In the trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, an enormous bite from The Lost World seemed to have sunk its teeth into the fifth instalment. Small, mini-dinosaurs (Compsognathus) dart around, dinosaurs are taken to the main land via trained, military-grade wranglers and there’s a corporate plan to monetise the dinosaurs left behind – both films share these plot-points. In Fallen Kingdom, problems from Jurassic World continue and the shaky direction the series moves toward is difficult to embrace, but we can be thankful there’s more meat on these bones than we saw in Jurassic Park III. A ridiculous story and an impressive quantity of dinosaurs are on display, but any anticipation for a superior tale that secures your love for the series is lost by the halfway point. This is smart, functional film-making, built to extend the story in the most nonsensical and forgettable way.
Fallen Kingdom begins as a volcano is due to erupt on Isla Nublar. The dinosaurs, responsible for the chaos that turned both Jurassic Park and Jurassic World upside-down, is naturally going to come to an end. But this is not what Claire “Save the Dinosaurs” Deering (Bryce Dallas Howard) has in mind. She is desperate to save the extinct creatures from their second extinction. She even manages to convince home-maker (literally) Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to join her because of his affection for Blue – the stand-out velociraptor who he trained from birth. Between a mysterious girl who has a secret regarding her mother (is Lex her Mum? Or Ellie Satler? The answer is sadly much more tedious) and a smarmy Toby Jones who seems strangely disinterested in auctioning off dinosaurs, Fallen Kingdom weaves its way between the lush tropical climate of Nublar in the first half, to the enormous mansion of InGen co-founder Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), and his Cheshire-cat grinning aide Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) in the second half.
Oh, and as the publicity has shown, Jeff Goldblum is back! Dr Ian Malcolm, the star of both Jurassic Park and its sequel, has been everywhere championing his appearance in Fallen Kingdom. As expected, it is two scenes and comprises of grand, Malcolm-like statements that bookend the entire film. It’s a cheap shot to pull an extra couple of pounds from our crusty old pockets but it does add gravitas to the finale. What grates the most, as a fan of the series, is how so much previous ground re-treads with no attempt to acknowledge the repetition. Lockwood tells Claire how he has another island, with natural borders, as a perfect sanctuary for the dinosaurs – wasn’t Isla Sorna, the setting for both The Lost World and Jurassic Park III prepared for the same purpose? When dinosaurs are brought to the mainland, a few characters must have thought of San Diego in 1997, where a T-Rex was loose on the street and ate screenwriter David Koepp. Even Ted Levine, an outstanding choice of casting as the hunter and mercenary Wheatley, is a poor man’s version of Pete Posthelwaite’s magnificent Roland Tembo from The Lost World. Rather than build on the series in any meaningful way, Fallen Kingdom is desperate to carve out a new world while simultaneously lifting shots from Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster.
In this world, velociraptors are our friends and T-Rex’s rarely pop up to save the day (though they do, briefly). In this world, dinosaurs themselves aren’t scary enough, we need to make hybrids of the same two dinosaurs at every stage to heighten the stakes. In Jurassic Park, two raptors stalk Tim and Lex and that, unto itself, is a terrifying prospect. Muldoon, the raptor expert, could survive only a few hours after they were loose in the park. Now, the entire premise of the story relies on our belief that Owen is desperate to rekindle his love for his foster-raptor, and Claire, responsible for the recklessness of Jurassic World, is actively seeking to keep these vicious, dangerous creatures alive. Imagine a sequel to IT where the clown becomes a team member of the survivors group in an effort to “take down” a “worse” clown. Cloning, granted, is a crucial part of Jurassic Park, but so is the danger of the dinosaurs themselves. Every single film in the franchise has been about the ruthless, uncontrollable horror that these dinosaurs inflict – and anticipating a warm embrace of these “endangered species” seems disingenuous at best and wholly preposterous at worst.
J.A. Bayona, in the director’s seat, manages to shoot with class, and the opening sequence is a visual feast, innovatively starting the film with aplomb. If you were to rank favourite moments in the series, this opening would be high on the list. As noted, Bayona drops knowing shots, directly pilfered from Spielberg. A shot of the new team, staring in awe at a brachiosaur. A small hatch that a child struggles to shut until a dinosaur smashes into it in the knick of time. The use of rain. A yellow coat. The list goes on and on, and it is a novelty of the film subtle enough to give fans a sincere hat-tip.
Fallen Kingdom isn’t the sequel we asked for, but it is a sequel to Jurassic World. At no point in the first three films was romance the top of the billing, yet Owen and Claire are clearly set up as a match that we are expected to root for. At no point in the first three films did we need Indo-raptors and the Indominous Rex, but hybrids are core to the new Jurassic World films. There’s fun to be had at the park, but if you didn’t enjoy the shiny, metallic sheen of Jurassic World, Fallen Kingdom only muddies the series further rather than return to the intelligent and exciting joy of Jurassic Park.