Film Review: “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and Rafe Spall
Directed by: J.A. Bayona
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 128 minutes
Universal Pictures

You can only keep the dinosaurs in the park for so long. That might be the one takeaway the creators of the latest “Jurassic Park” film, “Fallen Kingdom,” took from “Lost World” and “Jurassic Park III.” Instead of doing something unique or different though, the writers and director of “Fallen Kingdom,” did what their predecessors did, create another forgettable, mundane entry into the franchise.

The tongue-in-cheek joy of “Jurassic World” is gone. “Fallen Kingdom” is devoid of fun from the get-go as the film begins with the U.S. Senate debating whether or not to save the dinosaurs from an impending volcanic eruption on the island which has been abandoned for three years after the events of the previous film. The one lone voice of common sense in this movie, Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) tells Congress that nature is correcting man’s mistake by killing the dinosaurs. He urges Congress to let them die. I agree, but no one wants to watch a five-minute dinosaur film.

Congress rightfully decides to let dinosaurs die. That doesn’t sit right with Claire (Howard), the former operations manager of Jurassic World turned activist. She meets with Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) and his right-hand man Eli (Spall) to do something about it. The plan that’s hatched is to save a few dinosaurs from each species and take them to a refuge. Of course they’ll need the help of former dino trainer Owen (Pratt), whose expertise will help them catch and save the most dangerous of dinosaurs, the Velociraptor.

The movie spends the first act of the film with old and new characters having dry expositional dialogue that makes you wonder who and what is going on with the Lockwood estate, and most importantly, why you should care. The movie tries to answer some of those questions, but by the end, you still don’t care and you still don’t know what’s going on with the Lockwood estate and some of the film’s new introductory characters. I have to be vague as to not spoil key elements of the film’s final act, but even then I’m a bit confused as to what I could potentially be spoiling.

The film treats the audience like a Marvel movie crowd, expecting us to have kept track of every idiosyncratic character, name, place and word. At times I felt like I had forgotten to study for an exam and that I was failing miserably with each supposed revelation during the film’s runtime. I’m lucky I wasn’t the only one after the screening who didn’t know who was who or what had supposedly transpired between different characters.

As for the dinosaurs, they’re average. There are moments of fun, but they’re few and far between. There’s also a few moments where they’re not as menacing as they have been in the past. It’s mainly because there’s no fear that any of our main heroes or their companions will die. Once you understand that, you’ll know that every scumbag you encounter in this film will meet his or her end. There are a lot more horror movie elements like long drawn out silences before a loud jump scare or a character lurking through the dark intently listening for any bump or bite in the night.

“Fallen Kingdom” is a massive disappointment after the wildly exciting “Jurassic World.” Unlike its predecessor, it’s humorless, boring and lacking any genuine emotion. Three years ago I was optimistic about the future of this franchise, but now I believe it should go extinct.

Vincent D’Onofrio talks about his new film “In Dubious Battle”

The Marine recruit slowly going mad. The Norse-God looking garage worker. Orson Welles. A farmer inhabited by an alien bug. A New York detective. These and dozens more are characters created by Vincent D’Onofrio. From “Full Metal Jacket” to “Adventures in Baby Sitting.” From “Ed Wood”, “Men In Black” and the long running television series “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” From “Jurassic World” to the current “Daredevil” and “Emerald City” series, D’Onofrio is a true chameleon, adapting his talents for every new challenge. In his most recent work, he stars as London, a man with the ability to inspire and lead others, in the new film “In Dubious Battle,” based on a novel by John Steinbeck and directed by James Franco. Mr. D’Onofrio took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about the film, collaborating with Stanley Kubrick and what he’s working on next. Or as much as he can.

Mike Smith: What attracted you to the project?

Vincent D’Onofrio: Well, James is just an awesome dude. There’s that. And it’s something different. To do this kind of movie, out in the fields with a very low budget. No frills. Everybody there is there because of the author of the novel. The novel itself and what it means today. Just wanting to be there and participate. Knowing that it’s going to be a very unique variation of this novel in a style that lends itself to what the novel stands for in the first place. Unity.

MS: Had you read the novel before you were cast? And if not, did you read it to get a sense of Steinbeck’s take on your character, London?

VD: That’s a good question. I’m pretty sure I read it when I was younger because when I did read it a lot of it seemed familiar. Maybe because I’ve read so many other Steinbeck novels it seemed familiar. I can’t say for sure I read it as a youngster but I did read it.

MS: You have also directed in the past (Mr. D’Onofrio directed the 2010 horror film “Don’t Go in the Woods”). Is it easier – or more comfortable – for an actor to work for a director who has a true understanding of the acting process?

VD: No. All directors are different. You have to learn that. As a young actor I think you want a director who understands acting but you actually want to work with different kinds of directors. Some directors want nothing to do with your performance. Stanley Kubrick wanted nothing to do with your performance. He didn’t want to discuss the story other then how you were going to approach a particular scene. But that had to do with the writing of the scene and not the performance of it. Not what the result of it was going to be. He didn’t want to discuss it. Now we did re-write some scenes. Not just me but Matthew Modine and Lee Ermey with Stanley. We would come up with dialogue and Stanley would sit there with a typewriter and write it all. And once he wrote it would stick. There was no improvisation after that. It’s different each time and you actually welcome that as an actor. Different kinds of directors are exciting to work with. I loved that James was an actor and that he was in the film and directing at the same time. It’s really comforting to act with the director.

MS: The film has a great cast of actors. Is there anyone you haven’t worked with yet that you’d like to?

VD: Oh my God…there are so many. It would be ridiculous of me to even start the list. We could talk about that all day, Mike. All day. There are so many great actors that have since passed away. There are so many young actors today that I love. There are so many actors from my generation that I love that I haven’t worked with. From the generation right before me…it’s a thrilling business to be in and to be the peer of great actors is so interesting and so uplifting.

MS: What do you have coming up next?

VD: My gosh! I think the last thing I did that isn’t out yet – I think it’s still in editing – is the remake of “Death Wish.” Eli Roth directed it. Bruce Willis plays the lead in it and I play his brother. Not much more I CAN tell you. Everything is so hush-hush. I may do a play before the summer. But I Tweeted about it and got in trouble. You can’t talk about anything these days. It’s such a bummer. I’ll just say I have a lot of stuff coming out. A lot of stuff in the can.

Nick Robinson talks about “Jurassic World”

Nick Robinson made the leap from the critically acclaimed indie Kings of Summer (2013) to starring in the number one movie of this past summer, Jurassic World. The smash hit features Robinson playing teenager Zach, one of the nephews of park operations manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). Zach, along with his brother Gray (Ty Simpkins), are left to fend for themselves when Jurassic World is overrun by the escaped Indominus Rex. After a quick visit with promotional raptor “Zulu” on the show floor, Zach sat down with me at this year’s New York Comic Con to discuss making the blockbuster.

Lauren Damon: What were your favorite scenes to film?
Nick Robinson: I think my favorite scene to film–one of my favorite scenes to film just on like a practical side was the moment when we open the doors to the old visitors center. Just because that was so cool to see what they were able to think up…Like all the set decoration was like so specific and it was cool to see 22 years later what kind of damage had ensued in this place. And then also the scene where Gray and I are in the back of the veterinary unit and we have to fight off the raptors. That was really fun to shoot just because I felt like an action hero. The whole thing was shaking and we had to like roll a barrel off and stab ’em.

LD: The movie is twenty-two years old and you’re only twenty can you remember the first time you encountered the original? 
Robinson: I don’t know if I remember the exact first time that I encountered it but pretty young. I’d probably say–I remember like at least by like seven or eight having seen it a few times and it’s just a great film. Like all of Spielberg’s stuff, Amblin films, it’s just got real timeless qualities and you know as soon you’re getting into it you’re just going to see something good. You know, John Williams knows how to throw some notes together…it’s just a great movie-going experience.

LD: Did you spend a lot of Ty Simpkins when you guys were cast as these brothers?
Robinson: Yes we did. I think it was by design…From the first day we got to set to when the first day we actually shot it was like about a month and so Ty and I got to just hang out just without any pressures of a camera rolling, and we just got to know each other so that helped a lot.

If you could make a hybrid dinosaur, what kinds of animals would you throw in there?
Robinson: That’s a good question. Maybe a pterodactyl and a raptor with some like falcon and tiger thrown in there for good measure. Just make like the deadliest thing of all time.

When the sequel eventually gets made, how do you see your character fitting in?
Robinson: Maybe Zach goes into train under Owen [Chris Pratt’s character] to be a Navy SEAL and then you know he gets trapped in a love triangle [laughs] between someone and someone so we’ll see what happens. Just an idea…it’s brainstorming.

Working with Chris Pratt was there a lot of jokes being pulled?Robinson: Yes. Yes. That man is like a–he’s a machine, he’s got like an improv brain like nobody I’ve ever met before and he’s…It’s just you never know what is gonna happen. And every day it’s just really fun because he makes it that way. He kind of leads by example and so it was yeah, pretty fun.
Any examples you can share?
Robinson: Um…an appropriate example, I mean, he ate a bug one time. For twenty bucks he ate a bug. Yeah.
Who’s twenty bucks?
Robinson: Who’s twenty bucks? Uh, not mine!

Being we’re at Comic Con, are there any superheroes you’d ever like to play?
Robinson:  Maybe Iron-Man just because he’s got a bad ass suit and that would be fun…
Not Star Lord?
Robinson: Well okay I don’t wanna take that–That’s…that’s Chris. But yeah I’d probably say Iron-Man. This is my first time at Comic Con and I’ve seen a lot of the films killing it right now.

Jurassic World is available to own on blu-ray on October 20th.