Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
This film is to Jurassic Park (1993) what Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) was to Star Wars (1977). That 2015 blockbuster was a sequel that basically repeated a lot of the same plot and story from the 1977 classic. Most sequels could be accused of repeating what came before. A lot of horror sequels are particularly guilty of this, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens set a new precedent and template for Hollywood films. That template included bringing back characters from the first in the franchise, decades later, pairing them with a younger group, and wringing every drop of nostalgia by putting those characters in virtually the same scenarios, almost beat for beat, just copying and pasting. This film, directed and co-written by Colin Trevorrow, does that same thing. If one was entertained by Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I dare say you’d be entertained by this. That 2015 film had the benefit of not having any sequels before it for over a decade. It also represented the beginning of something that had so much potential. This film is instead the end of a line and the closing of something that I consider to be a squandering of potential.
Trevorrow’s entry only comes a couple of years after the last installment, that of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018). Obviously, it comes nearly 30 years since the original 1993 flick, directed by Steven Spielberg. That Spielberg smash was the realization of a wonderful idea, the idea of resurrecting dinosaurs and having them interact with humans, not in the friendly way seen in things like The Flintstones (1960). Yes, there had been films previously that embraced this idea, that of Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), The Lost World (1960) or The Land That Time Forgot (1974). However, Spielberg and his team were able to use the best in visual effects. Specifically, they used computer-generated images, CGI, along with practical puppets, to make the dinosaurs in Spielberg’s film look and feel more real than ever before.
Spielberg’s film created a sense of awe and wonder that we were seeing something on screen that we never saw before. It was incredible. Even the story, based on the Michael Crichton novel, emphasized that awe and wonder that we were being exposed to something unique and special. Unfortunately, by this point, Trevorrow’s film can’t inspire that same awe and wonder, even though it desperately tries.
At the end of the previous entry in this franchise, that of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, it was shown that the dinosaurs, which had been limited to an isolated island, had escaped or been unleashed onto the civilized parts of the globe, meaning urban areas where high population densities are. The potential damage or carnage could have been incredible for those who like monster films, creature features or kaiju flicks. The threat of unleashing the dinosaurs has always been threatened in this franchise, but it’s never really been executed. Jurassic World (2015) teased what was an equivalent. Instead of bringing the dinosaurs to civilization and to large populations, that film brought civilization and large populations to the dinosaurs.
This film was set up by the ending of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom with the idea that finally the dinosaurs would be unleashed onto civilization. It was an exciting ending and presented the potential or possibility for a lot of thrilling moments. As stated earlier, that potential was practically squandered. The danger of unleashing wild dinosaurs into an urban or even a suburban setting apparently isn’t dangerous at all, not according to this film. Ironically, this might be a more realistic interpretation of what might occur if dinosaurs were unleashed onto civilization, but it makes this film ultimately boring. It takes the air out of the balloon and removes the awe and wonder that this franchise at one point had.
The suggestion is that humans should learn to co-exist with dinosaurs, so that the planet can become what was envisioned in The Flinstones. This film wants to get to that point where we are essentially living like The Flintstones where dinosaurs are domesticated to some degree and could be like pets. Otherwise, this film suggests humans should see dinosaurs as no different from how lions or bears are regarded. However, this film has no interest in examining what the consequences would be if an extinct species like the dinosaurs were all of a sudden resurrected and spread globally. The consequences to the ecosystem would be probably extreme and more devastating than the “kumbaya” with dinosaurs that this film proffers.
Trevorrow’s film does introduce the idea of an invasive species, but that species is a genetically engineered form of locust. Why the film didn’t focus on a species of dinosaur that could have been the invasive species is unclear and quite frankly distracting. Otherwise, this film really lays down the notion that dinosaurs roaming the Earth in the present-day along side humans isn’t that life-altering a thing. The only real threat are from the bigger dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus or Giganotosaurus, but those animals seem to be limited to another isolated place where Trevorrow can just re-create iconic moments from Spielberg’s 1993 feature. Even the death of the human villain of this film is virtually identical to the death of the human villain in the 1993 film.
Trevorrow doesn’t have the audacity or courage to kill off any of the 1993 characters. Star Wars: The Force Awakens at least had the courage to kill one of its legacy characters. This is possibly a good thing because the legacy characters here are the best thing about this narrative. The supreme of which is Jeff Goldblum, reprising his role of Dr. Ian Malcolm whose presence here mainly seems to be mocking the younger group of characters. It’s condescending, but Goldblum’s performance is so charming and funny that one goes with it.
It’s also odd that two new characters introduced specifically for this film do a better job of standing out than the characters who have been with this franchise since the 2015 entry. Those two new characters are Kayla Watts, played by DeWanda Wise (She’s Gotta Have It and Shots Fired), and Ramsay Cole, played by Mamoudou Athie (Underwater and The Front Runner). Seeing them in this film was more intriguing than anything this film’s so-called leading man, Owen Grady, played by Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy and Parks and Recreation) ever did. Claire Dearing, played by Bryce Dallas Howard (Spider-Man 3 and The Village), was okay here, but again, not as intriguing or engaging as Kayla and Ramsay.
Rated PG-13 for action, some violence and language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 26 mins.