Hollywood is very comfortable with beating dead horses. Their entire industry is built on a foundation of running a franchise until its ragged, nudging it on, even while it stumbles on broken legs, and whipping it well after it has died, hoping to get one more gallop. It aptly describes the state of the “Jurassic Park” franchise. A once novel premise has been copied and pasted into four more films, which brought almost nothing new to the entertainment equation.
The original “Jurassic Park” is a classic and still holds up today. A simple and relatively small story, it follows a crazy billionaire’s plan to open up Dinosaur Disneyworld, using DNA and charging a hefty fee for which tourists can “ooh” and “ahh.” Things go sideways thanks to Dennis Nedry (Newman!) and a handful of inhabitants at the park. They have to try to escape while a number of scaly super-predators hunt them. It’s the perfect crowd-pleaser.
The sequel, “The Lost World,” is the template for how Hollywood does sequels: bigger, more dinosaurs, more action, making every effort to capture lightning in a bottle. It’s never as good as the original. Few sequels are.
In 2015 Universal tried to restart the franchise with “Jurassic World,” which is the template for how Hollywood screws up sequels: They take the plot of the original and apply all new-fangled technology to create a movie 10 times larger with hundreds of computer-generated dinosaurs.
New genetically engineered dinosaurs!
In a more self-aware movie, the “Jurassic World” plot would almost feel like a metaphor for how blockbuster films are made. The problem: Nothing in the franchise is all too intelligent.
The newest entry, “Fallen Kingdom,” is a whole lot of nothing—an inoffensive copy/paste creative endeavor that brings less to the table than a restaurant serving microscopic sushi. Once again dinosaurs have turned a theme park into a disaster area, and once again people are debating whether they should let the dinosaurs die. Of course, the answer to this question is resoundingly:
Yes! Why on Earth would any sane person think having dinosaurs around would be a good thing?
Yet, our heroes from the last movie, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt), are convinced to return to “Jurassic World,” to help save dinosaurs before a volcano turns them all into crispy-fried magma nuggets.
Everything goes well until they’re totally betrayed by the rich guy financing the entire operation. Turns out the crazy old man who has been backing the dino park has some ulterior motives. His younger, super-evil business manager has motives even more ulterior-er. Our villain wants to sell dinosaurs to rogue nations and the heads of criminal syndicates because apparently there are people who think they would make great weapons worth millions of dollars. It makes absolutely no sense, given that a dinosaur can be taken out with a gun or a really sharp stick … but forget about that because in this world, everybody is an idiot and nothing makes sense.
There are some movie franchises that have been served well by their foolhardiness, turning into the ludicrousness of the premise rather than trying to keep things serious. “The Fast and the Furious” has embraced its inner-idiot to a high degree of success. Remember the first movie? It was a poor man’s “Point Break,” with souped-up muscle cars instead of surfboards. By the eighth movie, the main characters become secret agents and fight submarines with a Corvette.
The “Jurassic Park” franchise desperately needs to pivot. As is, it’s dumb in an irredeemable way. Director J.A. Bayona tries to distract audiences with grandiose discussions about man’s folly, but it’s done better in earlier installments. Five movies in, everyone on Earth should be painfully aware of the mistakes involved with bringing dinosaurs back to life. We need this franchise to go all-in and get a diverse cast of dinosaur enthusiasts, who ride T-Rexes like horses with machine guns attached to their stubby little arms and doing battle for the fate of all mankind.
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is the worst kind of sequel: It does nothing to build on the original premise and rehashes the same tired themes and confrontations into a stale and stagnant package that feels like it went extinct ages ago.