Blu-ray Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

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The highly-anticipated sequel to the 2015 mega-blockbuster Jurassic World starts out awesomely and sputters somewhere in its second half. And it ends with a teaser for what could potentially be a spectacular third film. The end result is that, while Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is an entertaining diversion, it feels like a placeholder in the now 25-year-old, five-film Jurassic franchise. Fallen Kingdom is now available via Universal Studios on Blu-ray, 4K UltraHD, and DVD. Though domestic grosses fell far short of the first film, a robust worldwide gross in excess of $1.3 billion should ensure the series' future.

Part of the issue the Jurassic series appears to be suffering from is a lack of new ideas. While 2015's Jurassic World borrowed heavily from the 1993 original Jurassic Park, now Fallen Kingdom cribs liberally from 1997's The Lost World: Jurassic Park (which itself was no great shakes). There's a team of gung-ho mercenary types looking to boost the various dino-breeds in order to sell for military weaponization around the world. Now we're even getting into genetic engineering with the newly-created Indoraptor.

For awhile, there's some cracking good action on display. The rain-and-sea-soaked opener is a thrill. Everything involving the actively-erupting volcano on Isla Nublar, home of the ruinous "Jurassic World" theme park, is visually stunning. There's even a single moment of poignancy when a particularly unfortunate Brachiosaurus is left behind in the volcano's wake. Seriously, it's pretty effective and elevates the shallowness of the film if only momentarily. This one moment is especially indicative of what is missing from Kingdom—any real sense of emotion and heart.

Curiously and somewhat hilariously, screenwriters Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow (the latter directed the first World, while Kingdom is helmed by J.A. Bayona) attempt to shoehorn a big chunk of backstory to tie this latest film in with the original. Turns out the original film's visionary John Hammond (played so memorably by the late, great Richard Attenborough) had a silent partner: Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell). Apparently Lockwood and his wife were active mucky-mucks in the original park, though we never heard a word of it in that first film. 

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom 1.jpg This whole subplot just feels like a desperate attempt to follow the brilliance of Steven Spielberg's original classic. Like someone said, "We need a kindly senior citizen whose original concept for the dinosaur park has gone horribly wrong, yet he cannot accept his failures—let's pretend John Hammond had a partner!" What's worse, there's a human cloning element involving (spoiler alert!) the daughter of Lockwood that feel intrusively grafted in from some other film.

The bloat of Fallen Kingdom makes one long for the relatively straightforward simplicity of Joe Johnston's criminally underrated Jurassic Park III (still quite easily the second-best film in the series to date). Jeff Goldblum is back for a quick cameo as Ian Malcolm, the Chaos Theory expert so perfectly utilized in the '93 original (and so over-used as the star of the '97 sequel). And the very, very end of Fallen Kingdom offers a tantalizing look at the possibilities briefly explored at the end of The Lost World: dinosaurs running amok in the real world, no longer contained on the island.

Universal's Blu-ray edition boasts a LOT of bite-sized featurettes that are entertaining, if generally unrevealing. Looking for an all-encompassing documentary? No luck here, but there are about 16 under-ten-minute pieces ranging from total fluff ("Then and Now - Presented by Barbasol" is a clip montage that essentially makes plain just how much the recent films borrow from the original trilogy) to a very cool look at the film's special effects ("VFX Evolved"). "Chris Pratt's Jurassic Journals" are fun. Overall, this is a supplements package perfect for anyone not looking to invest a ton of time.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a lightweight diversion that simply can't compare to the original film. And it's not even as good as the first Jurassic World. Hopefully the next one will deliver something we haven't seen before.

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom BD.jpg

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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