Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) return to one of the islands with dinosaurs on them (weren’t there two?), this time to rescue the dinosaurs from the imminent volcano eruption that threatens to destroy the island. Struggling to save the vicious lizards from their doom, they must also contend with the ulterior motives of the shadowy organisation that funds them.
Fallen Kingdom might be the most unusual Jurassic Park film since The Lost World. Although the first act is dedicated to exploring the jungle island and encountering the dinosaurs with the usual wonder and fear, most of the film takes place in a gothic mansion that conceals a high-tech laboratory in its basement. It plays out like a Jurassic Park themed Resident Evil game. I do appreciate the different setting and the potential focus on the characters rather than the, now very familiar, environment. Unfortunately these characters continue to not be very compelling.
Owen and Claire initially resume their old-fashioned, casual guy vs. uptight woman dynamic, but once the action starts and refuses to diminish, any personality they had is quickly abandoned. Characterisation this broad should be easy to maintain during the action sequences, with Owen acting haphazardly whilst Claire plans carefully. These different approaches cause comedic and thrilling tension. Unfortunately, the solution to most problems in the film is simply to run away as fast as possible.
New additions to the cast include Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda who play two audience surrogate, nerdy types who for the most part stay on the right side of the funny/annoying line. James Cromwell puts in an always welcome performance, this time as the Richard Hammond surrogate. Without spoiling anything, there are some very entertaining villainous types too. An unusual addition to the cast is Isabella Sermon as little Maisie Lockwood, a young girl whose past conceals a big secret. The revolutionary nature of this little girl (she’s not a dinosaur!) is very interesting but entirely unexplored. It’s a subplot which really doesn’t go anywhere.
The most potentially interesting character in the film is Blue the Velociraptor. Although in the previous film, Blue’s supposedly great potential was largely limited to his uncanny ability to not eat every person he saw. There’s a wonderful scene in Fallen Kingdom in which it’s implied that Blue’s great strength is compassion. Unfortunately this interesting trait does not extend beyond giving Blue a motive to show up and save the hapless heroes at various points.
Scenes of tension are handled very well by the film. The playfully dark opening sequence sets a tone in which no ancillary character is safe from a grisly and largely underserved death. I enjoy that J. A. Bayona’s film has more horror elements than Treverrow’s previous instalment. Some interesting questions are also raised (specifically by Jeff Goldblum in two short sequences) about mankind’s obligation towards its own creation and its relationship with nature. The virtues of intervening in nature are briefly challenged, but the action of the film doesn’t drive this discussion towards any particular discussion.
One aspect of the recent Jurassic Park movies that I’ve always been incredulous about is the viability of the business plan of weaponising dinosaurs. The film’s villain insists that mankind has been using animals in warfare for thousands of years, but surely the usefulness of a well-trained t-rex is outmatched by a drone, or a tank, or a very big gun. Human beings have always been the true villains of the franchise, but the Spielberg led films had mankind’s hubris and disrespect for nature at their heart. I wish the newer films strived harder to give their human villains interesting motives beyond profit and the desire for homing-raptors.
The original Jurassic Park was absolutely filled with wonder. The characters and the audience were in awe of the tremendous creations on screen. Whilst I applaud the makers of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom for making a very silly and fairly entertaining monster B-movie, it is a shame that the spirit of adventure is lost amidst the chaos. This is never more obvious when the film cuts to black and John Williams’ classic score plays during the credits.
3 / 5