Nutshell: Big-ass dinosaurs! If that’s all it takes to float your boat, you’ll have a good time. Need more? Tough. Kingdom ain’t bad, but it’s not particularly good either. It is a whole lot of groovy dino-mayhem/CGI spectacle though. If that’s okay with you and your summer blockbuster schedule? Grab some popcorn and enjoy the show. Grade: C
“Relax. Anything in here’d be dead by now.”
Story: After the events of World, former park honcho Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and animal behaviorist Owen (Chris Pratt) have gone their separate ways. Claire runs a save-the-dinos group, and Owen just wants to live in a cabin away from it all. But they come together when Isla Nublar’s volcano becomes active, threatening the lives of every dino on the island. Let’s rescue some! I’m sure nothing bad will happen; everything’s been safe as houses so far.
Genre I’d put it in: Lackluster Sequels I Kinda Liked Despite Myself
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Fifth in the overall Jurassic franchise, second in the Jurassic World series.
Gotta say: I love kaiju. I love dinosaurs. I don’t mind if a movie goes apeshit on CGI as long as it’s Grade A eye candy. And with Kingdom, the Jurassic series goes right for Toho territory with a film that feels like Destroy All Monsters. Got a favorite dino? It’s in here! Wanna see a bunch of ’em just go bonkers? It’s in here! Got a hankerin’ for dinos chowing down on randos? It’s! In! Here!
The CGI here is on freakin’ point. The camera “zooms in” on the dinosaurs, and things look epic. Skin is leathery, nostrils flare, and limbs glisten. Even the set details look amazing, especially the storm brewing over on Isla Nublar. But boy howdy is that eruption extra. It’s eye candy of the highest order, even if it probably wouldn’t kablooey like that IRL. I’ll admit I was slack-jawed at the spectacle of it all. And with all that destruction, if you’re dry-eyed as the gang sails away from the island as extinction-level hell is unleashed? You’re dead inside.
Which brings me to the emotions part of this review. Kingdom doesn’t tug at your heartstrings; it attempts to rip them out of your chest and show them to you. Emotional impact is set to 11 in this film, and only goes up from there. It’s exhausting. The DEFCON 5 level of heightened emotions should get most people to forget that the story itself isn’t much beyond the usual monster mayhem of 50s B-Movies…but with an animal friendly agenda! Jazz hands y’all!
Don’t misunderstand; I enjoyed Kingdom. The dino effects are spectacular, and the idea of going off-island for more than the climax of the film was an interesting and welcome change from the usual routine. But things get clunky in Kingdom. There’s only so much “Oh Noes Now What” any one blogger can take before she shifts into neutral and just waits patiently for the next dose of Karo syrup & red dye #3. It’s the drawback of “and then” storytelling. Give me reasons! Okay fine, you’ve just shown me an Ankylosaurus. I’m good for a few more scenes. And holy crap, is that a Stygimoloch? Fine, movie. I’ll kick back for a bit longer.
When dinos chomping and humans freaking out are all the film’s got going on, things do hiccup every now and again, especially when there’s a lull in the action. And you’ll know when there’s a lull in the action, because the Omen-esque soundtrack will ratchet the bombast back a decibel or three. Then it’ll be back to “run run hide run run”. I’m betting the actors here all got their steps in while filming this one.
Kingdom suffers from Iceberg Syndrome; a lot of very interesting ideas are presented, but nothing gets a deep dive. There’s a whole lot to tantalize viewers hoping for big ideas; insanely wealthy dilettantes who can buy – and hide – just about anything, the moral and ethical dilemmas of cloning and hybridization, and of course the idea of animal welfare. But nothing gets more than a cursory glance by the screenwriters, not even building suspense. Twists are telegraphed long before the big reveal. If you’re new to the whole film thing, they might get you. But anyone who’s watched genre fare will see ’em a mile away. Kingdom focuses on action and awe, not much else.
The screenplay isn’t the only thing that gets a light touch; the characters do as well. Two films in, and still no character development for Claire. At least nothing we get to see; she’s fully re-formed and a dino advocate at the start of Kingdom. And why did Owen retreat to Cabin-land? Who knows? Maybe because of the events in World, but a guess is all I’ve got. The screenwriters give us nothing on either front. I found myself caring for Claire and Owen not because of what they do here, but because I love Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt, and I enjoyed watching them in World. This film could have easily subbed them out, and done zero damage to how things unfold.
But second string characters Vet Gal (Daniella Pineda) and Computer Dude (Justice Smith) are also barely more than props, and in the case of the latter, the primary scream-giver. Pity, as those two are the only things onscreen with some sort of energy. (Pratt and Howard both seem a bit phoned-in; perhaps the pacing of the story got to them too?) I’d have liked a film from their point of view; a paleo-veterinarian? C’mon – who doesn’t want to know more about her? Pineda has a commanding presence, and Smith is a hoot. But neither one gets much screen time, especially in regard to who their characters really are.
At least in Kingdom all the human chow deserves what they get. (#justiceforZara) And there’s not just one Big Bad, there are several. Guess they needed more than one; we’re talking about feeding growing dinosaurs, y’all. However, the baddies are so eeeeee-vil, Snidley Whiplash looks angelic by comparison. With such boo-hiss baddies on the menu, the Jurassic series is thisclose to becoming a series where the audience roots for the humans to die. Y’know, if the series hasn’t gone full slasher film vibe already. Tough to tell. I like to think not, but I’m an optimist. YES I AM.
The end? It’s not so much catharsis as it is a crash at the finish line. Oh, and get comfy – there’s a brief post-credits scene that sets the stage for a sequel (because of course a sequel is in the works) and gives you one last bit of Dinos
Gone in the Wild.
Whether you’ll like Kingdom all depends on what you want. Dinosaurs, blood and popcorn? Fine, you got it. Coherent story beyond Save The Things? Cue the sad trombone. Me? I got to see my beloved Ankylosaurus up close. So I’m sated. ‘Til the next one, I guess.
#Protip: Real science!