What’s big, dumb, lumbering and shouldn’t exist anymore? If you said the Jurassic Park franchise, you’re only half right. If you said J.A. Bayona’s career in general and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in particular, you’re on the money. The Jurassic Park series seemed too long in the tooth — even by modern intellectual property standards accustomed to redundancy — nearly 20 years ago, when its third installment hit theaters with a dull thud, and Jurassic World’s tepid attempt at a reboot did little to reinvigorate the franchise. Fallen Kingdom does even less to remedy the problem than its 2015 predecessor, unless there’s room in your life for an “Abbott and Costello Meet the Indoraptor” setup.
Jurassic World took the premise of the Michael Crichton source novel and followed through to a logical conclusion of sorts. Fallen Kingdom takes things one step further, and by “further” I mean that it descends into levels of absurdity that would’ve been difficult to imagine. While the early scenes pick up roughly the narrative threads left dangling at the conclusion of the last film, Fallen Kingdom decides to turn a dinosaur science fiction adventure into an old-dark-house movie. I can’t tell you how much I wish I were kidding.
The plot is pretty basic up to a point, with an army of mercenaries recruiting Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt to return to Isla Nublar to recapture the surviving dinosaurs before a volcanic eruption wipes them all out. Things go more or less predictably until the dinosaurs are taken to James Cromwell’s Gothic mansion to be auctioned to the highest bidder. Well, I can certainly say that having dinosaurs stalking the corridors of a spooky residence of this sort is something I haven’t seen done before — the reason being, presumably, that it’s such a breathtakingly stupid idea.
So raptors aren’t good with hardwood floors, and Bayona isn’t good with story or character. But those facts having been established, is there anything left to redeem Fallen? Well, I guess it’s original enough in its way, and it isn’t particularly slow for a two-plus-hour movie. The haunted house overtones feel like a half-baked idea that might have been almost interesting were it in the hands of a director capable of really thinking it through — but Bayona has a third-grader’s understanding of how lava works, so to expect him to be capable of successfully hybridizing disparate genres might be a bit too much. And besides, who puts James Cromwell and Toby Jones in a movie and then basically refuses to use them for anything interesting?
The ending feels like a throwback to the giant monster disaster movies of the ’60s, in that it looks absolutely ridiculous, but also potentially fun — Gordon Douglas’ Them! comes to mind — which could suggest that the next film might have something more to recommend it should the producers be a little more cautious about who takes the reins. But since we don’t have that inevitable sequel to discuss here, we’re stuck talking about Fallen Kingdom. And Fallen Kingdom is an oddly ponderous chimera, cobbling together bits and pieces of films that work into an abomination that definitely does not. To put it more succinctly, if the negative of this movie were on an island about to be destroyed by a volcanic eruption, I wouldn’t lift a finger to save it — even if that finger could safely touch the lava, which is apparently how things work in Jurassic World. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.
Now Playing at AMC Classic River Hills 10, Carolina Cinemark, Regal Biltmore Grande, Epic of Hendersonville.