Coming off the revitalization can be tricky for any filmmaker. Working off another’s script can be even more difficult. Yet the task assigned to J.A. Bayona appeared to be a strong match on paper. During my initial viewings, I quickly soured on the film. In the name of fairness, I revisited Bayona’s dino adventure, scripted by Colin Trevorrow as the second part of his Jurassic trilogy. Sadly, even with lowered expectations, the film struggles to succeed on any level.
The film’s strongest aspect remains the Indoraptor, a terrifying hybrid of Indominus Rex with even more Raptor DNA. Bayona expertly turns it into a dangerous stalker, especially in the “museum” of the Lockwood house. While many have likened the events to something of a haunted house film, the creature closely resembles a stalking slasher in the vein of Black Christmas or Maniac. Bayona fully realizes the power of the creatures unique design, turning the lanky monster into a terrifying specter. However, much of the franchise continues to be plagued by its overreliance on imagery, which continues with the Indoraptor.
While Bayona eventually utilizes the monster to perfection, the sequence with its first victim highlights the problems with the film. First, the raptor seemingly pretends to pass out to lure its prey into the cage. The logic of the Indoraptor setting a trap is not the issue. Instead, it is the way it sly smiles at the camera, seeming to arc its eyebrows as if to say, “check out what I’m going to do to this dude,” mere moments before feasting on his arm. Even when Indoraptor begins to chow down, the lack of blood is remarkable (despite the victim losing a whole arm in the process).
Another issue at play is the lack of a threat from our big bad for most of the film. While Jurassic Park hammers home the danger of the T-Rex and Velociraptor from the word go, the Indoraptor does not land in the movie until an hour into the film. Even then, it does little to factor into the movie for another 20 minutes, and then it kicks the bucket with nearly 20 minutes remaining. While the highs are very high with the Indoraptor, the lack of use makes it more of a gimmick than a genuinely exciting dinosaur.
Additionally, the movie features dozens of homages to previous, better, films. A shot of Isabella Sermon trying to escape Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) directly alludes to the Raptor kitchen scene. A brachiosaurus stands on its hind legs as death approaches, calling back to the very first dinosaur on screen. The call-outs are apparent and attempt to manipulate the audience into feeling something for the characters. Unfortunately, this still does not work.
Perhaps the list of the film’s most egregious aspects still comes from Bayona’s direction. He cannot get the cast tuned to the correct frequency, and as a result, each cast member seems to in a different film. This is most evident when BD Wong and Rafe Spall have any conversations. While Wong lights up the scoreboard with an over-the-top emotionally upset scientist (“She needs a mother!”), Spall plays a subdued, slimy businessman. This issue continues to arise for other characters. For Daniella Pineda, Bayona seems to push her towards millennial indifference, while Justice Smith plays the nerdiest, screamy character to ever make it to the big screen. The script does not help, but on some level, it falls on Bayona to get his cast to play at the same pitch. Instead, we get whiplash trying to adjust.
At the end of the day, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom barely hangs together as a film, despite a fun opening and exciting Indoraptor chase. The rest of the film’s 90 minutes are barely watchable drek, with bad CGI, worse performances, and frustrating character choices. Sadly, it remains the worst film in the Jurassic universe, and a few highlights do not erase those issues.
Alan’s Grade: 2/10