By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a disaster movie / conspiracy thriller that director J.A. Bayona uses to build his signature visual sequences of tragedy and horror, but it’s not enough to save the horrendous script which suffers from an identity crisis.
Former Jurassic World park manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), now a dinosaur-rights activist, and ex-velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) arrange a team to evacuate dinosaurs off the familiar Isla Nublar when a volcano threatens to send them into extinction… again. However, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), from John Hammond’s Lockwood Estate, has a different kind of plan for the animals.
There were some that liked 2015’s Jurassic World, but I found it to be quite insufferable – a clunky and predictable action/adventure flick, ruined by cliches and stereotypes left, right and centre. Honestly, I’ve found everything after the original to be pretty grim. Like the Predator and Alien franchises, the Jurassic Park franchise has exhausted itself beyond belief and has played the genetic engineering card one too many times. Fallen Kingdom is unfortunately, no exception.
The film begins as a disaster movie of sorts, and who better to tackle such a sequence than Bayona who also directed The Impossible, an unbelievably harrowing and realistic portrayal of the tsunami in Thailand. The volcanic eruption sequence is impressive, and one of the better parts of the film, and some of the shots of the dinosaurs, especially the promo photo featuring the T-Rex, are epic and deserve a round of applause. Bayona captures the chaos well.
But, it’s then that the film turns into predictable and downright infuriating Lost World territory. Of course a billionaire tyrant at the ‘Lockwood Estate’ wants the dinosaurs to make a dodgy quick buck, and with the help of wealthy buyers, is able to traffic them all over the world as new age weapons and more. Then steps in the now kind of evil Dr Henry Wu (Jurassic Park and Jurassic World) who seems, all of a sudden, to want to stop at nothing to create new dinosaur species, despite his apprehension in the previous instalment. The doctor has now reached Disney villain status. Similar case with military hunter and bad-ass Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine), who likes to extract and collect teeth from transported dinosaurs. Almost every bad guy here is frustratingly superficial and it makes for an awkward watch at times. I face-palmed a couple of times.
Heroes and still sort of lovers Claire and Owen seem a bit more in control this time round, but I wouldn’t exactly refer to their change as profound. At least Claire now wears more appropriate shoes, and it’s no wonder considering the backlash about her heels in the previous film. The characters react to the extreme situations in Fallen Kingdom, but that’s about all they can do. There’s also some light humour from IT nerd Franklin, played by The Get Down’s Justice Smith, but he soon becomes redundant and almost disappears altogether when the film moves to the Lockwood Mansion, as does dino-doctor Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda). Jeff Goldblum also makes an appearance, albeit a very brief appearance.
It’s the script here that’s the problem. Written by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, it’s a frustrating mess. Like the previous film, which was actually directed by Trevorrow, there’s always an underlying focus on trying to get that gooey Jurassic Park nostalgia flowing. There’s even a Hammond-like old guy (Benjamin Lockwood) played by James Cromwell, who really needs to pick an accent and stick with it, by the way.
Unsurprisingly, there are also countless references to the original park, and even nods to some of Spielberg’s most groundbreaking scenes from the 1997 film, which just feels a bit sad and contrived now. We’re not that impressed by dinosaurs anymore. At least the first Jurassic World kind of knew what it was and made light of that situation.
Probably one of the strangest occurrences is the confusing subplot involving cloning that feels rushed and very out-of-the-blue. You’ll know it when you see it. I really wish this film stuck with the disaster movie feel. It would’ve been an interesting take on the dino movie and a welcomed change to the franchise. They try to hold up the film’s subtle political undertones, but alas, it just all gets lost in the genetics lab.
Despite all of Fallen Kingdom’s flaws though, Dr Wu’s fresh and fierce ‘indoraptor’ creation is still somewhat creepy and interesting to watch. A lot of time has obviously been spent on this monster, right down to its bizarre walk which I found mesmerising at times. There’s a particularly unsettling bedroom scene that feels like its straight out of Bayona’s breakthrough film The Orphanage – I wanted to be in that film. At least the director had a chance to show off SOME of his signature scares and visuals here. It does actually have some of the most interesting art direction and cinematography of the franchise. Shame it was let down by everything else though.
I’m really disappointed about this one. As I said before, I’ve been over this franchise for a while, but I had faith in Bayona, whose last film A Monster Calls even made it into my Top 20 films of 2017. The word ‘visionary’ is thrown around a lot these days, but I do believe he is one. It’s the studio and franchise fever that killed Fallen Kingdom.