been created. The indoraptor is a hybrid, so it’s smart and dangerous. Thus the potential to cause major trouble is all but certain.

Another thing I find upsetting is that Fallen Kingdom is sinister and mean-spirited - it is a fine example of how greed produces toxic results. Co-writers Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connelly devised a script that highlights humanity’s greed under the ruse of saving endangered species (so it wants to be a parable of sorts), and they try their hardest to bring up an interesting but uninteresting moral conundrum – save the dinosaurs from extinction due to an impending volcanic eruption on the island they occupy, or leave them to die because they threaten human civilization’s existence. It’s a ridiculous debate since the dinosaurs were manufactured – it harkens back to arguments Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr. Ian Malcolm, made in 1993 (and today, with a disappointing appearance in Fallen Kingdom). In this sense nostalgia and familiarity factor in, but that nostalgia is built upon a foundation of avarice, stupidity and arrogance.

In light of that, maybe Fallen Kingdom is a cautionary tale. I suppose Bayona wants to display the extremities of making poor decisions and wants to warm us money should never be the deciding factor. But I doubt a summer tentpole would be this philosophical – this fifth installment instead is meta, ironic and hypocritical.

But I’m ranting. I’m just tired of seeing films that pander to its audience and uses lowest common denominators to entertain. Many viewers are okay with that and will enjoy this 128-minute horror. But for me, Fallen Kingdom lacks sense, originality and fun. And without a Spielberg-level director at the helm it fails to highlight necessary endearing family tropes. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a soulless endeavor that only exists to make money. Hmm, that sounds familiar.

2.5 stars out of 5


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