#SGWatch4U: From one dinosaur fan to another, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is hard to love

#SGWatch4U is our weekly screen review column where we tackle anything from film to TV/Netflix.

There comes a time when even the most cherished tropes of a franchise start to feel over-used. The silhouetted dinosaur side profiles, cheesy lines; the slow tilt-up shots of fear-stricken protagonists comprehending the threat right above them. These were the things we used to love about the Jurassic Park franchise, but 25 years (yes, you are that old) after Steven Spielberg’s original masterpiece, they’re looking a little forced.

In keeping with the franchise’s proclivity for fictional storylines in real time, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens three years after the national havoc caused in 2015’s Jurassic World. To recap, the theme park rebuilt on Isla Nublar was abandoned after goons accidentally released all the carnivorous dinosaurs; all surviving park-goers were evacuated back to the mainland, and for three years the remaining dinos got to roam freely and happily on the island. In present-day, however, a formerly dormant volcano located at the peak of Isla Nublar is days away from eruption, threatening once again the eternal extinction of dinosaurs.

As a result, the humans of America are wrapped up in a hot political debate over the ethics of how next to proceed—animal rights are on the table (almost laughably), as is the big question: do we save the dinosaurs? Dr. Ian Malcolm thinks not; fans of the original franchise will be pleased to see Jeff Goldblum’s chaos theorist character from the first movie return, even if it is just in snippets during a US Senate hearing, where he delivers his trademark cynicism and wise-sounding lines. Oh Dr. Goldblum.

, #SGWatch4U: From one dinosaur fan to another, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is hard to love
It’s the cameo we don’t deserve.

One person who does want to keep the dinosaurs around is Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), out of a job from her former Jurassic World park manager gig, and now the founder of the Dinosaur Protection Group. Hers is a losing cause until she’s contacted by Benjamin Lockwood, partner to the founder of the first Jurassic Park John Hammond. He tasks her with the mission of rescuing the remaining dinosaurs on Isla Nublar before the volcano erupts, Senate be damned; and of course to do so she seeks the help of ex-boyfriend and Velociraptor Whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt).

The dream team is back, along with a new rag-tag gang of sidekicks in the form of paleo-veterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda) and former park technician-turned-hacker Franklin (Justice Smith). Franklin in particular is a welcome addition, excelling in his role as comic relief. There’s a certain freshness and authenticity in his self-deprecation and wimpy conduct—which elevate him beyond the tech geek caricature, plus lighten the mood for when the film starts to take itself a little too seriously.

It’s a lot more than what Pratt and Howard give. No more than just familiar faces, the pair riff off their failed relationship and mutual love for dinosaur preservation with the awkwardness of two teens meeting on their first date off Tinder. It didn’t seem possible, but their chemistry is even worse than in the previous film. And while Pratt’s down-to-earth humor was at one point genuinely funny, the cheesy lines he’s handed in Fallen Kingdom are just cringe-worthy.

, #SGWatch4U: From one dinosaur fan to another, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is hard to love
Is Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady just a one-trick pony? Possibly.

The first act of the film can be hard to get into, what with the self-righteous dinosaur activists (and you as a viewer having to readjust yourself to this fantastical world of dinosaurs). Plot-wise, it’s classic Jurassic stuff, with the bad guys trying to weaponize and/or sell dinosaur DNA, and the good guys running and hiding from velociraptors and T-rexes. There’s an interesting side plot involving Lockwood’s young granddaughter Maisie (new actress Isabella Sermon), though even that gets neglected in favor of taking the chance to introduce a new character who’ll probably pave the way for the next generation of Jurassic protagonists.

When the franchise first burst back onto the scene in 2015 with Jurassic World, it was after a 14-year hiatus from the last film. Then, we were more than happy to welcome it back into our arms—every Old Hollywood-designed Jurassic cliche that you can probably still find at Universal Studios. At the time, it seemed intentional, almost knowingly satirical, how the film packed itself with cheesy heroic one-liners, dramatic zoom-ins and pregnant pauses. It was a self-aware tribute to the glorious past, set in the present to say, “Hey, Jurassic Park has a 21st century sense of humor too”.

, #SGWatch4U: From one dinosaur fan to another, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is hard to love
There’s more beneath the surface of Lockwood’s endearing granddaughter.

Sadly, that sense of humor is grossly diluted in Fallen Kingdom. The tropes remain, but not the enlightenment, and the entire film is a two-hour run of shaky storytelling—saved only by the stunning visuals and production value courtesy of a US$170 million budget. The action is fine, but few and far in-between; there’s even a major plot point that gets completely glossed over, likely for the sake of saving the story “for next time”.

But we get it; sometimes filler movies are necessary—to get from that one painful point of cinematic genius to the next. Many franchises have one—High School Musical, Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey, to name a few. Should we be concerned that all those examples are teenybopper box office-hit trilogies? We’ll have to see in 2021.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is now showing at Filmgarde Cineplexes. For a little extra kick, watch with immersive sound technology at Asia’s first AuroMax Immersive 3D Sound Multiplex at Filmgarde Century Square.