‘Jurassic World’ Has Great Effects, But Little Else


The problem with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is that it is essentially the same old, same old. The special effects, namely the dinosaurs, are even more spectacular than ever. But the storyline is the same as it has essentially been from the start: a pair of charming stars, plus at least one adorable child, wind up being chased by dinosaurs, which should have been locked up but somehow got out. The people controlling these beasts are awfully careless, aren’t they? And we, the audience, gets thrills and chills, knowing that the good guys will survive. Perhaps the plots would be stronger if the good guys get eaten some of the time! At least then we could really worry.

In the new version, written by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, there are only dinosaurs left on Isla Nublar since humans have abandoned it (those nasty humans have objections to being eaten by large reptiles). Billionaire Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) wants to rescue the animals when the supposedly dormant volcano on the island becomes non-dormant and erupts, which would become another “extinction event.” He wants to provide a new sanctuary. For some reason, there is not all that much debate about that. Hey, why not have a raptor for a neighbor? Could having a brontosaurus or two walking along Okeechobee Blvd. screw up traffic even more?

So, Lockwood sends animal behaviorist Owen (Chris Pratt) and his annoying girlfriend, former park manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) to the island to stage a rescue. At least by this time, Claire has learned enough to not wear high-heeled shoes, so she can run from the dinos a bit better. Add to the fun, Lockwood has an evil assistant (like all movie billionaires, of course) named Eli (Rafe Spall), who wants to weaponize the animals. Of course, they’re still pretty fierce, but with some work, they will just be harder to kill. Then he would be able to sell them off to international arms dealers.

There is a sub-plot taking place at the Lockwood estate in California where we get the required child in danger. Actually, things don’t look great for the little girl at the best of times. Maisie (Isabella Sermon) has Lockwood for a guardian, but she looks lost in his big house as she wanders around with no supervision at all. There is also a new kind of dinosaur around, a bit different from the others, but still terrifying, so that she can be appropriately horrified, and we can worry about her.

The whole film seems to be an exercise trying to “do good.” Is it about animal rights? The dinosaurs here are the good guys. Yes, they attack each other and go after the humans, but since humans are bad… Of course, it could also be about climate change and how species could be wiped out. And it might even be a political metaphor about immigration. Why should we not allow those poor velociraptor kids to come into the country?

I prefer this last version. There could be a debate on whether a wall would keep out the dinos and Congress could try to create camps for them. I actually prefer the idea of having politicians racing down Pennsylvania Avenue with a herd of raptors right after them, chomping up one after the other. The pols would probably be debating the need to have other citizens become food while they become a protected group.

The worst part is that I was thinking all these things while actually watching the film because the plot was so thin. The special effects are spectacular. But nothing at all compares to the wonder we all felt long ago at the first film, when Steven Spielberg had Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum see dinosaurs for the first time. That first look, primitive as it was compared to what is produced today, was awesome. Now we’re used to it.

The cast was OK. Pratt is charming, Howard a bit less annoying than in the last one. Goldblum was Goldblum. Sermon was really good in probably the only part that required actual acting.

If you’re into the whole Jurassic thing, go see the movie. But you can pretty much see the same story at home on television with the older versions. The film is OK, but really derivative.