REVIEW | ‘Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom’ is a cartoon show

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Universal Studios/YouTube.

I’m no prophet, but Steven Spielberg’s breathtaking 1993 adaptation of Michael Crichton’s best-selling sci-fi novel Jurassic Park can never be cloned. No reboot can surpass the timelessness of the original, no matter how many times Jeff Goldblum appears in subsequent installments.

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All the sequels are a mistake. But you go and watch them all, anyway, like an intrinsic decision — even up until eye-candy Chris Pratt entered the picture in 2015 with Jurassic World. That’s how powerful the 1993 movie is. Like the proverbial mosquito inside an amber, your feelings about Jurassic Park are preserved, forcing you to take Hollywood’s bait with gritted teeth to watch every damn sequel or spinoff that comes along.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is Part 2 of the Chris Pratt franchise. Spanish director J.A. Bayona (The Impossible, The Orphanage, A Monster Calls) takes the helm this time.

Bizarrely, Bayona, known for his dark themes, treats Fallen Kingdom like a cartoon, asking his actors to yelp and holler and arrange their facial muscles in exaggerated fear. You know, the kind of face that you make when you’re scaring a toddler with a make-believe story and you don’t want to traumatize the child — you just want to trigger screams of mirth, so you carefully make sure the kid knows it’s all pretend. So perhaps Bayona intended Fallen Kingdom for the seven-year-old and below demographic.

In Fallen Kingdom, a debate arises: Save the dinosaurs in Isla Nublar? Or allow the CGI lava from the island’s now active volcano to kill the fantastic creatures back into extinction? Of course, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the ex-operations manager of the ruined and abandoned theme park Jurassic World, is pro-dino. The problem is that Jeff Goldblum and the Senate is anti.

Claire’s advocacy becomes hopeless until she is summoned to Lockwood Estate by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), who recruits her in a secret dino rescue mission. Without hesitation, Claire says yes, and soon she is whisked to Isla Nublar with ex-lover Owen Grady (Pratt), the Indiana Jones-like daddy to Velociraptor Blue; Franklin (Justice Smith), an insufferable technician; and Zia (Daniella Padilla), a millennially hip paleo-veterinarian. They are backed up by Mills’ mercenary guy, Wheatley (Ted Levine) and his team of clumsy, mindless gun-toting men.

When a stranger is super nice and gives you a generous offer, especially over the phone, something is up. We immediately know that Mills is not someone to be trusted, and we patiently wait for his secret evil agenda to be revealed. Nope, he’s definitely not a friend of the dinosaurs’.

Greed versus idiocy is the central theme of Fallen Kingdom, so there’s no win-win situation here. The opening is somewhat promising, but it quickly unravels as somewhat of a Toy Story directed by Michael Bay; over-the-top action with very little emotional resonance. It lacks thrill, with Bayona incapable of planting that taut ball of suspense in your gut. And with his comical treatment, he drains the fear out of the adventure story.

Not only are the dinosaurs lost here, but Owen and Claire’s personality as well. Their sidekicks, on the other hand, are unlikeable caricatures. Franklin, for instance, is the cartoon coward that you wish the T-Rex would chew up already. To add to your annoyance, he and the female dino doctor wear decorative glasses (you know this for certain, because when their glasses get lost in the chaos, they can very much see without difficulty. How pretentious can these people get?).

What makes Fallen Kingdom more galling is how it mawkishly clones plenty, and I mean, plenty of iconic scenes from Jurassic Park. Even the most dense Easter-egg hunter can detect the blatant “homage” to the Spielberg classic. It doesn’t work. It feels like a cheap parody. A mockery.

In the midst of this silly sequel, a few scenes glimmer, such as the dramatic, devastating fate of a Brachiosaurus, plus a raptor in a child’s bedroom, evoking a whisper of horror. Then there’s the reimagined Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event — our inner geek feeling mildly giddy at the sight of colossal reptiles running for their dear lives, with fireballs shooting down from the sky. Still, the entire film is one tedious, cartoonish, money-milking Hollywood gimmick that suggests this cinematic franchise is going through a backward evolution.

1.5 out of 5 stars
June 6, 2018 in Philippine cinemas

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This review also appears in today’s issue of The Daily Tribune, in the author’s column “Film Check.”

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