I saw Juan Antonio Bayona’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom at Chicago’s Navy Pier. It was my first visit to the tourist trap since it completed its series of renovations and I was struck by the innocuousness of it all. The gaudy souvenir shops and ramshackle vendor carts that colorfully defined the spot have been replaced by a series of umber-hued marquees that make no distinction between a keychain peddler and churro stand. I can’t say I was ever enthusiastic about going to Navy Pier. Even as a kid, its charms registered as stratagems, always intended to resemble the taste of local flavor in the same way aspartame mimics sugar. You just can’t fake authenticity. But despite the city’s marketing campaign, this place was never intended for a local, particularly one who animates contempt for consumer culture on a daily basis. So I suppose I understand why tourists would make a trip out of Navy Pier: it presents a series of digressions within proximity to a gorgeous lakefront view and adjacent to a skyline that offers a variety of Instagram-worthy fodder. It’s a place that makes you feel a little better about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it because of the shoulder-to-shoulder allure of all the things we yearn to be near: beauty, wealth, kitschy novelty mugs, etc. The new interior mirrors that same exterior: it’s better lit and intended to look more quote unquote modern, even if the end result ends up looking soullessly industrial. Did I mention I saw Juan Antonio Bayona’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom at Chicago’s Navy Pier?
Fallen Kingdom stars Chris Pratt as Chris Pratt. I mean that only partly as an insult. He’s mostly an amalgam of generic action heroes rolled into one, leading a cadre of other actors as they navigate a green screen full of dinosaurs. That’s what we’re here for, right? The film opens on a handful of randos plundering for a dino bone underwater. It’s a sequence animated to oblivion and shot in the dark during a torrential rainstorm. Bad news a-brewin’ as we get our first sight of our Tyrannosaurus Rex looking for some human grub. The sequence is a drowning pool, utterly indiscernible and miserably pedestrian in its production, engineered entirely to garner a cheap pop before enduring some of the most blasé exposition I’ve heard from a blockbuster in some time. To reduce the film to a series of lallations that attempt to allegorize migrant/minority struggles would probably give Fallen Kingdom a little too much credit. But the frequent sights of seeing dinos in cages (including that-ever-so-cute aww-shucks-producing baby triceratops) certainly makes Bayona’s film Timely.
Look, any effort to transition the Jurassic Park franchise from nonsense to deep nonsense is going to require certain logical leaps and unfortunately everyone involved is far out of their element. Part of it comes from the absurdity of its plot, in what amounts to little more than a series of obfuscated twists and turns that are as wooden as Bryce Dallas Howard’s performance. If you jibe with the film’s initial propositions – the film’s opening passages more or less detail the trials of an All Dinosaurs Matter activist group – than maybe you’ll accept some of the more absurd rejoinders that the film has in store for you. But frankly, I found Fallen Kingdom to be inane, mind-deteriorating dreck from start to finish. Even the qualities that I should have found notable, including a sequence lifted from F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, are minor aberrations in a profoundly hollow enterprise. Whatever was of Steven Spielberg’s original film, a serviceable Hollywood product, has been demolished and replaced by a tacky new marquee that looks more expensive, is more expensive, and means absolutely nothing.