Somewhat unexpectedly, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is worse than the original Jurassic World. It's safe to say Colin Trevorrow's 2015 box office smash is oddly regarded, with initial enthusiasm making way for three years of mounting derision - and thus putting a lot of weight on the sequel.
Everything about Fallen Kingdom looked better. Director J.A. Bayona is a veteran of both horror (The Orphanage) and realistic action (The Impossible), and with the sequel reportedly going in a darker direction evocative of Jurassic Park's more intense moments, hopes were high. The budget wasn't being ballooned, thus keeping expectations low, and some of the key concerns (like Claire's high heels) were being addressed. Even when the trailers arrived a bland muddle - they either undersold iconography or gave up far too much - it was chalked up to a bad marketing approach, rather than anything intrinsically wrong with the movie.
However, that wasn't the case. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom isn't a total disaster (and Jurassic Park III, which just gives up an hour in, stops it being the worst in the franchise) but it's definitely a lesser sequel. Considering it's following up Jurassic World, that's pretty chaotic. What went wrong?
- This Page: The Problem With Jurassic World
- Page 2: What Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Does Worse
Jurassic World Is A Good Idea Done Poorly
Before looking at Fallen Kingdom, it's worth establishing what exactly the problems with Jurassic World are. Overall, it's a case of bad execution.
What Jurassic World is trying to do is pretty smart. The film opens on an active dinosaur theme park full of franchise restaurants, expensive hotels and a whole slew of distractions before attendees even get to the creatures, while those behind the scenes are focused on transferring the attractions into more profitable streams. The plot is motivated by financial greed and consumer indifference: people are bored of dinosaurs, so InGen scientists set out to make a new, "cooler" one. The Indominus Rex is a corporately-sponsored concoction that exists not for wonder's sake but to get more ticket money and, because this is Jurassic, it gets out of hand. On the page, Trevorrow is trying to condemn such soulless faux-creativity.
However, Jurassic World doesn't seem to realize it's actually a commentary on itself. It was distributed by Universal Pictures, a subsidiary of Comcast, and as the reboot of a once-major franchise that audiences have become disinterested is basically the I-Rex; that hybrid dinosaur wasn't made to thrill the park patrons in the movie, it's for the audiences in the real-life theater. This fundamental contradiction is there in Jurassic Park with its anti-capitalist ribbing paradoxically leading to a massive merchandise push, but Jurassic World doesn't quite grasp it. Time and again, Trevorrow misses that what he's making is the thing he's talking about - when the I-Rex's sponsor is revealed as Verizon, it's less a spearing of thinly-veiled advertising and more product placement for the service provider - and so the message becomes garbled and cynical; it's a retread but bigger just because that's what'll get bums on seats. There is the kernel of something smart in here - having the signature theme begin to swell as the characters ride an escalator to their hotel room is deliciously ironic - but no intentional delivery.
With that bedrock, the film is fighting against the flow, and it has a lot of other issues besides; the characters are distinctly designed but poorly delivered - Owen Grady and Claire Dearing are so blank they're almost universally referred to as their actors - and the action can be a bit too pedestrian. Overall, Jurassic World hangs together because it does have an ideological and narrative purpose that make it for fine escapism, but it never rises too high because of repeated mishandling of the material.
- Jurassic World 3 (2021) release date: Jun 11, 2021