UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2018)
Director: J.A. Bayona
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Ted Levine, Toby Jones, James Cromwell, Rafe Spall, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Jeff Goldblum
“ROAR!” said the dinosaur.
My main man Rexy is back to play in the follow up to 2015’s dino-sized hit Jurassic World – a movie high on entertainment, but low on pretty much anything else. At the helm of this sequel - Fallen Kingdom - is J.A. Bayona – of A Monster Calls and The Orphanage fame – and all eyes and claws were on him to see whether he could provide something fresh to a franchise that is in dire need of something new (box office doesn’t always equate to quality).
Four years after the disastrous events at the park on Isla Nublar, a dormant volcano is furiously bubbling away on the island and its explosive rage would wipe out the dinosaurs there – those guys can’t catch a break, brought back to existence only to meet extinction once more. With the Government voting against sending help to the island, a group of scientists make their way to the island to preserve as many species as possible – including activist Claire (Howard) and dino trainer Owen (Pratt). However, it turns out the group aren’t solely interested in the preservation of the dinos, and the callous businessman involved begin to rear their rich heads. What can be done with the creatures – Weaponised? Cloned? Served as a delicacy? Whatever the intentions, it probably isn’t good for the human race. Add in the secretly created Indoraptor – a T Rex/Raptor hybrid – and things probably won’t be stable for long.
Jurassic World was The Force Awakens of the Jurassic Park franchise – revisiting similar stories and locations, except it just wasn’t anywhere near as good. Whereas World was high on entertainment and low on story, Fallen Kingdom aims for something slightly higher. That doesn’t necessarily mean it hits its targets, but it’s certainly a step up from its predecessor. When it’s good, it’s very good but when it isn’t - sometimes cheesy and just a bit naff. Well-used tropes rear their scaly heads just at the right times and some parts are eye-rollingly bad, however, greater themes are raised regarding human power/creation and visually, this movie is, at times, wonderful to look at. Bayona sows the seeds for a greater narrative and if the franchise decides to go all-in with it, then the third movie may well be fantastic.
Howard and Pratt return for more repressed sexual fighting and dino saving and, again, they work well together throughout. The villains of the movie are more cookie cutter and generally a bit poor. When the movie began, I became increasingly nauseated with Pineda and Smith, though thankfully the story allowed for them to be redeemed throughout. When a cameo from Jeff Goldblum provides the most solid acting, that’s a pretty good reflection of what was required here.
Seemingly, every sequel aims for the ‘darker’ route and Fallen Kingdom is no different. There’s still plenty of levity throughout, but Bayona taps into his horror roots for the movies second half allowing for weightier moments and the excellent tension that these movies can provide when done well (think: Raptors in the kitchen in Jurassic Park). The great opening scene sets the tone well and the island apocalypse is frantic and visually excellent - the fate of the island was a brave, if welcome, decision. The darker shot second half opts for the claustrophobic route and the horror convention of shadows and things that go bump in the night. For me, the night and day tones worked well together, creating some great moments, good scares and chances for the dinos to really shine.
The movie falls flat pretty much whenever the dinosaurs aren’t on screen. The scheming, well-groomed businessmen masquerading as good guys are stock, and their reveal is pretty much telegraphed right when they enter the movie. Also, paying a few million quid for an EXTINCT DINOSAUR? Seems a bit...low? Oprah would be giving them away on her show at that rate. The new genetically-created nasty, the Indoraptor gets its time to shine with some excellent moments, but overall just felt a little wasted. Stakes come and go with the standard tropes employed whenever the main characters are in peril – by the third instance, it becomes lazy. There are just a lot of conveniences and erratic decisions all the way through.
That poor Brachiosaurus, though.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom isn’t a full-on franchise switch-up, but it offers enough interesting threads to create a compelling next entry. It’s far from perfect, it’s still fun, it’s a bit darker, the dinos are still the all-stars and it’s thankfully better than its predecessor. Franchise fans will chew this up and casuals with enjoy the ride, however, the frustrating flaws prevent the movie from achieving top-tier Jurassic Park status.
June 9th 2018