Although undeniably silly, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is full of excitement, and the latter is exactly what a film like this should be.
The Jurassic films are undoubtedly one of the biggest franchises in cinema history. From Spielberg’s massive 90s original, Jurassic Park, to the most recent installment that kicked off a new trilogy, Jurassic World, the combination of dinosaurs, thrills and action is a formula guaranteed to make mega bucks. However, the franchise is also associated with a bit of a sequel problem; after all, despite multiple attempts we’re yet to witness anything quite like the dizzying spectacle that first hit screens in 1993. Spanish director J. A. Bayona is the latest director attempting to rectify this problem, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom hits screens with great anticipation that we could finally see a rip-roaring Jurassic sequel.
Set a few years after the disastrous events of Jurassic World, hundreds of dinosaurs roam free in what is now the destroyed shell of a theme park. However, matters are complicated by the fact that the island’s volcano has now become active and heroes Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) are called back into action, returning to the dangerous Isla Nubar as essential parts of a supposed dinosaur rescue mission helmed by the suspicious Eli Mills (Rafe Spall). Behind the guaranteed and undeniably impressive fiery action spectacle that ensues, the plot veers towards a discussion of the financial potential of creating these genetically engineered dinosaurs that we’ve seen time and time again. Unfortunately, Fallen Kingdom adds nothing new to this ethical debate and often feels like a film we’ve seen once too many.
However, Bayona adds the much needed fear-factor to this new trilogy and there is no doubt that Fallen Kingdom delivers on its summer blockbuster promises. Bayona’s directorial roots in horror and fantasy ooze throughout the film, and whilst the explosive stampede set-piece that sets the pace for the action in the first half delivers the most conventional thrill, the most exciting moments are the darker scares of the spooky, gothic Lockwood mansion. Disappointingly, some of these moments are spoiled by the trailer, but from the very get-go there are plenty of surprises to startle even the most mature viewer. Although the thrills of the original and the ever-so-famous toilet scene are still yet to be matched, Fallen Kingdom goes a long way towards reaching these dizzy heights and Bayona brings an ever-so-needed degree of grit to the franchise – prepare to jump.
Jurassic World faced immense criticism for its female characters and at first glance it feels as if its sequel falls into the same traps. Alarm bells immediately ring after a close-up of Claire’s heels that veers worryingly close to the outdated gender roles the character was confined to in the first film. However, beyond this introductory moment, Claire’s got a bit of an edge that we desperately longed for in Jurassic World. This time around, Howard’s performance diverts from the archetypes she initially had to work with and she presents a strong-willed and far more likeable heroine than the one we initially got to know.
Although it feels very much like Howard’s film, Pratt delivers a solid performance in the relatively un-demanding role of Owen and once again proves why he is arguably the most talked about leading man at the moment. One of the main draws of Jurassic World was the relationship between Owen and the raptors and these moments are thankfully ramped up a notch in Fallen Kingdom. As Owen tries to save the last-remaining raptor, Blue, we root for the dinosaur just as much (if not more than) the human, a testament to Pratt’s emotionally-involving performance and subsequent character’s ability to form a real emotional bond with these creatures.
Whilst the performances of the two stars deliver as individuals, Fallen Kingdom really lacks in trying to advance the relationship between Claire and Owen. Romance between the two is a conventional guarantee, but their bond is characterised by a dull predictability and there’s a surprising lack of scenes that give Howard and Pratt suitable opportunity to give us real reason to root for them as a couple – a shame given the opportunity to move this relationship beyond blockbuster cliches due to the film’s lengthy run-time.
Never perfect, but tons of fun, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom does just enough to be a thoroughly thrilling summer blockbuster and show that there is still some bite left in the franchise – there will always be something utterly irresistible about a dinosaur romp.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, directed by J. A. Bayona, is distributed in the UK by Universal Pictures International, certificate 12A.