The teaser trailer from the studio waved a bunch of red flags. The island was exploding and people were running from dinosaurs and lava, but nothing about the actual plot had been revealed. The follow-up trailer went too far in the opposite direction and gave too much away. Even so, I wasn't convinced that what I was seeing had the making of being a decent flick. Fun maybe, but not good.
As Ian Malcolm once said: "I hate always being right."
Before I continue, I should note that there will be some mild spoilers ahead but I'll try and keep them to a minimum.
This time around, Isla Nublar - the location of Jurassic Park and the rebooted Jurassic World - is under threat of serious volcanic activity, serving as the catalyst for yet another dinosaur extinction event. Politicians have been trying to decide whether or not these prehistoric beasts should be protected like other endangered species, so Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) has been lobbying hard for a ‘yes' vote. However, it's decided that because these dinosaurs are creations stemming from a private venture and the volcano can be classified as an act of God, no human intervention is warranted.
Just when all hope is seemingly lost, Claire receives a phone call from a man who allegedly has John Hammond's best interests in mind. He offers to move at least 11 species of dinosaur to another island, one that's capable of being their sanctuary for the rest of time. The hitch, of course, is that because Claire's fingerprints can access the island's dinosaur tracking services, he needs her assistance. She's also the key to enlisting the help of Owen Grady, her now ex-boyfriend, as he's the only one that can get close to a raptor without being torn to shreds.
Of course, more sinister things are afoot. The real motivation behind this rescue mission is to weaponize and sell the surviving dinosaurs to the highest bidders. More than that, they want to up the ante by creating ferocious new ones as well. So, having learned nothing from the first four films, man plays God once again by combining the DNA of the Indominus Rex with that of a velociraptor and… well, you get the idea.
It's immediately clear that this film is going to be less like Jurassic Park/World and more like a horror film… well, within reason. This new tone is a welcome treat because there's only so many ways you can tell the same story over and over again without losing even the most dedicated super fans. We've already seen the sentiments of the original echoed numerous times, and the ‘oh hey, there's a site B' thread has also been done to death. The fact that Fallen Kingdom does what each of its predecessors were too afraid to - which is to be a complete departure from anything we've seen to date - is exciting. Unfortunately, the end result is a mixed bag that's leans more into negative territory. In fact, there are certain aspects where this film just straight-up falls apart.
I won't beat around the bush: the script is awful. I think there's a foundation of good ideas and intentions here, but the contextual tissue that holds it all together may as well be a wet wad of toilet paper.
In order to move the story in a new direction, writers Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow rewrite the franchise's canonical history, and honestly, I'm not a fan. It's the lamest ploy for convenient storytelling in the annals of cinematic history and should be avoided at all costs, yet here we are.
So, what sort of nonsense are we dealing with? Well, we come to find out that John Hammond never envisioned a park of cloned dinosaurs on his own, but with partner Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) as well. Oh, and by the way, this partner sports the same white beard and carries the same cane as the original park owner, so instead of allowing this new character to be unique, the filmmakers dressed him up like John Hammond in the hopes we'd latch on to him the same way. Spoiler alert: it doesn't work.
Lockwood is too old and sick to take care of business, so he's appointed the slick wheeling and dealing Eli Mills to handle it for him. It isn't long before we learn that Mills is a bad egg and doesn't care about Hammond or even Lockwood's wishes. His only motivating factor is money and he's willing to do anything to get it, up to and including an auction with a bunch of equally awful business scum. These villains, by the way, are comically horrendous. When they get together in the latter half of the film to bid on dinosaurs, it's like a cartoonish mustache twirling convention sprang to life. I don't mind the whole ‘big business is evil' angle, but I can't even begin to understand why they went for such a laughably unrealistic portrayal.
And speaking of bad portrayals, this is the first Chris Pratt film I've seen where his usual charm and humor aren't allowed to shine. The script attempts to send him through the motions, but the poor dialogue and situational beats mostly delegate him to being just another character on the screen. Bryce Dallas Howard is in the same boat as well. In Jurassic World, she was meant to be the latest iteration of John Hammond but eventually learned from the error of her ways. It was great seeing her go from cold-hearted business woman to a fierce survivor with heart, but much like Pratt, this time around she's merely along for the ride. Their half-serious, half-playful banter can't even save the day, which is a real shame because it was a genuine highlight in the previous installment.
The newly introduced cast members are even worse. Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) is the strong ‘all hands on deck' type while Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) is awkwardly quirky for the sake of comedic relief. These characters are mostly forgettable, but if there's one positive thing I can take away from them it'd be Daniella Pineda's performance. While her character's actions and dialogue are poorly thought out, her acting managed to smooth things over. Justice Smith, on the other hand, had no such luck. His character and performance were so groan inducing that I had crossed everything in hopes that Webb would receive an early on-screen death. This stinkaroo of a script also manages to make mercenary Ken Wheatley, played by the talented Ted Levin, yet another casualty.
Seriously, it's like the script is responsible for more character ‘deaths' than the dinosaurs. It's also responsible for killing two major plot reveals (one of which has already been revealed in trailers), one of which leaves me very concerned about where the next installment will go.
There are some positive takeaways from Fallen Kingdom though. The opening scene is dark and frightening. The Isla Nublar escape was absolutely thrilling (even if it did feel like the franchise's ‘nuke the fridge' moment). The film's thrills are unmatched after the Indoraptor is introduced and gets a sniff of freedom. The latter half of the film takes place in a mansion, so once the lights go out the visuals adopt a gothic horror flare, and coupled with how effective the Indoraptor is at intimidating the audience, it's the most refreshing change of pace in these sequels to date. Moving dinosaurs into a more claustrophobic setting was a risky move, but it works. Unfortunately, this all comes as too little, too late and can't save the film as a whole.
I've justified pretty much every sequel in the franchise to date, but it's best to just avoid this one.
The allure of seeing yet another Jurassic film is almost as great as Hammond's desire to make a better ‘flea circus' that people all around the world would pay to visit. It may not be a great film, but it's visually stunning and as far as I'm concerned, there's only one way to watch it: 4K UHD.
Coming to the format via the HEVC codec at a resolution of 2160p and an aspect ratio of 2.39:1, Fallen Kingdom is every bit as good as it was in theaters, if not better. The film's color palette appears to favor a combination of natural and muted tones, and they're replicated nicely. For example, the lush foliage on Isla Nublar, especially now that the park has been overgrown with it, has a more pleasing, saturated look than the Blu-ray does, but never overdoes it. Once we get close to the volcano blast and beyond, that's when things get decidedly muted.
Black levels are extremely deep while allowing shadow detail to appear unhindered, and that's important because the film's latter half is especially dark. There's plenty of lighting that contrasts well against the film's dark nature though, and effects such as fire and lava stand out even in the brighter moments on the island. The end result is that the 4K provides a much better sense of overall depth.
There's also a general improvement in regards to clarity and details over the Blu-ray. It doesn't matter if we're looking at a tyrannosaurs' hide during a rainstorm or skin textures and clothing, it all looks better on the 4K disc. There's no digital tampering to note such as DNR or excessive sharpening, and there are no compression issues either.
Simply put, when it comes to having a flawless representation of the source, this disc excels.
This 4K UHD release comes equipped with a DTS:X audio track, but my Sony receiver which is only a couple of years old can't handle it, and even if it could, my sound system is set up for standard 7.1 surround.
Still, the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio that I was able to listen to was absolutely fantastic. It doesn't matter if we're in the middle of a rain storm, underwater, in the midst of a volcano exploding, or listening to intimidating dinosaurs screech and roar. The surrounds are active, effects offer pinpoint precision, dinosaur movement and sounds carry weight, and dialogue is always prioritized. The dynamic range really helps to sell the more exciting moments as well. The film's score is also a pleasure to listen to, because despite the fact I didn't care for Fallen Kingdom itself, the music moved through all the film's highs, lows, and even more frightening moments with perfection.
I can't find a single fault to this track, and that's saying something because it really sounded amazing in theaters. To hear it replicated so well in a home environment is great.
Fallen Kingdom's supplemental package looks plentiful on paper, but most of what's been provided are short featurettes that serve more for publicity than actually informing Jurassic Park/World fans. This may fit the bill for casual consumers, but because this particular installment really went above and beyond in trying something new, it would have been nice to have a truly comprehensive look at everything behind-the-scenes instead of a bunch of short blurbs. An audio commentary could have balanced the promotional takes with real insight, but there isn't even one included. The highlights, at least for me, is the ‘conversation' piece in which a number of people - including Chris Pratt, Jeff Goldblum and Colin Trevorrow - take part, as well as Chris Pratt's video journals. All in all, the supplements on these discs aren't bad, but certainly could have been much better.
-The Kingdom Evolves
-Return to Hawaii
-Aboard the Arcadia
-Birth of the Indoraptor
-Start the Bidding!
-Death by Dino
-Monster in a Mansion
-Fallen Kingdom: The Conversation
-A Song for the Kingdom
-Chris Pratt's Jurassic Journals
-Jurassic Then and Now: Presented by Barbasol
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a terrible film, and that's coming from someone who's justified Jurassic Park 3's existence for being dumb, yet entertaining fun. This film features a few flashes of brilliance, an exhilarating finale and gorgeous cinematography, but all of this is undercut by a script that serves as more of a disease than anything. It's directly responsible for ensuring not a single character shines, for virtually every joke falling flat, and worst of all, pairing its most ambitious plot reveal with a lazy attempt at rewriting established franchise canon. Unless you're a huge fan and really can't help but see where this trilogy is going, skip it, but if you can't help yourself, the good news is that the A/V quality on this release is outstanding, and while the supplements are fine, they could have been better.