After the ungodly amount of moolah raked in by the franchise-reviving Jurassic World, it seems that the Jurassic Park series is a dab hand at “de-extincting” dinosaurs on both sides of the screen. Colin Tevorrow’s energetic, soft reboot of the enduring saurian saga managed to serve up an enjoyably flawed yet fun disaster movie extravaganza that gave us enough of what we already loved (childlike wonder peppered with truly unsettling, deaths by excessive chewing) while expanding the canvas just enough to give the new elements (newly modified species, trained Raptors, a big fucking Mosasaurus) room to do their thing.
But this now raises in important question: now that Jurassic Park is riding high again, where do you go from here? The answer is to attempt a massive change in the status quo, I guess…
Years after the events of Jurassic World bankrupted the owners and shut down the park for good, a previously thought-to-be dormant volcano is about to blow it’s stack on the dinosaur infested island of Ilsa Nublar (this island just cannot catch a break). Previous park employee Claire Dearing is heading up a charity to get funding to have the animals relocated before toxic clouds an searing lava render these unlucky bastards back on the extinct list but is experiencing major push back from various doubters, not least among them is non other than Ian Malcolm (considering he’s participated in life threatening dino-crisis twice before, maybe we shouldn’t be so harsh on him…).
However, salvation for the dinosaurs rears it’s head in the form of the not-at-all-shifty-seeming Eli Mills who, in partnership with John Hammond’s old friend Benjamin Lockwood, proposes to mount an expedition to save as many dinos as they possibly can before Isla Nublar goes full Pompeii – the only catch is that to find Blue, the last living Velociraptor, Claire has to convince Raptor trainer and ex-boyfriend Owen Grady to tag along which he does so reluctantly. Once upon the rapidly heating up island, the group quicky realises things are not what them seem and Eli has some dodgy intentions in store for the salvaged prehistoric animals, chief of which is the continuation of creating an all-new, all-killer dinosaur from scratch that can be utilised by the military which so far has produced the Indoraptor, a black, scaled down, highly murderous version of the Indominous Rex from the previous movie.
As the adventure rages from the fiery remains of Jurassic World to the gothic mansion of the Lockwood estate, Owen and Claire strain to avoid the usual string of threats usually associated with dealings with giant, angry lizards while stumbling on exactly how far along in cloning the ailing Lockwood had come…
For a movie that at one point features a stampede of dinosaurs fleeing in terror from an exploding volcano, Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom turns out to be suprisingly forgettable; a fact that proves to be all the more frustrating when you add the knowledge that it was directed by J.A Bayona, a man who should be quite adept at shooting frights and natural disasters thanks to helming such films as The Orphanage and The Impossible. All the typical Jurassic japes are all dutifully present but the film also attempts to change things up by trying to enforce a ballsy shift in the status quo that’s only partially successful.
This has resulted in the film being literally slashed into two halves with the first a more traditional style of JP adventure as our characters scrabble across a dinosaur infected island that’s rapidly being covered with glowy, red magma like it’s a high concept board game; the second half, however, is located entirely in a huge, gothic mansion as the deranged Indoraptor hunts it’s prey while busting some killer Nosferatu-style poses. It’s massively admirable in it’s ambition but despite the rather large change where (SPOILERS) the surviving dinos are let loose into the wild… in AMERICA, it doesn’t actually take effect until the dying minutes of the film and gives us mere tantalising images of the Mosasaurus stalking surfers in the open sea or the ubiquitous T-Rex having a bellow-off with a lion. While this is potentially exciting stuff for the next movie to explore, this leaves Fallen Kingdom feeling like something of a stop-gap; a bout of plot-based exposition that exists solely to give future installments something fun to play with.
The returning cast fulfill their requirements of running and screaming nicely (Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard still have chemistry to spare) and the newbies slot in just fine with Danielle Pineda’s aggressive dino-vet a definite keeper but Justice Smith’s overly jumpy tech is a little weak and a wee bit predictable. However, Fallen Kingdom’s more, shall we say disposable (or should that be digestible), cast of human-shaped bad guys are far more fun and overplay their odiousness far better than similar characters seen in The Lost World and it’s nice to see Rafe Spall popping up in one of these mega-budget movies too.
At the risk of making Fallen Kingdom sound too much like the boring sibling who insists on staying indoors and doing his homework while his sequel brothers run out and play, it’s not to say that Fallen Kingdom is no fun at all. It contains a fair amount of gnarly dino action; an opening, stormy heist to retrieve a piece of the Indominous Rex’s gnawed on skeleton is loaded with tension and the later, island set stuff moves like triceratops shit off a shovel with various Indiana Jones style scenarios happening in rapid succession.
We get more live-action animatronic dinos than in the previous installment which feature predominantly in a standout scene where Owen and Claire have to draw blood from the snoozing Rex and the introduction of the Indoraptor, while basically a pint-sized rip-off of Jurassic World’s big bad beastie, allows the director to flex his horror muscles as it creeps through a huge dark house like Norman Bates with razor sharp foot claws and lunges satisfyingly at screaming character actors like Ted Levine and Toby Jones.
However, Jurassic World’s sizable issue of careless plot holes has managed to carry over (Colin Tevorrow had a hand in both scripts) and chief among them is that no one seems to be acknowledging the sizable, island-sized plot-hole that is Isla Sorna, more commonly known as Site B from The Lost World and Jurassic Park III. Surely the existence of this well documented location makes virtually everything the all characters are trying to achieve spectacularly moot and really needs to be cleared up by the filmmakers in the next film.
Overall, the experience of viewing Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is much like Jeff Goldblum’s much overhyped but frustratingly brief cameo (he literally only appears at the beginning and end of the film); you’re glad it’s there but it definitely isn’t what you wanted it to be and ultimately leaves you Tyranosaurus Vexed…